I have always been modest in the way that I dress.
I traded shorts for mostly knee-length skirts when I was probably ten or eleven years old because I didn’t like the way my legs looked in shorts and wanted them to be covered. For most of middle and high school I opted primarily for skirts between my knees and my ankles or, most of the time, pants. I even wore pants throughout the summer, despite being hot. I also carefully selected higher neck lines in my shirts and dresses or wore layers to make sure there was little to no cleavage showing (which was not an easy feat because the amount of cleavage I had was substantial). And I never wore anything “slutty.”
There were times, of course, where I’d put on a slightly more revealing outfit at home and be pleased with what I saw in the mirror. But as soon as I walked outside to where people could actually see me, I’d immediately get overwhelmingly uncomfortable and start adjusting things to cover more or add layers or even just keep my hands in strategic locations until I got an opportunity to change my clothes. And when I say “more revealing” here, I mean something along the lines of a skirt just a few inches above my knees and a shirt that shows maybe half an inch of cleavage. So in other words, a totally normal outfit.
I knew my understanding of what was appropriate to wear was different from other girls’, but I never really thought much of it. I just said that I was “modest,” like that was a totally normal and healthy attitude. Now don’t get me wrong – modesty, when inspired by modesty, is certainly not a bad thing. But what I didn’t realize was that my modesty was not motivated by modesty; it was motivated by a very negative body image, and that is a problem.
So that brings me to my Halloween “miracle” (quotation marks included because it was much more a result of a whole bunch of hard work than a miracle). Being down about twenty pounds from last Halloween, and both looking and feeling great, I wanted to show off the results of my several months of effort to get to where I am now. And so I decided that this year, for the first time in my living memory, I would wear a Halloween costume that did not cover my stomach. And that’s exactly what I did. (Noteable: In high school, my mother had to talk me into buying a bikini because I felt I had no business wearing a swimsuit that left my stomach exposed.)
I flew to Wisconsin to spend the weekend with my boyfriend, who had planned to dress as Ash Ketchum from Pokemon. So, to fit the theme, I decided to dress as Misty.
I rolled up the bottoms on a pair of my denim shorts, cut off the bottom of a yellow shirt, and bought a pair of red suspenders. I thought it looked cute in the mirror, but of course I’d been there before, so I knew the real test would be wearing it out to a Halloween party.
I’ll be honest, I expected to be uncomfortable. I kept referring to myself as “half naked” (I wasn’t, not even close) and at first I was saying I felt exposed. But as time went on and more and more people commented on how awesome it was that we were Ash and Misty (and we were adorable), I realized that I wasn’t actually uncomfortable. At all. That was a huge moment for me, and absolutely a first.
I was reading a book this weekend about mental changes you can make to help you reach your weight loss goals and the number one, most important thing it suggested was visualizing your goal of what you would like to look like. It was convenient timing that reading this book coincided with my discovery that I am now completely comfortable with the shape of my body, enough that I don’t mind showing it off, because I realized that visualizing my goals when I first started trying to lose weight would have resulted in an image pretty close to what I look like now. What an accomplishment!
I am still trying to lose just a few more pounds, because I really do want that six pack, but now I’m doing it with the awareness that I’m no longer working toward these things because I’m unhappy with myself the way I am. And that’s pretty awesome. Who knew a Halloween costume could be so powerful? 🙂