I’ve successfully completed my October Dress Project and I couldn’t be happier. I got a little bored and frustrated at the end, but I stuck it out. I’m not sure if I will do it again, but I learned a few things about myself. It took a bit of bravery for me to participate in something that drew attention to my body and I have to say that I feel a more comfortable in my own skin now. While I did get comments on a few of my outfits- especially the last 4 days when I wore some wackier things- no one really noticed or cared what I wore or how I looked. This is something I need to have tattooed on my forehead or at the very least engraved on my mirror. I am the only one that cares how I look. My husband and my mom think I am beautiful and my friends often have compliments for me. But I am the one that makes a big deal out of my physical appearance. For years I have hated my body, my face, my shape, my height… and the only thing I have gained is depression and bad habits.
Stop the hate, Kate, it’s self-destructive and it benefits no one!
Besides some self-love, the best lesson I learned from my ODP was to stop waiting. In the immortal words of Sound Mound (watch until 3:30, worth every minute), “It’s never too late for now! “ Time to stop waiting and do it now, wear it now, have fun now. When I was a preteen I loved to go crazy with my clothes and accessories. I carried a hot pink Minnie Mouse lunch box, loved to mix and match bright colors and patterns, and always had at least two colors on my braces (usually corresponding to the month of the year: red and green Christmas braces, black and orange for Halloween). One time my teacher asked me in front of the class if I knew I was wearing two different earrings. “Of course,” I laughed! One was a hot pink crescent moon and the other was a blue star. Stars and moons match, right? (Gurl, my style was the bomb in the 90s. Side pony tail with a hot pink and turquoise scrunchie? Wicked! )
Somewhere along the way I stopped having fun and started feeling obligated to be beautiful to look at. I believed that I could be anything I wanted, I could do anything I set my mind to. But I should look good doing it. You can change the world, but there’s no need to look ugly while you go about it. You can be president of the United States, but you better do it while wearing heels and lipstick. I bought into the objectification myth; the myth that being beautiful is the most important and the most POWERFUL thing a woman can be. So often as women we are told that our appearance is our currency. It may be true that you will catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, but I’m hunting eagles and the flies are just a nuisance.
I’m not saying that it’s wrong to be beautiful or even wrong to take time to look good. But what is wrong is believing that our looks are the best thing we have to offer. For so long I’ve felt that because I am overweight or not the most beautiful girl in the room, I don’t have the right to say what I am thinking or to act on my ideas. I put myself in the place where fat and ugly girls “should” be- the sidekick, the funny friend, not the main character in my own life.
Here’s what I’m learning: when I focus less on my physical flaws I can appreciate everything else I can offer.
When I’m not estimating the weights of the other women in the room, I can brainstorm and share my ideas in a meeting at work. When I’m not making myself feel like I need to be feminine and delicate and not take take up too much space, I can make jokes and laugh loudly and have fun. I’m not here to be a pretty face for you to look at or a curvy body for you to desire. I am here to be myself, to have strong loves and overwhelming emotions that spur me to action, and to be missed when I leave the room.
Renee Engeln says that you cannot chronically monitor your body’s appearance and also be fully present in the world. I’ve decided that participating in my life and the lives of those that I love is worth so much more than looking good all the time. I’m choosing to be present and to be real. And if my soul is so filled with love that joy shines from my eyes, my smile lights up my face, and compassion comes quick and often- I will be gorgeous.