My entire body is covered in plaques from psoriasis. There’s a massive hole in one of my teeth. I sweat through every single shirt I own. And my hair always exists somewhere between perfectly coiffed, or a complete and utter frizzy mess.
I’m not saying this for any form of sympathy, but because in today’s climate it seems more apparent than ever that we are judged by our looks. Our weight. Our wardrobe. And usually at the end of the day, our harshest critic is actually ourselves.
And I am no exception.
It has become a topic that is constantly debated in the news. It has extending as far as our presidential candidates and their style; or lack thereof. We are told that a winner of Miss Universe is fat when she wears a size smaller than us. That the pantsuit that resembles the very one we just bought for our upcoming conference is hideous. That it doesn’t matter if you want to rule the Free World, because if you wear kitten heels, you’re disgusting.
We watch the presidential candidates discussed for their looks instead of their policies. Their weight instead of their resumes. The tone and texture of their skin instead of their goals.
And then I turn off the TV and am bombarded by even the most beautiful woman complaining about the most minute things. The cellulite on her left ass cheek. The zit on his forehead. Chewed off nails, or a smidgeon of muffin top. And I just can’t handle it.
I posted on Facebook a few days ago that I weighed 140 pounds. And people immediately doubted it. How could I ever weigh that much? And maybe more importantly, who deemed that to be “a lot”?
And I responded that I was proud of every pound on my body.
Because I’ve never been one to obsess over the scale – at least in that way. Weight has rarely been “my issue”. And why? Because growing up, I was forced to watch so many women battle eating disorders that nearly claimed their lives. And I have watched the same women continue to fight over these mental diseases that will never leave them. But instead of battling one myself, I received the bystanders guilt.
And I would go home over Christmas break fearing the comments that my sister would make. Of how easy it was for me to stay skinny and how unfair it was that somebody like me who never stepped foot in the gym could squeeze into a size 4. I would be constantly aware of my size and its effect on the women in my family as they struggled with their own weight; their own demons.
I was actually embarrassed by the ease of which my high metabolism came. But while I might’ve had the smaller jeans size, and that was all that consumed our talks – I was actually in total awe of every other aspect of my sisters body. I was jealous of my sisters perfect skin and evenly spaced white teeth. I was always aware of her shiny curls and her amazing boobs. She had everything I wanted; and in some sick twisted way, I had all of her desires.
It became so clear that we all fixate on different things. I could care less if there’s a muffin top sticking over my breeches, but I’m mortified to be seen in shorts with the red oozing skin sloughing off. I am proud of my larger biceps and capable calves, but don’t want anyone to look too closely to my crooked incisor or bucked front teeth.
What no one else would even realize as faults are my biggest insecurities. Someone people would assume has complete confidence in herself might actually be the most insecure.
And this became no more apparent to me than when I watched my dad begin his fight with leukemia.
When my dad began chemo, I ran to the local Halloween store and rounded up as many amazing wigs as I could find. Royal blue and crimson red; mullets to mohawks. I thought it would cheer him up, or make him giggle–but good lord was I wrong.
My father was an accomplished man. A surgeon, a great father; a community leader, and yet he was mortified over the thought of becoming bald. And as I handed him the wigs, he tossed them to the ground and growled at me over my insincerity. I took them away and backed out of the room, and then watched his fear grow as the hair fell out. And it made me realize that even the strongest of people have insecurities about their looks.
My dads hair was his own insecurity, and as a man I never thought it would perturb him to be bald. I assumed (falsely) that only women cared about that side effect of the treatment. But it became so glaringly apparent that the very things that we wouldn’t see as faults in each other are the very things that keep us up at night. The gap in my teeth, the rash on my legs. My inner thighs rubbing, or the fact that my boobs seem happier living in my armpits. These things might not be the things that bother you, and heck, you probably have never noticed them in me, but they are my insecurities nonetheless.
Which is probably a large reason of why I ride.
I am most confident in breeches and tall boots with a ball cap or a helmet on. That is when I feel the most attractive, that is my disguise – my mask. My unruly hair hiding in a hair net, my psoriasis tucked away under jeans. My sweatwick shirts masking the fact that I sweat through every shirt, and no need for a close up of my crooked teeth. I am happiest in these moments, and while I am sure a large part of that is because I am with my horses, I have also become aware that another aspect is because it is when I finally feel pretty.
But perhaps most importantly, I think that it is crucial for each of us to realize that everyone around us has these. Insecurities. Disguises. Defense mechanisms. And I want every 13-year-old girl to realize that we’re all the same. She might be 20 pounds overweight, or covered in acne. She might be shamed in school for being too thin, or having ugly hands. But while its not ok to be bullied, it is certainly ok to feel insecure at times.
Because we are our own worst critiques, and a live in a society where people feel as though they are constantly judged, constantly attacked. We watch shows like The Biggest Loser, America’s Next Top Model, or Fashion Police, shows where panelists are paid to tear apart every contestant. And we assume that the people surrounding us are panelists of our own lives. That they are constantly judging, constantly observing us under a microscope.
I don’t know what the solution to the problem is. I am 30 years old and still hate to smile in pictures. Still hate to wear a bikini. Still hate to wear shorts.
But maybe the solution is simple. We should all be nicer. Friendlier. More supportive. Realize that the person who you assume is the most confident person out there might be putting on a facade, or the person who you idolize is facing the same demons. Insecurities are not always as obvious to the world as we assume, and don’t always present themselves as extra pounds or bumps on our skin. Maybe, just maybe, they are mostly internal.
And maybe we need to stop assuming that what we see on the television or the internet is, in fact, ok. Maybe we shouldn’t act as panelists on the reality show of our lives. Judges of all of our surroundings.
And maybe more importantly, we shouldn’t be the harshest critiques of ourselves. Maybe the most important person that we stop attacking is the one in the mirror. Learn to love our bodies. Learn to accept the cards we have been dealt, and notice the good instead of the bad. Because maybe, just maybe, the world would be a better place if we all would just learn to love ourselves.