How I lost myself to vanity


Veronica Iseminger

Dear reader, I hope that if I can’t be someone to relate to, that I can at least give you another perspective. Thank you for reading.

Veronica Iseminger, Perspectives Editor

A little girl once looked into her bedroom vanity, it was the first day of school. She was so excited she could barely contain herself the night before. When the morning came and she had finally been allowed to jump out of her sheets, she practically bolted to her closet and didn’t think twice about what she’d pull out. A sequin shirt and some neon capris had been the lucky pick for the day. Her shirt was tight around her tummy and her pants almost suffocated her growing hips. It was one of her favorite outfits. She hadn’t known at the time, but she was considered overweight for her age group. Her BMI put her into the 95th percentile for an average 12-year-old, declaring her close to obese. Without a worry in her mind, she scarfed down all of her favorite foods and more. She ate out of boredom, sadness and stress. Sports weren’t much of a first thought, as she prided herself in her voice and indulged in her writing. Her friends were always much thinner and ate less than she did, but they never shamed the little girl or made her second guess her bloated stomach or pudgy love handles. 

It wasn’t until a doctor had thrown her on a scale and pointed out her every flaw that she began to wonder for the first time whether or not she was pretty. She was told that if she didn’t start losing weight soon that she’d become obese and, well, no one wants to be seen with an obese girl, she’d think to herself. Though neither one of her parents mentioned it before, they fought that day over who’s fault it was that they let their daughter get so horrendously big. The little girl’s self-doubt and embarrassment had led her to believe the faulty idea that no one wants an obese daughter. She felt humiliated by herself and felt punished over something she hadn’t yet had control over. The little girl came to the conclusion that she could only blame herself and vowed to lose weight by any means she could find. She’d hoped that if she did, maybe she’d be someone to be proud of again. Food no longer became something she enjoyed, but rather an enemy she eagerly tried to avoid. Her once innocent brain was now infested with a crippling monster of insecurity that screamed viscous ideals at her. She’d spent countless hours forcing herself to do strenuous, unreasonable, exercises and wouldn’t quit until she felt an ache at the pit of her belly. It became a chore to wake up and look at herself in the mirror, as she knew she’d only spend all of her time staring and picking apart the features she once loved. She was obsessed. It was then that she started to feel an overwhelming urge to puke when she’d see that her chest was smaller than her gut. She’d practice sucking in as far as she could and fantasize about what it would be like to finally be that size. 

Nothing could get in the way of her unhealthy determination and frankly, no one appeared to notice her changing. She had grown to become hypersensitive to every glance and suspicious of any compliment she received. Her conscience had convinced her that she was being deceived. Part of her knew what she was doing was wrong, hardly eating and exhausting herself when clothes didn’t seem to fit right; never thinking about much else, it all made her feel more and more ashamed, but she couldn’t find the will to stop. The scale taunted and teased her as she passed; it lured her in like a curse, making it impossible to resist stepping on. 

By the time she had successfully dropped four pant sizes and reached the idolized gap between her thighs, she had thought to herself  “I made it.” Months of torture and restriction had felt like it had ultimately paid off, but the satisfaction didn’t last. Being “skinny” was all she had been wanting; however, she still couldn’t knock the empty feeling in her when she stared into her mirror. She didn’t feel pretty again, as she had dreamed she would, instead she had become a shell of the little girl she once was. At that moment, she realized that she was in need of help. She had made herself sick. 

I look back at myself during this time and my heart aches for the person I was then. I wish it hadn’t taken so long for me to realize I wasn’t needing to be “perfect” and I definitely didn’t need to be skinny to be happy. What I needed was support, emotional nourishment and healthy ways to cope with emotional distress and weight loss. Which was found through journaling my thoughts, setting an eating routine for myself to avoid “accidental skips”, reinforcing positivity associated with food by sharing meals with those I’m close to and being open about what exactly I’m feeling. 

I’ll admit it was difficult gaining the healthy weight back, but now I feel truly happy in my own skin. I’ve learned to love the little imperfections I hold and can now appreciate their uniqueness. It’s fair to say it took a long time of healing and acceptance to get to this point, but it helped more than anything to reach out and finally say something. By doing so, I was able to forgive and accept myself and develop a new relationship with my self-image. I was chasing impossible beauty standards for myself and became entangled in this figmented version of who I really am. I needed to love myself before anything else and focus on the root of my insecurities.

 If you or someone you know has or is struggling with something similar, just know you’re beautiful in every single way, shape and form and that there are people who care and want to help. An incredibly helpful resource that is open to you is the NEDA hotline, which focuses its attention on support from trained volunteers and providing resources and treatment options for yourself or loved ones struggling with disordered eating. You can either text or call their number at (800) 931-2237 or text “NEDA” to 741741. Even if you don’t see it today or tomorrow, someday you’ll stare into that bedroom vanity and smile the biggest grin you ever have.