For as long as I can remember, the concept of striving for perfection has been in my head. In fact, I’m sure if I asked most of the people I know they would say the same. Sure, when I was five years old I wasn’t thinking about being perfect; however society was already feeding the idea to me from the commercials that I saw when I was watching Disney Channel to the magazines that I saw when I would go grocery shopping with my father. These subliminal messages were setting me up for dangerous, unrealistic future goals.
From when I was just an elementary school student, I struggled with my weight. I remember when I was eight years old being weighed at my pediatrician’s office for my annual physical. After he recorded my weight onto my chart, he said, “I think you need to start eating more salads.”
That same year, my paternal grandfather said to my mother “She’s (referring to me) built a bit like a linebacker isn’t she?” To this day, those two statements run through my head quite frequently. These were the first moments that I can remember thinking to myself, “I am not enough. What can do to fix myself?” Those thoughts translated into a constant struggle with body image and a constant desire to “just lose ten more pounds.” In fifth grade I joined a cheerleading team that was run by my church’s youth sports league. I desperately wanted to be a flyer, so on the evening when our stunt groups were being assigned I made sure I didn’t finish my dinner, and I wore the clothes that I looked the smallest in. When I was picked as a base instead of a flyer, I was crushed and once again continued to strive for perfection.
When I entered high school, I became much more serious about my dance training. I had been a dancer from the age of three, however in the past it had mostly been for fun. I soon realized that my body was far from a stereotypical dancers’ body. I would look at myself in the mirror in my leotard and tights in ballet class and felt huge and extremely uncomfortable with myself. I was never picked as the girl to be lifted, and dancing in general was more difficult for me than it was for the smaller girls. Throughout high school, I dieted several times. I discovered the world of clean eating and food tracking and fell in love with it. I would plan out all my meals and was obsessed with fitting my macro and (unhealthily low) calorie goals. Sometimes I would feel weak at dance (at this point I was dancing about three or four hours a day), but it didn’t matter to me because I thought that I was bringing myself that much closer to perfection. I knew that I had the feet, long legs, and flexibility everyone desired for dance, the only thing I was missing was the thin body.
In high school, I began to develop anxiety. I didn’t have many friends because I felt uncomfortable around other people. I always used the excuse of “I don’t have time for friends because dance keeps me too busy,” but that wasn’t entirely true. I was constantly worried about who was judging me and what everyone thought about me because I was so uncomfortable in my own skin. I constantly thought that everyone thought that I was weird, dumb and not good enough. I would blow every comment that someone made completely out of proportion. I had decided in my mind that I wasn’t good enough to be anyone’s friend, not even my own. This all stemmed from my thought that I was nowhere near society’s idea of perfection.
This past year the thoughts began to haunt me again. As I prepared for a dance competition in April, I watched what I ate very carefully because the idea of my current body (which is completely healthy and beautiful) in a two piece dance costume was something I thought was unacceptable. In my mind, everyone was judging me and thought I was a terrible dancer who had the wrong body. I vowed to myself that even after the competition, I would spend the summer eating clean and “fixing my body.” Then, after a much needed wake up call from my incredibly supportive boyfriend, I realized that my body is just fine the way it is, and being balanced was all I needed. Sure, I could drink green smoothies, but I could eat ice cream with sprinkles too.
Perfect is defined by the Webster Dictionary as, “having no mistakes or flaws.”
However, when did humans having flaws become such a bad thing? For years I hated my “big” thighs because I thought they were ugly, but I never acknowledged how strong they are and how they give me the power to do so many incredible things, like leaping through the air and lifting my leg above my head. I’ve always been disappointed by my lack of defined abs and lack of a very flat stomach, however I never thought about how I’m supposed to have a layer of fat there to protect my organs and keep my body warm. I’ve always looked at my stretch marks as undesirable, but I never considered the idea that they are completely normal and just show that my body has grown as I’ve gone from a little girl to a woman. After so many years at war with myself, I’ve decided that being perfect isn’t just unrealistic; it’s not something I want to be. While I do still have days where I struggle with myself, I’ve decided that I want to love myself totally and completely. I will never be flawless, but I will always be a unique, strong, creative, powerful, inspiring, loved human being, and I honestly think that that is 100 times better any day.
Check out Colleen’s article on The Odyssey Online Self Love Beauty community.