You all know the site Modcloth, right? If you don’t, you should: Modcloth sells amazing vintage-inspired clothes and tons of cute accessories at affordable prices. But I think the best thing about Modcloth is their body positive attitude – not only do they have incredible plus-size options, but they recently used their real employees to show off their bikinis instead of the models we’re so used to seeing, and they also recently introduced their #FashionTruth campaign.
Fashion Truth is all about celebrating your body, no matter what size you are. Modcloth is encouraging every girl out there to take a picture of herself in their clothes, and use the hashtag #FashionTruth – they’ll pick a winner every month who will receive a full spotlight on Modcloth, and every week they’ll give one person a $100 Modcloth gift card. How amazing is that?
So when a representative from Modcloth got in touch with me a few weeks ago to ask me to be a part of this awesome campaign – wear some of their clothes, participate in a mini photo-shoot – you would think that my answer would be an automatic yes, right? Uh, wrong.
If I’m being honest, my first thought when I was approached about this fashion photo-shoot was, “hell no.” That’s not because I don’t love Modcloth (I do), or because I don’t love taking photos (I really do) or because I’m not into fashion (I really, really am). It was because I’m not that confident and I don’t love my body… yet.
I know that sounds super hypocritical. I’ve spent the last four years writing to you girls, encouraging you to be confident no matter what size you are, what you look like, or where you come from. I’ve talked about how important confidence is so much that I’ve run out of original things to say about it. I will say and do whatever I can to make you girls feel good about yourselves. But when it comes to me making me feel good about myself, I just can’t seem to succeed.
Full disclosure: this is not something I’m comfortable talking about. In fact, I avoid talking about it as much as possible, and this is one of the only times in my life I’ve been this honest about it.
I’ve had body image issues for as long as I can remember. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I don’t remember a time when I didn’t feel uncomfortable with how I looked. For the majority of my life, I’ve been a “normal” weight. Sure, there have been times when I’ve been a little bit heavier, but for the most part I’ve been pretty average-sized – not skinny, not plus-size, but somewhere in between.
Despite my weight, I have always, always felt too fat. It doesn’t matter how much weight I lose, how in shape I am, or what size jeans I’m wearing: I have just never felt good enough. One of my earliest memories is of me hanging out with my best childhood friend (in retrospect, she was a terrible person). We were sitting in the car, and she pointed to our legs. She said, “Look, my thigh is smaller than my hand when I sit down. Is yours?” I put my hand over my thigh, only to find that my hand was not smaller. She laughed, and said, “Your thigh is big.” This seemingly innocent comment from an eight-year-old stuck with me the rest of my life. I have never, ever been happy with the way my legs look, and I always catch myself looking at my thigh, comparing it to my hand.
My worst body image memories come from high school. In ninth and tenth grade, I was small, small enough to wear clothes from the kid’s section. Then I started dating my first boyfriend. I got comfortable with him, and started adapting his lifestyle, which was to eat tons of junk food. This boyfriend and I spent a whole lot of time doing nothing – doing nothing and eating. Around the same time, I quit my dance lessons, and all physical activity went out the window. I slowly started gaining weight.
I’m still not comfortable discussing my heaviest weight, and I don’t know if I ever will be. But what I can tell you is how unhappy I was. I knew I had gained weight, and coming in at 5’0, it wasn’t hard to look bigger with extra pounds. I was miserable. Every time I looked in the mirror, I wanted to cry or scream. I felt like a stranger in my own body. The clothes I had once loved didn’t fit me. I started dreading seeing pictures of myself, because that was when my weight confronted me the most. I can’t describe how much I hated how I looked.
Even though I was so unhappy, something was stopping me from changing things. I would try little diets here and there. I did Weight Watchers three times, and lost a few pounds, only to gain it back. I joined the gym, but didn’t go as much as I should have. I tried to eat healthier, but it just wasn’t sticking. All I could do was feel miserable and imagine what I would feel like if I was thinner. I thought I would be so much happier – I was obsessed.
In college, my body had had enough. I started getting terrible stomach pains that left me unable to eat for hours, sometimes even days at a time. I was constantly in excruciating pain, but I had also noticed that I was losing weight. My clothes were big on me, everyone was complimenting me, and looking in the mirror didn’t make me want to rip my skin off my body. As terrible as it sounds, I didn’t even care about the stomach pains. In fact, I thought of them as a blessing.
By the middle of college, I had dropped almost 40 pounds… but things weren’t the way I thought they would be. Despite the constant compliments I got from everyone around me, I didn’t feel thin. I still felt fat. Looking back on photos from that time period, I can see just how thin I was, but back then? I didn’t see it or feel it. It wasn’t until I gained some of the weight back that I realized just how thin I had been.
I wish I could say that I’ve completely changed since college, but I haven’t. I am still not happy with the way my body looks. After keeping off most of that weight for years, I gained some of it back when I started working full time and didn’t have as much time to devote to the gym or eating healthy. I am currently on a clean-eating diet that involves minimal sugar and carbs. Almost every time I eat anything unhealthy, I beat myself up for it. I still look in the mirror and feel like I want to scream or cry. I still mentally count calories. I look at photos of myself sometimes and it makes me feel sick to my stomach.
In the past year, I have lost 20 pounds. I have tried really hard not to make this a repeat of my college years: I want to be happy with the weight I’ve lost and I want to feel proud of what I’ve done to lose it. Most of all, I want to feel really happy with how I look. I try to follow the confidence-boosting tips I give you guys. But it’s so freakin’ hard. I know I have lost weight, and sometimes I can see that and appreciate it. But most of the time I still feel fat. I still feel like I’m not good enough.
That’s why this Modcloth shoot was so hard for me to say yes to. First of all, I like to have control over all photos of me. I have a “good side” (I don’t care if you make fun of me), and I like to be on it. Digital photography is my favorite thing because I can look at myself immediately and delete the photo if I hate it. So, the thought of having someone else take my photos with little to no control made me feel very anxious. Second, I was scared to see what I looked like in high definition. Third, I was scared that people I didn’t know would see these photos of me. Fourth, I was scared the photos would come back, and I would hate them.
In the end, I obviously said yes. Why? Because I am actively working on my body image and my confidence every single day. I want to be the person I encourage you guys to be. I want to be confident and I want to love myself. Is the answer to that losing weight? I don’t know. All I know is that I have to find a way to feel happy with how I look. I have made some progress: I try to give myself compliments as often as possible, and I do embrace the things I love about myself. I don’t hide my body as much as I used to. I force myself to do things like this, where I don’t have as much control over how I look. I let myself eat dessert if I really want it, and I tell myself it’s okay. But I’m not going to lie to you guys, it’s really difficult.
I’m telling you guys this story because I really hope that it will make you feel better if you feel this way. I want you to know that you’re not alone. We all have body image issues in some way or another, and we’re all fighting to get through them. Seeing these photos from the #FashionTruth campaign was so important to me, and I actually am happy to share them with you. Now, let’s work on this confidence stuff together, okay? Life is too short to constantly be worried about how you look – I’m slowly realizing this, and I hope you can too.
Do you have body image issues or confidence issues? How do you feel good about yourself? Tell me in the comments.