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Beauty

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“It isn’t fair that people should base their worth on how they look.” –Rachel L.

Rachel L. has been an acquaintance of mine since this summer. We swam on a club team together and she is a great person to be around. She’s funny and smart and has made me laugh until my stomach hurts. I constantly teased her when high school season started because she would always shiver on the pool deck. I would tell her she needs some meat on her bones and to take mine. We’d laugh and I even gave her the nickname Casper because of how pale she was. She never seemed bothered by names and comments because she would laugh and joke right along with me. Oh, how wrong I was.

At writers’ week this year she wrote a piece about how it hurts her when people say she is too skinny. That when people told her these things it made her think she didn’t look how she should. I think she is beautiful and to know that she had looked in the mirror and questioned and even hated her appearance at times breaks my heart because I know all too well how that feels.

I, like many other kids, was bullied when I was younger, and along with some other horrible personal experiences, my self-esteem was bruised. People would tell me that I was huge and for some reason that made me less of a person. People could take advantage of me so easily because all I wanted was to be liked. By the time I was in 6th grade I decided that the only reason a person wouldn’t like me was because of my size. I realized soon after that there are many things people wouldn’t like about me. Instead of this realization relaxing me, it just added to the pile of reasons no one could ever love me.

At first I was able to keep the feelings I had about myself under control, by understanding that I was a good person despite my size. After that understanding faded, I took drastic measures to try and change the way I looked. I developed and eating disorder that consumed my every thought.

Every minute of every day was spent counting calories, exercising, and worry about how much I weighed. Everyone has bad days and they just brush it off and start again. It wasn’t so easy for me. Every bad day was a nightmare. Bad thoughts and negative self-talk sent me to my room to do damage to my body or to the bathroom to expel my mistakes. No one knew and I would have liked to keep it that way.
To imagine that Rachel could have ever experienced the things I did, or even thought about them brought tears to my eyes. I would never wish this kind of torture on anyone, not even my worst enemies. Being a prisoner of your own mind is something that can drive anyone to the edge, it did for me.

I sat in the auditorium letting the tears streak down my face. I needed to make things right with Rachel, I couldn’t leave that day without letting her know I was sorry and that I never meant the words I said to cause her pain. After every writer was done and the bell sounded for dismissal, I pushed through people and ran onto the stage. I took Rachel’s hands in mine and looked her straight in the eyes.

“I’m sorry.” I said, putting as much meaning as I could into my words. “I never meant to hurt you, I was only joking around.” I began tearing up and Rachel shrugged her shoulders. I could tell she was uncomfortable with the whole situation. Having just poured her heart out on stage, I felt her hands shaking. I took her in my arms and hugged her with everything I could. I couldn’t let her leave without knowing the truth. I pulled her back and with even more emotion than before and more tears running down my face I said “I think you’re beautiful.” Her eyes instantly swelled up with tears and she pulled me in again. Our hug lasted long enough for me to be reassured that she had heard me. As we pulled away and I wiped my tears I gazed at her face. How could she not see how beautiful she was?

I left the auditorium thinking about how hard it is to accept compliments. To wonder if the person who gave them to you was lying to you, maybe just saying something to make you feel better or simply making fun of you in their own sarcastic way. I cried some more the next period remembering my hardships and wondering if they will ever completely end. I have heard stories of people overcoming this type of sickness and I know that it will take time, but I, and all the other girls and boys who struggle with body image issues, will have to be strong and patient. The way a person’s body looks does not define who they are and beauty is much more than skin deep.

Some people think beauty is strength, either the ability to overcome obstacles or how much you can bench. Other people think beauty is simply an attractive arrangement of traits on a person’s face. We all have our own definitions of beauty, and mine is Rachel L.




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