The Skin She's In
A short story about insecurity and confidence.
“Ew. Do you see this? I hate this roll,” Debbie said pinching her stomach.
“I have one, too,” Kate said grabbing her sides.
CJ eyed the two girls. What are they complaining about? They’re both perfect. “I don’t like being bow-legged,” she said quietly as she finished washing her hands.
The two girls turned their gazes on her.
“What are you talking about?” Debbie said with a laugh. “You’re so skinny. I wish I was skinny like you.”
“Yeah, me too,” Kate agreed placing her hands around CJ’s waist. “See? My fingers almost touch. You’re so lucky. I’m fat.”
CJ flushed with embarrassment. It was the same thing every time. When she looked at the mirror, she could only compare herself to the two others next to her. We’re practically the same size. How can she say she’s fat? She turned her gaze to the floor. As she saw the gap between her knees, she wished she’d never said anything. That bowing of her legs was her greatest insecurity, but she felt guilt for having mentioned it.
As she walked the halls of the school, she kept her gaze down. She knew she was thin, but that didn’t mean she was free of insecurities. If anything, hers were greater than those of her friends. Sure, they complained about rolls that she didn’t have, but she never lashed out at them for their insecurities. Why then, did they feel the need to make her feel bad for thinking just as ill of her body as they did of theirs? Was it wrong of her to hate herself? Was it terrible that she wished she could change certain physical aspects of her body? Whenever she voiced a complaint, the response was always the same. In the end, she felt that she was the villain for daring to have an insecurity when she was so fortunate to be thin.
To cope, CJ hid herself behind baggy sweatpants and oversized sweaters. She acted like she didn’t care what other people thought and was completely unswayed by peer pressure to follow certain trends. In most cases, that was true. She didn’t care for what was popular. Neither did she care how others thought of her. However, she couldn’t escape from the way she thought of herself.
“CJ, how are you so skinny?” her friends would often ask her.
“I don’t know,” she answered honestly. She didn’t diet. Exercise was a foreign concept. “Just good genetics, I guess.”
“Plus, you’re tall. I wish I was taller. My legs are so short compared to yours.”
“I hate my legs,” CJ said quietly.
“What? Why? They’re so thin! Look at mine. They’re short and fat. My thighs touch and I hate it. You’re so lucky you’re skinny.”
She knew they meant well, but their words stung. Once again, she looked at herself and only felt guilt. It wasn’t fair. Why wasn’t she allowed to be insecure? Why couldn’t they understand that being skinny wasn’t the be-all-end-all?
As CJ grew older, she slowly grew to appreciate her body. Sure, she was bow-legged, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t wear shorts in summer. The first time she made the effort to wear something outside her comfort zone, she was surprised by how happy she felt. She stood outside, allowing the whiteness of her legs to soak up the sun for the first time in years. By changing her wardrobe from clothes that hid her frame to clothes that showed it off, she actually felt a new love for her body. For the first time, she didn’t hate herself.
“You’re still bow-legged, and I wish I could change that, but that doesn’t mean you’re not beautiful,” she told herself. “You are beautiful. And you’re allowed to think so.”
With a newfound comfort in her own skin, she faced life with confidence. Her insecurities were not erased, but they didn’t control her. They were no longer a reason for her to hide. In this unexpected happiness, she found that she liked herself.
“Listen, CJ. You’re a very pretty girl, but you shouldn’t wear shorts that short,” her manager at work told her one day.
She knew the shorts were short, but they covered her bum. She’d seen girls wear shorter. “I’m wearing leggings underneath,” CJ said in confusion.
“Don’t wear them again.”
Feeling this was unfair, she talked about it with one of her friends. “My legs were completely covered. And I’ve seen other girls wear leggings. Why was it so wrong for me to wear shorts over top? Would she have complained if I had worn just the leggings by themselves?”
“I don’t know. But your legs are quite long. Plus, you’re thin.”
This didn’t sit right, and CJ started keeping her ears open. As she listened, she realized others were saying similar things. Horrified, she realized that people all around her were criticizing her like it was her fault for looking the way she did. Somehow, she had become a villain for something completely outside her control. Not that people were mean to her or lashed out, but she could sense their eyes always judging her.
A familiar sensation returned to her. Guilt. After all this time, after all the struggle of trying to accept her body, was she now being criticized for her confidence? When she had been insecure about her body, she’d felt ridiculed for thinking negatively about herself. Was she now going to be judged for having confidence in her body?
She lay in bed staring at the ceiling. It wasn’t fair. When a man was confident in his body, he was rewarded with praise. But she, though she had struggled for so long to finally appreciate the skin she was in, the result hadn’t changed. She was still being critiqued harshly, this time for her confidence. The guilt grew larger within her, overwhelming her and reducing her to tears. Why couldn’t people just be happy for each other?
Her old insecurities rushed back to her. She still didn’t hate herself, and she never would do that to herself again, but she knew this guilt would forever hang over her head. No matter what she did, no matter how she dressed, nothing would change. People would either hate her for feeling sorry for herself or hate her for her confidence.
The skin she was in; she loved it and hated it at the same time. This problem would never go away. She knew.
“It’s not right.”
For all those who have felt ashamed of their bodies, or judged for their confidence, know that you are allowed to love the skin you're in. Own it. And allow yourself to accept every flaw, every curve, every strength, every weakness, every inch. It's your skin. Don't wait for others. You are your own MAP (Most Awesome Person) to self-acceptance. ;)