Confession: I Let Comments about My Weight and Appearance Affect My Self-Esteem

By , SparkPeople Blogger
In our recent dailySpark survey, most of you said that you love our "Confession" series. While all of our bloggers are SparkPeople employees, we're also members, which means that like all of you, we have our own battles with weight, healthy living and self-esteem. After a year on the dailySpark, I'm comfortable enough to start sharing my own "confessions." I've been writing them for awhile, but I haven't published any. This is the first in what I hope will be many!

Two weeks ago, I posted a new profile picture on Facebook.

In it, I'm dressed to go out to dinner with friends, in a loose-fitting purple printed tank top, slim-fitting gunmetal pants and heels. My hair, which was cooperating splendidly, is extra curly and bouncy. I'm wearing makeup, and I'm happy.

I had gone to Spinning and yoga that day, so I felt particularly fit.

Arms akimbo, chin up and smile on. My yoga-toned arms are looking good--more defined than usual.

A couple of days after posting the photo online, I got these two comments from friends:

You are looking skinny!
I second her comment - rockin' body!

I got really excited and actually broke into a smile when I read them. I felt extra comfortable in my skin all night long. But then I started thinking.
Why did hearing that word--skinny--have an effect on my self-esteem? Though nothing about me had changed, I suddenly felt thinner, more attractive and more confident.

And it brought back memories of my youth, when my height, pale skin and long dark hair were fodder for mean-spirited, insecure teenage boys.
For something intangible, self-esteem is among the most delicate and easily fractured parts of the human body.

I grew up in small town where tanned skin, jeans and country music were de rigueur. I had a penchant for skirts (still do) and spent much of my time voraciously writing in my journal and reading about times and places more interesting than mine.

In high school, there isn't much room for diversity. Cliques aren't like Venn diagrams; you can only choose one. I was a "smart girl," which meant that though I had plenty of friends, I wasn't a "popular girl." And because I'd rather study than flirt with boys during class, I wasn't a "pretty girl," either.
I was OK with my stature, because I knew I'd make my way in the world and be a strong and capable woman.

The thing is, I never thought I was unattractive. And I wasn't. But other people--especially boys--at my high school made it their place to tell me I was.

The day before school pictures my freshman year of school, a football player barked in my face and laughed.

I came home and cried into my pillow; my photo in the yearbook shows the remnants of puffy eyes.

A straight-A student, I earned praise for my grades, accomplishments and packed extracurricular schedule. I got a full ride to journalism school at Ohio University and later won the internship of my dreams (Dow Jones Newspaper Fund editing program). But during those awkward adolescent years, what I longed to hear that I was pretty--and that I was skinny.

Instead I felt awkward and large, due to my height.

The great thing about life is that you can be whoever you want to be. You can surround yourselves with people who love and support you, and with time and experience, you can learn to forget about the rest. Who you were in high school, in your 20s, or at any other point in your life, does not define your entire life. No singular adjective can sum up your entire being.
That's not to say that I always felt confident with my body and myself.

When I started to gain weight in my early 20s, I brushed it aside. Then 40 pounds later, I felt awful, and no good hair day would remedy that.

It has taken me a couple of years to settle back into my body and regain my confidence. I still don't wear bikinis--I carry more weight in my belly and hips than anywhere else--and I often forget that I wear a size medium again and not an extra large.

Still, I've had some victories in this battle with my self-esteem.

My senior year of college my friends and I were invited to a party at the home of one of the popular guys over winter break from university. That football player who barked in my face was there. My stomach knotted up.
Later that night, I was playing pool--a game for which I have zero talent. As I was leaning over to take a shot, he said out loud, "Girl, when did you get hot?"

I looked over my shoulder and replied, "I was always this hot. You were just too dumb to notice."

Then I turned back around and took my shot… and made it!

It was like a scene from a movie--and that victory tasted oh so sweet.

Fast-forward to those recent compliments.

My weight has been a struggle for so long--I gained weight off and on until 2005--that I had resigned myself to be classified as a "bigger girl."

But guess what? I'm not. I'm tall (5' 10"), but I'm a good size. Like Coach Nicole, I have cellulite (and pale skin accentuates it!) and I won't wear a bikini (again, the pale skin and discomfort with being so exposed).

I can do real push-ups. I can do plenty of yoga poses that I couldn't attempt a year ago, including urdhva padmasana and tittibasana. I earned my yoga teacher certification. I can run a mile (or three) without stopping. And I rise to any fitness challenge presented to me.

Call me skinny, call me fat. Call me pretty, call me ugly. It doesn't matter. I'm still me. And that's a lesson I sometimes need to remind myself.
At the end of the day, I love myself. And that's what matters.

Do you let adjectives about your appearance dictate how you feel about yourself? What is the best compliment you've ever received? On the flip side, is there a rude remark that someone has made to you that's stuck with you?