Author: Valery B.
In the past couple of years, I have learned something very important about life: it will always make you want more than what you have. Since I was young, I always wished that things would be different for me – personally, socially and familially. In elementary school, I was one of the tallest girls in my grade. I would come to school and tower over my classmates; I would go to swimming practices and feel physically out of place, mismatched from my age group. My height made me self-conscious about my appearance – something a prepubescent girl should never have to feel. More so, I was naturally, physically more mature than my classmates: my breasts protruded at a younger age than most girls’, I started wearing deodorant in the earlier half of my K-5 years, I developed body hair in places that scared the wits out of me by third grade. All of my physical maturations escalated my anxiety and bashful attitude towards myself. By fourth grade, I was willing to do whatever it took to eradicate my embarrassment and be just like everyone else.
Despite being neither very religious nor greatly affiliated with the spiritual world, I believed in a higher power: God, who I saw as an omnipotent being capable of putting me out of my miseries. Every single night, prior to retiring to bed, I would kneel below my window, look at the midnight sky, and pray to God, begging him to stop my growth spurt. This ritual became a habitual activity of mine that I practiced from fourth grade to sixth grade, adhering to it as often as my memory and wakefulness permitted. By seventh grade, I noticed that my classmates were my height. By eighth grade, I noticed that my classmates were above my height. By ninth grade, I stopped growing, remaining the seemingly-short, or perhaps, average height of 5’2”. The irony in all of this is that I would do anything today to elongate my stature just a couple more inches!
How could this be? All of my life, I wished to be short, to not have to deal with the “embarrassment” that I felt in my own skin. But, now, all that I want is to be taller – once more craving what I do not have. As opposed to my influences in elementary school, much of my lust for height today stems from society’s association of height with power and confidence. Surfing the web and canvassing my social media outlets, I see beautiful men and women, smiling, laughing, flirting, standing tall at their respective heights. More times than not, I have watched commercials, where casted members are broad-shouldered, pride-booming, and, of course, tall. Height seems to be the commonality between all models, executives, and public figures; however, this is actually not true. Rather, this is solely the way society wants to make reality seem, the way society poisons the minds of countless men and women, making them question their self-worth.
As young men and women, we look at these “norms” and compare ourselves to them. We judge our appearances, our talents and abilities, our characteristics, traits and personalities, and, in my case, our heights. We blame ourselves for what we believe to be our shortcomings and weaknesses. We observe the powerful and confident faces that traverse media and question our self-worth. Although this has become the unfortunate reality for many young adults, I would like to advocate against it: instead of comparison and competition, society should be emphasising self-acceptance, self-love and self-respect.
One of the greatest dangers of the former is that it leads to personal disaster, both physical and mental, as people begin to wish for what they do not or cannot have. I personally have experienced mental disaster when I started to crave thinness. All of my life, I was on the more mature side of the physiological spectrum: I was never very thin but rather was muscular and very athletic due to years of competitive swimming. Contrary to me, many of my friends were on the smaller side, and I would frequently see them being more socially outgoing, fun, and approachable, especially when boys were in the picture, than me. I did not know at the time that the influence my friends had on me was so powerful, for it, coupled with social media’s emphasis on “ideal body image”, weight loss, and thinness, led to my desire to lose weight. Graduating from middle school, I set a goal for myself to lose weight prior to high school. At thirteen-years-old, I unfortunately associated weight loss and thinness with popularity, friendship and love. I would spend countless hours on Instagram, perusing photos of thin women, while pinching my skin and wishing for it to go away. I developed an obsessive drive towards dieting and following strict, restrictive eating plans, which lowered my caloric intake into the range of starvation. As I did with my height, I would pray to God every night to help me reach my goal of becoming thin. Despite having such a strong inclination for weight loss, my life took a turn for the worst. Less than a year since setting my goal, I became ill with anorexia. During anorexia, I became ill with bulimia. The combination of my illnesses tied me to a hospital bed during my sophomore year of high school and enslaved me to seven months of rigorous treatment. Looking back on this difficult time in my life, I can conclude that if it were not for the treatment I received, I would have died; my wish to have a thin body – something that I never had – would have led to my demise.
My wishes to change my height and weight stemmed from comparison and competition, the latter of which I internally developed between my friends and me and social media and me; however, both of my wishes, although granted, made me miserable and had triggered a self-hatred that diffused into my health and mental, behavioral and physical states. Today, I would do anything to go back to my elementary-school days and tell myself that I was just as beautiful, confident and powerful as my friends and as the people delineated by social media. I was perfect just the way I was, and, more importantly, I was ebullient – a characteristic that I lost while longing to be short and thin. Life poisoned me with self-hatred, agony and demise by making me wish for what I did not have.
At 18-years-old, I am learning to love everything about myself and my life, for I know that I have all that I need to be happy and successful right in the palms of my hands. I do not need to be physically different to be loved and to feel confident and powerful. I do not need to have the newest gadgets, attires, and rituals to be technologically, socially and culturally advanced. I do not have to fit others’ expectations in order to be my best self and to be happy with the person I am molding myself into. Learning from my mistakes, I would advise you, my reader, to treasure and be grateful for what you already have. Whether that is your humanitarian aspects of life, such as your family and yourself, or your material ownerships, such as your attire and technologies, you can find satisfaction in everything that you already posses. I guarantee that you already have far more than you need – whether you are able to see this in the present or not. Perhaps, when you do realize this, you will be freed of the burden of lust and empowered by the beauty, happiness, and fulfillment that is already around you.