The Chunky Duckling.
I was laughing the other day at the kind of ballerina I used to be: the wrong kind. The chunky kind.
I believe that it is a general rule that ballerinas are long and lean, not short and thick. But it was okay for me then. I was blissfully unaware 8 year old girl, and my lack of longness and leanness was completely irrelevant; I just danced in euphoria in those little pink shoes. It didn’t matter that I knew I looked different from the ballerinas in the photos on the wall. I knew that I was the best ballerina I could be; that made me happy.
But as are so many things of our youth, it was a temporary. The beauty I saw in myself, in my differences, didn’t last. I forgot how to accept myself, to appreciate myself just the way I was. So when the time came that I became painfully aware of my shortness and thickness, I was lost. I was miserable. It was long after my short lived ballerina career; long after the simple and pure love a child feels for themselves. It was when all people start to pay attention to their body. When all people start picking apart their body.
And boy, did I. I would argue it is one of the few things I’ve ever reached “professional” status at. I spent years denying that I would ever be beautiful. Years denying that I would ever succeed in losing the chunk. Years denying that I would ever be “beautiful.”
It took years to reverse my way of thinking. So many years of tears, and pain, and shame, and ugliness. But it happened, and I was greeted with the warm hug that self-acceptance and appreciation is. I finally saw that I truly was beautiful. Inside and out. I finally saw that I was worth loving no matter what I looked like on the outside.
And so at 23 years old I finally did it. I knew that I was beautiful. Not just in the logical part of my brain, but in the vulnerable and pure parts of my heart. And finally I was strong enough to conquer my biggest battle: weight loss.
It couldn’t have happened a minute sooner because I just wasted ready. If I wasn’t ready to believe I was beautiful just the way I was, I would never truly believe I was beautiful at any weight. It was a mental game, not a physical one, and I learned how to play it. So over the course of 8 months I went from a size 20 to a size 12. People didn’t recognize me. Guys asked me out. I could finally shop at the stores I had always wanted.
But it was funny; none of that mattered. I mean sure, it was flattering and exciting and such an unfamiliar world, but it didn’t add to my beauty. Those things didn’t make me feel beautiful. They were just circumstances. Nothing of true value that would add to my self-worth. I had already reached the place where it truly didn’t matter what the outside looked like, what the outside thought about what I looked like. I knew I was beautiful. I felt it.
And so the frilly adornments of, “Oohs” and “Awws,” and new numbers in my cell phone and receipts from stores I had never shopped at before were just what they were; words, and numbers, and paper. They didn’t add any more beauty to me; they were just things.
And things don’t make you beautiful. This was a lesson I had already learned. It wouldn’t be the quick sand it was to so many people.
So I made the trek from “The Chunky Duckling,” to the beautiful Swan. And how surprising it was that it had nothing to do with looks, or waist size, or any number on the scale. It had to do with believing, with knowing.
And I finally knew.