(Photo by Paolo Raeli)
“If I were skinny, I would totally wear that,” my friend Larissa sighs, as she gawks at my fitting tank top and denim shorts.
“Oh my god, what are you even talking about?”
“Don’t deny it, Emily. You know, I know, we all know: I could never pull that off.”
Despite non-ironically calling myself beautiful on the daily, I used to be the queen of self-loathing speech. I would scowl at my mirror, disgusted with my acne, my “huge stomach”, my “pudgy legs”, and groan, “I am just so ugly. Maybe if I weren’t so heavy...”
That magical word “if”. If I shed a few inches off my waist, if I had whiter teeth and bigger boobs and shinier hair, I would be worthwhile. Beautiful. Suitably fuckable. That girl who guys hit on. I would have the power. I would no longer flinch when a boy touches my skin, worried that his hands have graced a more worthy woman. She is the embodiment of sensuality and I am the poster child for hideous. I am the before and she is the after.
I was on a walk with my friend Heather yesterday, and we agreed that every person has a “dating Achilles heel”. That one quality about someone that makes people disinterested dating-wise.
“Mine is definitely my boobs,” I confidently declare.
“Didn’t we just have that entire conversation about how you think you’re too forward? That you’re too aggressive?”
“Yes, but if I had bigger boobs, my directness would be hot.”
I am the biggest advocate for body-positivity. I profess my confidence every chance I get, yet there I was, falling under the trap of if’s. I write countless articles about unconditional self-love, but even I have my lapses. When I heard Larissa criticize her body, I recoiled in horror. How could someone so beautiful make these absurd comparisons about herself?
She’s not alone.
“God, I wish my body was like her’s.” These words aren’t mine but sound all too familiar. Envying the way clothes hug her frame, the ease at which she moves. I used to roll my eyes but now, I know better, the way flaws can suffocate you, like the very air you breath reeks with insecurity.
If I had bigger boobs, if my personality weren’t so jarring, if my eyes were even, if I were white, if I had a flatter stomach, I would not be me. Sure, more guys would be attracted to that version of myself, but that person will never be me.
To hell with these alternatives, I am undeniably myself in this moment, and no one can take that away from me.
This is for all the people out there who only see if’s: in case you aren’t already aware, you are a fucking firecracker. You raise hell on all that stands in the way of your dreams. You are worldly and complex and nothing, not your insecurities, not some sleazy guy, can detract from your clarity. The way you narrow your eyes when you're determined could start a forest fire. I know that you’re scared for the future. I am too. I know that you use your self-doubt to cover you on a cold night, but please. They will bring you no warmth.
In this world of if’s, there is only one that matters: if I believed in myself. Let me tell you: with that, you could set the world in flames.