The things we hate about ourselves aren’t more real than things we like about ourselves.
– Ellen Goodman
To accept ourselves as we are means to value our imperfections as much as our perfections.
– Sandra Bierig
So I wore a skirt to work today.
This is significant because honestly, I can’t remember the last time I did that. I have worked in an office environment for many years, but my go-to office wear has always been jeans and a sweater. My rule of thumb was concealment: the baggier something was, the more I could hide beneath it. Plus, if I gained weight, the clothes would still fit – up to a point, of course. I stayed away from anything that was form-fitting. Nothing fit properly, anyway.
But now that I am losing weight, my body shape is changing, and I’m starting to look differently at myself. I want to change the dowdy self-image I’ve had and replace it with a more stylish, confident version of myself. I want my inside to match my outside. So I’ve been trying to be more open to colors and styles I would never have chosen for myself in the past. I imagine my sister Missy perched on my shoulder, encouraging me. She always had a good eye for what would look good on me and was behind many of the most-complimented outfits I’ve ever worn. I know she would have loved to help dress me now.
Shopping has always been uncomfortable, almost torturous, for me, but it’s a necessary evil. I’m digging around in thrift stores and wearing friends’ hand-me-downs while my body shrinks. I have shopped so long in the plus-size racks that I automatically go there; it isn’t until I’ve pushed a few hangers around that I realize I’m in the wrong spot. But these smaller sizes throw me for a loop – I am convinced they won’t fit.
Case in point: my friend just gave me some clothes; among them was a pair of jeans two sizes smaller than what I’d been wearing. A few days later, she asked if I’d tried them on. I admitted I hadn’t, because I wasn’t down to that size yet. She assured me that yes, they’d fit — plus, they were stretchy. So I agreed to try them on. That night, I held the jeans in front of me. The waist looked impossibly small and the legs looked way too narrow for my thighs. They would never fit.
Here goes nothing.
As you may have guessed, they fit. Perfectly. I could not believe it! I showed Mr. Stuck, and he told me they looked great and fit me well. How can that be? There is such a disconnect between what my brain sees and what is reality. I can see that I have a long way to go before my thinking reflects the real me.
Because I know that my brain still sees me at my largest and most unattractive, I must consciously battle against that perception. I have to challenge myself. What does this have to do with wearing a skirt today? Plenty. I rarely wear skirts because 1) I hate pantyhose, and 2) I hate my legs. But I told myself that when I’m at the thrift store, if I see something I think is attractive, I will consider it, even if I’m sure it’s still too small for me…even if it’s a skirt or a dress. (My favorite thing about thrift stores is buying six items for what one would cost in a normal department store.) I now have a handful of skirts and dresses I’m willing to try. Not all at once, though. I’m still a tomboy at heart.
But for all my good intent, it still took some mental persuasion to talk myself into wearing a skirt to work. The mental negativity started: So much for fading into the background. Who are you trying to impress? A skirt? You? With those legs? At least you’re behind a desk all day. I told Mr. Stuck that I was thinking about wearing a skirt to work, and he was all for it. It’s a long skirt, so I didn’t have to worry about my legs showing or about wearing pantyhose (yay!); but it also doesn’t have pockets (boo!). That was nearly a deal breaker – I normally carry a wallet, not a purse. I’d have to carry a purse if I wanted to wear a skirt. Sigh. Okay. I dug out an old purse, dusted it off, and put my wallet and keys inside. No excuses left.
This morning I pulled on the casual, navy skirt and light blue sweater. I turned and looked at myself sideways in the mirror. The skirt really accentuated my slimmer figure. This time, instead of automatically voicing the negative, I chose to admire how I looked.
Wow. Look how far I’ve come.
I put a smile on my face, squared my shoulders, grabbed my purse and walked out the door.
photo credit Orin Zebest