Pictures where you don’t actually see my face are the best pictures of me.
When I was younger, I used to imagine that I would grow up to be the heroines from all the novels I read. I would picture myself as this tall, blonde bombshell who not only got the guy, but was witty and smart, too. Whenever I rode the bus or train, I would watch the women around me and believe that someday I could be that girl. I could be the stick thin model with the perfect lips, big eyes, and incredible sense of style. Someday I would be the woman who could run in heels and look elegant. I would be that girl who had great posture and knew exactly what shade of lipstick would compliment her perfectly.
I would see myself in my head, all grown up. I could be the girl with the sketchbook that could draw whimsical sketches of the things around her. In my head, I could see myself being that athletic girl who could run for miles and look healthy afterwards. I wanted to be the girls around me. I wanted to be smart and clever and be able to come up with witty quips and jokes on the spot. I’d be the girl that could have a stimulating conversation – or any conversation, for that matter. I remember believing with all my heart and soul, that if I just wanted to, and if I tried hard enough, that I could grow up to be someone other than myself. I could be universally attractive. I could be smart. I could be…anyone buy myself. Being myself was my worst nightmare. So I started to grow up, and I tried desperately to become what I thought a woman should be.
I never felt comfortable, though. No matter what I did – dark lipstick, no lipstick, curly long hair or short straight hair – I always felt out of place. I didn’t feel like I fit into my skin. I’m a bit of a klutz naturally, but because I just didn’t know myself at all, my clumsiness what elevated to a whole new level. If you’d have seen me during those years, you would have seen a girl who was always adjusting. I would adjust my clothes – pulling them down, up, and all around – constantly. You’d have seen a girl who never looked anyone in the eye. Someone who tried in every possible way to blend in and never show any sign of personality. The girl you’d see would be someone that clearly didn’t like who they were. And I didn’t. I really didn’t. I much preferred the fantasized version of myself – the version that everyone was sure to love.
About a year ago, I was sitting on a train and, since there was nothing else to do, I began studying the people around me. A girl a few seats away from me caught my attention. She was gorgeous. She was everything I’d always wanted to be. Blonde and taller than me, but not tall enough to be distracting. Her hair was long and fell in such a way that it was obviously like that naturally – wavy but not poofy, and there was almost a free-spirited look to it. Her skin was flawless. Smooth, creamy, and white. Somehow she had mastered that no-makeup makeup look that I had long given up on attempting. She had a body that would look good in anything. You could put her in a paper bag and it would still look like she had impeccable fashion sense. She was wearing a slouchy hat, skinny jeans, and a mountain jacket – the sort of jacket that always made my hips look bigger and my legs even stubbier. There was a sleek laptop in front of her, and hot cup of something next to it. As I watched, she pulled out a worn leather sketchbook, an artist’s pencil, and began sketching something. I couldn’t see what it was, but I was sure that it had to be something whimsical and artistic. Something I could never do, seeing as even my stick figures look like they’ve been through a garbage disposal.
This was her. This was the girl that I had always pictured myself growing up to be. But here I was years later – the complete opposite of that. I was curvy where she was straight. Dark where she was light. My hair was even shorter than it is now, but just as curly. Instead of a military jacket, I had layers of sweaters on in a pitiful attempt to hide this body I hated. I had a little bag and a scratched up journal full of scribbles of barely legible handwriting. Here I was, fully developed and grown up, and I was not who I wanted to be.
I was myself.
Then it just hit me. I was never going to be that girl. I would never be anything like this girl because I wasn’t this girl. I was ME. And for the first time in my entire life, I thought about who that was. I thought about the sort of person I was, and not the dream image I had dreamed of becoming. For the first time ever, I realized that I was stuck being myself for the rest of my life, and that I had very well better come to terms with that and learn to love it, or else there was no way I was ever going to be happy. It was time for me to find some good in myself, and to gain some self-worth, instead of projecting this image of another onto myself and comparing every little difference – comparing in order to point out my own flaws. A quote I’d read a few days before came into memory, and I recalled the words
Comparison is the thief of joy.
I was robbing myself of my own joy by comparing myself to something that it was obvious I could never be. I went home that day and I stared at myself in the mirror. I looked at my reflection with open eyes, trying to discern what others saw, not what I had constantly told myself they saw. I stopped comparing myself to the blonde, and I looked at ME. A lot went through my messed up head, but in the end, I gained a new perception of myself. I’m not saying that I had a revelation that I was actually pretty, or even slightly cute, but I did come to accept the fact that what I was looking at was ME, and that I was stuck with it for the rest of forever, so I’d better get used to it now. Maybe even try to like and embrace it.
On the train that day, I gave up trying to be someone I wasn’t. I was never going to be that false perception in my head that I had fantasized about for so long. And now, I didn’t even want to be. What’s the point in being a second rate version of someone else? No, I was only going to be me from now on.
When I got off the train that day, I walked by the blonde. I glanced down at her sketchbook to see what she had been working so diligently on. I did a double take at what I saw. It was….me. Not exactly, but it was definitely some version of myself that I saw on that sketchbook. A girl buried in her journal, ink stains on her hands and a look of creative concentration on her face – the look I always get when I’m writing. The girl that I had always wanted to be was using me as some sort of muse, and I had no idea what to think.
As I stepped off the train, I realized that, yes, I was stuck being myself for the rest of my life. But hey, so was the blonde. I may not be the girl that I’d always imagined, but I am myself. And for some reason, I think that may be better.