I’ve always thought I was comfortable in my own skin. I don’t embarrass easily. As I demonstrate in the picture below:
I’m willing to make a fool of myself for the sake of a laugh. Here I was, at my job, wearing two tree skirts – one as a poncho, one as a skirt – and a matching camo hat just because I thought it would be hilarious. I make jokes about myself in public, a lot of the times in the most vicious way possible. I have no shame.
Most of the time.
While I like to say I don’t care what people think, there are moments in my life where I realize that it’s impossible not to care. One moment being, the last time I went to the gym.
Every semester, my boyfriend and I make the valiant effort to go to the gym regularly. We’re already on campus, it’s free for students, so why not? Usually, it’s just the two of us. Then, the day came where he invited his friends. I didn’t care about the strangers seeing my obese body boldly bouncing around the basketball court, but, boy, did I care about my boyfriend’s friends seeing me.
When he said they were coming, I cried. I couldn’t hold them back, even if I tried. In that moment, I realized that the girl who supposedly doesn’t care, cares way too much about what other people think.
I was right back to that middle school version of myself who would hide in the gym bathroom, sobbing because I knew those girls and their boyfriends would start calling me a dike or a man the moment I walked out in my gym uniform. That’s when I developed my defense mechanism – making fun of myself before other people could. If I call myself a fat dike before others can, then they can’t hurt me. I’ve let the world know about my insecurities as if I’m confident about them. In reality, I’m just trying to protect myself from someone who might try to use them against me.
I have no shame because I’m ashamed.
That’s right, I’m ashamed of myself. “Why?” my boyfriend asked when, after fifteen minutes of hiding in the rec center bathroom, crying, I emerged to let him know why I was self-conscious. I knew those guys in middle school. They weren’t the ones who made fun of me, thankfully, but it took me right back to that place when I didn’t have any way of defending myself. I was a jolly green giant target of a pre-teen, lumbering about just waiting to be picked on. I lived everyday waiting for a snide remark, which was always followed by the vicious laughter of those who were just happy they weren’t the ones being picked on.
I’m still that twelve-year-old girl who finds solace in gym bathrooms and weeps at the fear of people finding out she’s not as confident as she may seem, or that she is actually insecure about being overweight, masculine, tall, or all of the above.
And I don’t write this because I want people to feel bad for me. That’s the exact opposite of what I’m doing. I realized that just because I act confident on the surface, doesn’t mean I actually am. I have insecurities, just like everyone else. That person you may be jealous of because they are confident, funny, and everything you may think you’re not is actually just as insecure as you are.
Some of us are just better at hiding it than others.
Watch your words, and always do your best to be kind, especially to yourself.