Feeling Good

As she approached the mirror, she sucked in her cheek, the anxiety starting to flare up. She didn’t want to look. Well, she never wanted to look, but especially not then, after weeks of eating what she wanted and not restricting herself to her usual diet, full of lettuce and headaches and disappointment.

Regardless, she strolled to the mirror. There she was, staring back at herself, in her red tank top and extra-short blue shorts. There were her thighs, thick, side-by-side and comfortably gap-less. Her chest swelled. Her hips were broad, her waist not as small as it could’ve been. She expected the shame, the self-hate and the scorn . . . but a funny thing happened: she didn’t feel any of it.

For the first time in a long, long time, she merely looked at the reflection without judging it, without tearing it to shreds. She turned to the side and smiled slightly, at those big thighs she knew so well, those wide hips. She giggled, almost . . . pleased with herself? Happy with how she looked?

But no. That wasn’t right. That couldn’t be right.

She wasn’t skinny. She wasn’t even thin. Most people who looked at her would probably say some very not-nice things about her body. She forced herself to think of all the terrible comments she’d endured over the years, as her weight bounced up and down. The cruelty she encountered at her biggest. The sticky, leaden feeling of shame. She thought back on being called the fat girl. She thought simply of the word “fat,” all the while waiting for those old feelings of disgust to start up again, waiting to hate herself and run to the nearest fad diet like always.

But nothing happened.

Thinking about those things, she couldn’t muster any sense of self-hate. If anything, she pitied the people who’d made those comments. How naïve they seemed, ignorant even.

Somehow, some way, she looked at herself and she didn’t see the cellulite. She didn’t see the years of telling herself no. She didn’t see the tears she’d cried over her weight, the worry she’d let fester over whether or not a boy would like her. She didn’t see the hurt she’d felt, or the cruel comments she’d read online in an effort to “motivate” herself.

She didn’t see a fat girl. She just saw a girl.

A pretty girl. A girl who’d been dieting on and off since age ten. Ten. A girl who tortured herself because she felt she had to. She saw herself, and for the first time, she truly started to realize how little it all mattered. The stupid beauty standards she bought into for so long . . . what would they get her? A few extra guys on Tinder? She had to laugh at the absurdity. Because it didn’t matter, and it never had.

There she was, in the mirror. Standing defiantly, knowing what they’d say about her, what they’d think, and not caring. Let them call her names, let them give her hell. None of it mattered anymore. She’d seen what they couldn’t, beyond the dimples and the curves. She’d seen beauty there, in all her parts, in all her “flaws,” in all her battle wounds.

Somehow, she’d done what they could never: she’d seen herself.