Updated: May 11, 2020
From when I was 10 years old, I remember comparing myself to other girls in frustration that I had the second (!) fattest bum in my class at school.
The only thing that kept me sane was the fact that a friend of mine had a BIGGER bum than me. So, I must at least be in the range of 'normal', right?
I am not talking of the overweight kids with hanging tummies and Michelin-like legs you see these days. My friend and I were on the upper end of 'normal weight' when we discussed BMI's at the biology class I will never forget. But all the other girls were on the lower end or 'slightly underweight'. They were dainty, cute, fragile little things. The type of kids you wanted to run and play and laugh with all day long... And here is the question that would chase me for years to come: Why was I not like that? Why did I have to be heavy and calm and quiet?
This day was followed by many years of nasty comments from skinny boys, frustrated clothes-shopping-sprees in my teenage years, and many times I felt tears rising in front of the changing room mirror.
In combination with the fact that some of my family were struggling with weight issues, this created the perfect storm in the mind of a teenage girl. The result: Entering a never ending cycle of dieting, calorie and weight watchers' points counting, a gym membership with short-lived results, smoking cigarettes to “speed up the metabolism” (Yeah, right...) and other numerous attempts to 'fix myself' and fight what naturally had been given to me. All until...
My life changed within moments.
Volunteering and traveling in South Africa I met a GORGEOUS young German girl. I mean, she was just like a Barbie doll. Blond, skinny, long legs, formed little boobs – perfect proportions, steel blue eyes and even some freckles! Can you imagine?!?
She still reminds me of the stunning dancer 'Penny' in my favourite movie Dirty Dancing, the girl everyone envies. If you've seen the movie, there is no way I'm going to believe you if you told me, you did not absolutely adore her for her looks and elegance. Imagine ‘German Barbie’ as a 2010-version of Penny.
The day that changed my world:
I was talking to Barbie in a bar out on a Friday night. We had some drinks with friends when she looked me up and down, pauses, then says:
“I bet guys LOOOOVE your bum”.
This was no joke; her voice signalised confidence and sincerity.
Hang on, what? I was confused. I didn't know what SHE (Barbie!) had to compliment about MY over-sized butt. After all, she was this perfect embodiment of a fairy tale princess, not me.
It took a minute. I stared at her, then I nodded pretty much automatically. Indeed, my boyfriend, several other guys had commented over the years – I was now 21 and way past the age where teenage classmates would make fun of whatever was different about others, simply to make their day go by.
I realised there and then, all the signs I hadn't seen, memories popping up of compliments as 'evidence' that people in fact did like the way I looked.
Yes, people who loved me also loved the way I looked.
Yes, there had been compliments from my family and friends.
Yes, guys adored me for my feminine shape.
My way of thinking took a 180-turn, there and then. The boost of confidence that I gained from one sentence could have not been more intense.
She merely said what others, including the people close to me, had already tried to show me over the years and yet, only from someone I admired the words truly hit home.
How come, that after all those years I was still trapped in that cycle of thinking 'I am not pretty enough, slim enough, worthy enough' to be loved?
Because I hadn't challenged that thinking. I had not reflected on what was REALITY.
When we perceive ourselves a certain way our brain projects this image into the outside world. No matter what other people are trying to tell us, none of it will have an effect on our self-image, unless we are able to step outside our own constructed story. Why?
We are too busy looking for signs in support of the theory we have of ourselves. We will interpret any experience in such a way that aligns with the picture we have built in our head.
Unfortunately, reality does not influence our thinking as much as one would hope.
That was quite possibly the exact same reason for the way this heavenly creature looked at me, admiring my curves.
Today, I am proud to say I am in charge of my inner critic. After many years of struggle, I have won the battle of fighting myself. Not by losing weight, but by embracing myself the way I am.
And yes, there are down days and times when I need to make myself focus on what is truly serving me in my desire to grow and shine as a person. Then I remind myself of this moment many years ago…
Not just because 'Stunner-Barbie' made a compliment about my self-declared problem area.
But to this day I am grateful for the support from one female to another. This experience was inspirational to me and I still draw from it!
Now I won't share your name, but if you, Barbie, read this THANKS a million times, you magnificent human being!
And to all you amazing women...
Make sure you tell your friend, neighbour, mum, aunty or complete stranger how beautiful they are. A genuine compliment.
It might change their life...
Love to all of you gorgeous women (and men) – inside and out,
Lots of love,
Comment below: When was your perception of yourself challenged in a positive way?