An exchange between my sister and I:
Me: “Do you like my jacket?”
Sister: “Err..yeah, it’s…short.”
Me: “Hmm, what do you mean? Don’t you like it?”
Now, bear in mind that I’d asked her if she liked my jacket, not if she thought I looked skinny in it. It’ll probably help if I can find a picture of the jacket in question. *hold on there a minute while I scout round* Dutifully scouted, Ta Da!
So, back to the conversation about the jacket just bought.
Her: “Well, it’s okay, but you wouldn’t be wearing it with that dress would you?”
Me: “Don’t see why not.”
Her: “Well, because, it’s quite tight, isn’t it, so it makes you go in there [she draws an hourglass in-out shape in the air] and then you just go out, like that [again, she gestures the ‘out’ bit where a girl’s hips are].”
I won’t bore you with the whole conversation and, contrary to what you may thus far think, this post is actually not about me feeling insecure in that jacket. It’s actually more that I stood outside myself for a moment and glimpsed what this kind of body-consciousness can do to one’s self-esteem if it filters in over time. Let me try to explain better.
I liked the jacket on the rail and I picked it up on impulse without trying it on. Today I had a dress on and flung the jacket over it, mainly to try the jacket out, road-test it so to speak. What my sister said was true. It is short and the effect with the shape of the dress was to accentuate my waist whilst exaggerating my hips.
This conversation reminded me that the people around you and their own hang-ups can massively influence your own perception of what’s an ‘acceptable’ outfit. My sister had no malice whatsoever. I think she thought she was doing me a favour in a conversation where she said “could you get the next size up?” and “are you wearing your shapewear now under the dress?”
I can’t emphasize enough that, though the words sound catty, she didn’t intend any harm. But it is a reminder that when I was around different people, living away from her, I was in many ways a freer individual. I was lucky enough to meet girls confident in their own skin and absolutely secure in their own innate sexiness. After a while it rubbed off on me. I stopped watching every pound that came on or off. I embraced their compliments and basked in the light of their reflected self-belief.
My sister is very slim, very good-looking and yet she is and has always been vocal about her ‘flaws’. She thinks her thighs are too big, her stomach is too wobbly, her shape is ‘wrong’. And she isn’t mentally unwell, as I have been. Sadly, she is just a product of her generation and friendship groups. How could a very attractive young woman amass these notions of inferiority? I get tinged by the beliefs of the people I’m around, and today I felt sad that some of this mentality had crawled under my skin without my realising it.
I went out in that jacket. And that dress. I may not feel so brave tomorrow or the day after, but today I thought “To hell with it!” I looked in the mirror and saw a woman with, yes, a few extra pounds that I would like to lose, but apart from that, a woman in a blue dress and fitted black jacket, size 14, with ample but smooth curves.
If there is any way we can step outside of our learned/ingrained ideas of what looks good or bad then we should.
If you’re the type of person who has always liked themselves despite negative life events then
more power to you!
If, like me, you are someone who caves into real or imagined judgements, but essentially wants to go to the supermarket in pajama bottoms if I feel like it (have done this before ;)), and get dressed up to the nines if I feel like it, then all the better.