From Madeline Owen, in response to the story “Under Pressure” in The Ampersand student magazine…
Mirror, Mirror: Be happy with your reflection
My eight-year-old sister walked out of the bathroom a few weeks ago yelling, “I weigh 65 pounds!”
“Awesome,” I said, wondering why she was so excited about her weight.
I looked at my mother with confused look on my face. Once my sister left the room she whispered to me,“She had lost four pounds since her last doctor’s visit and I was, you know, worried.”
My mother was worried my sister had already felt the pressure of being thin and beautiful. She was worried my sister was trying to lose weight.
“That’s ridiculous,” I said. “She’s a little girl.”
Then, I remembered. I remembered being called “elephant,” on the black top at recess. I tried to think of it as a compliment because elephants are my favorite animals. Didn’t work.
I remembered inviting the boy I liked in elementary school to sit at my lunch table, but he said there wasn’t enough room for him. He laughed. I sat embarrassed. I remembered losing weight trying the fad diets like the Atkin’s Diet and Weight Watchers all before I was in middle school.
I remembered hating myself. I remembered being a little girl. Now, every time I see my sister I tell her she’s beautiful.
Forty percent of 9 and 10 year-old girls have attempted weight loss, according to a survey conducted by the Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
As a 20-year-old, this number is astonishing. But I empathize with the 40 percent .
The amount of pressure young girls put on themselves to be “perfect” is saddening. Pressure for perfection comes at them from various outlets — peers, media, themselves and even their own family members.
I recently went searching in my closet and found an old notebook. I flipped through the pages and discovered an old game of MASH. One of the categories was size.
I was fortunate enough not to land on skinny, large, chunky or fat. In the future, my MASH decided, I was going to be Barbie sized. Yeah, still waiting on that one.
When I look at certain pictures of myself when I was little, I remember worrying about looking large.
I can’t believe I cared so much and I can’t believe how ugly and huge I thought I was.
Looking at those photos now, I think I was a really cute kid. But then, I didn’t want to be cute.
I didn’t want to be Brittany Ruess. I wanted to be Britney Spears.
But it’s not only young girls worrying about their appearance too much and not living their lives, it’s all women. Of course we should want to be healthy and take care of ourselves but we women have become so obsessed with looking like what we think is perfect — we stop enjoying our lives.
I know I’ve wasted too much time worrying about what others thought instead of doing what I wanted to do. But when I got to college, I told myself, that girl was long gone.
I was never comfortable in my own skin until I came to Webster University. I had a great high school experience but the pressure was still lingering. After being on Webster’s campus for a semester, I began to love and appreciate all the different styles and shapes of the students. It was empowering to see female and male students break social norms and show who they are, despite their size.
The more I saw others embracing their bodies, the more I embraced mine.
I really like my eyes. And my hair. And, I love my butt. I really, really like my butt. Sure, I would love to change parts of my body, but who wouldn’t? It’s a natural feeling, but I don’t obsess over it now.
Honestly, I’m happy with who I am. I know I’m not perfect, but I finally believe I’m beautiful.