By Aidan Marie, age 17, MassachusettsHow many adolescent girls can honestly say they love everything about the way they look?
I doubt there are too many of those lucky girls out there. And yes, I am envious of them. For many years I have been dealing with self-esteem issues. I have been bullied ruthlessly for many things, including my looks. But my friends tell me that I am beautiful ... So who's telling the truth? The friends or the foes?
Early last year, my body-image issues began to take over my life. My biggest issue was (and is) my weight. I've never been "fat", but I'm not exactly petite either. I am very short, so I felt like I needed to be very skinny to balance it out. I decided to start dieting and counting calories, and it started out pretty good. I lost 2 pounds in my first two weeks. But then I slipped up and it only took me a week to gain those 2 pounds back, plus another 3 pounds.
I started to cut down my daily calorie intake to 900 calories per day, because health websites say that a woman of my height and lifestyle should consume 1,100 calories per day if they want to lose weight. So, I figured if I ate less than they said, I could lose the weight even faster. I was right. I lost all 5 of those new pounds in the first two weeks of my new eating plan.
But that wasn't enough. I wanted to be thinner - and I wanted it fast. I only allowed myself to eat 500 calories each day, and if I ate more I would make up for it the next day by fasting (not consuming any calories all day). I now know that this is when I started to become sick, but at the time, I didn't realize what I was doing to myself.
I was slowly becoming an anorexic.
After a few weeks of the 500 calorie limit, a voice developed inside my head. It was the voice of a girl I had never heard before - her name was Ana. Ana is the name anorexics use to talk about their "diet" without other people catching on. It was the voice that took control of my entire life from then on. I would go out into the kitchen to make a low-calorie meal, making sure to not go over my limit, but the voice would tell me that I was a greedy pig. I would never be thin if I ate that sandwich. Boys would never even look at me if I drank that juice. And I believed it. So I threw away the only meal I was allowing myself to eat every day.
I didn't just want to be thin anymore - I needed to be thin. I was terrified of gaining weight. At one point, I only weight 95 pounds. Only a 10 year old should weight 95 pounds. But even at that weight, I would look into the mirror and my eyes would be immediately drawn towards any ounce of fat that I still had on my body - and that ounce of fat would look like a whole pound of fat in my eyes. People would tell me that I was too skinny, but in my mind there was no such thing as "too skinny." So, when I heard people say that about me, it just made me more motivated, and I viewed it as encouragement to lose even more weight.
It started out as just a simple diet, but it turned into a disease - a disease that I am still battling to this day, and will continue to battle for the rest of my life.
I was in so deep that it has been branded into my mind forever. Even though I am starting to feel more comfortable with my body, I still look into the mirror sometimes and get disgusted by the reflection. Once Ana gets into your mind, she never leaves. You can get better at ignoring her, but she will always be there trying to regain control over you.
I know now that beauty comes in countless forms. No matter who you are or what you look like, the only thing that can make you ugly is saying that you are ugly.
The thing that really makes you beautiful is holding your head up high and letting people know that you are confident in the way they look. Doing that shows the world that you know what true beauty really means.
So, when you start thinking, "I'm just going to go on a little diet; it can't hurt me," that "little diet" can very easily turn into a "big diet", and then it can turn into low self-esteem, and then it turns into a disease. The best kind of diet is no diet - eat when you're hungry and eat what you're hungry for, but don't eat until your stomach hurts; you can always eat that food again tomorrow.
Take it from someone who has had to learn the meaning of "beauty" the hard way: you are beautiful. You may not look like the girl standing next to you, but that's a good thing, because that makes your beauty unique to only you. You don't need to change the way you look for any reason. No matter how many people may bully you about your looks, just know that there are just as many people out there who find your unique type of beauty the most beautiful of all.
And I'd bet you cash that those bullies are just jealous of your type of beauty. They need to learn the same thing you just read; they shouldn't be jealous, because their beauty is unique to only them. So next time somebody bullies you about the way you look, tell them that you are proud of the way you look, because your beauty is one-of-a-kind, and then show them this article.
Before I end this little life lesson, I have a challenge for you:
I want you to give one compliment to every person you pass by, stranger or friend, for one whole day (although, personally I believe you should do this every day). It doesn't matter what it is, but one simple compliment can turn somebody's whole day around. So just smile at them and tell them one nice thing. That's it. Do you think you can handle that?