Our final post in our series on how to deal with standing out. I hope Danielle’s post inspires and encourages you as much as it did me!
I was a theatre kid growing up, and feel very much in my element in front of a crowd. As long as I’m being true to myself, I’m happy to stand out and be the center of attention. I’m also generally pretty good about accepting constructive criticism – as long as it’s focused on my actions. Criticism about my appearance, on the other hand, tends to cut me to the core.
Several years ago, I had a co-worker tell me that I needed to cover up my chest because my breasts disgusted her and “showing them off” was inappropriate. I had always done my best on a limited budget to find wrap tops and v-necks that I could pair with camis to cover my chest and flatter my figure. Nothing that I wore was ever inappropriate. In fact, I usually showed less skin than this straight-figured co-worker who was so repulsed by my decolletage. Can you say double standard? I have struggled with my weight and accepting my curvy body for years, and so these body shaming comments played perfectly into my old insecurities. Rather than realize that this was just the latest tactic in an ongoing bullying campaign, I was suddenly back to elementary school when I started developing before most of the other girls, and to high school when I was told that it was inappropriate for me to wear the tank tops that the other girls were wearing. I gave way too much mental energy to the whole situation. Then I went out and bought baggy crew neck shirts so I could just blend in and avoid further unwanted comments. I spent a season wearing frumpy clothing that did not flatter my shape and did not reflect my tastes or personality before realizing that something had to change. I hated hiding, and refused to do it any longer.
And so, I started researching clothing options for women with hourglass figures, and stumbled into the wonderful world of big-bust-friendly clothing and bra blogs. Wearing clothing that actually fits properly and is therefore comfortable and flattering is a major confidence boost. Rather than tugging on my clothes and doing constant cleavage checks, I can walk into a room with my shoulders back, head held high, and feel comfortable that my clothing is a positive reflection of myself. It has been so much fun discovering new companies and checking out the growing variety of options that are available to curvy women in this expanding global niche market. And it has been a revelation to connect with other women who have struggled with similar issues and are developing a positive online community where we all can vent, celebrate, learn, and be ourselves. I even have some friends who are jealous that I can order clothes online and have them fit like a glove straight out of the box. I certainly never would have predicted that 5 years ago!
During this time of growth and empowerment, I also worked on learning to love my unique, curvy body. One of my biggest revelations came during a group exercise class. Before each class began, I used to scrutinize myself in the mirror – making sure my underarm flab was tucked properly under my tank top straps, seeing if my tummy, hips, and triceps looked any skinnier than they were a few days earlier, and so on. On this particular day, I was not pleased with what I saw. Mid-way through the class, I glanced around the packed room. I saw women of all shapes and sizes and skin tones. And every single one of these women was beautiful. It didn’t matter that we were all coated with sweat and that half of us were flushed. All of these “regular” women each had a completely unique shape, and each was beautiful. I would never dream of disparaging any of their bodies, so why was I being so critical of my own? I’m still working on loving myself as I am – it’s especially difficult when I see photos taken from a particularly unflattering angle. And I still do the occasional pre-workout figure check. But now I make a point of stopping negative self-talk as soon as I notice it happening, appreciating what my body does for me as I move through the day, and working towards becoming stronger and healthier.
One thing that has always given me confidence when I worry about how I will come across to others is understanding that most people are so worried about themselves: how they look, what they should say, whether or not others are judging them, and so on, that they don’t have much mental energy left to judge me (or you, or anyone). So why not wear whatever I feel like wearing and do what I want to do (within obvious ethical and legal bounds)? Chances are no one will pay me any particular attention anyway. And frankly, as long as I’m happy, comfortable, and doing things that I enjoy and am proud of, then it doesn’t really matter what others think. The times that I have been judged by others, especially about my appearance, it spoke more to the insecurities of the person judging me than it did to my appearance. And it’s certainly not a reflection of my value. If someone judges me, then it’s on them. If someone likes the way I stand out, then all the better! I’m making a point of focusing on developing my potential and being the best version of myself that I can be. And let’s be honest, the kick-ass woman that I strive to become is bound to stand out in a crowd!