Freshmen at Wake Technical Community College (North Carolina)
Dear younger self,
What if you wake up one day when you’re 65 and you never got your memoir or novel written or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice comfortable tummy or you were just so hung up on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy, creative life, of imagination and silliness. It’s going to break your heart. Don’t let this happen. Learning to love myself again was like learning to walk all over again. Self-appreciation comes from within when you realize that what other people think about you, isn’t nearly as important of what you think of yourself, and I finally realized that at the end of the day if I’m happy, that’s the only thing that matters. Don’t let this happen to you. Just because others don’t see your worth, doesn’t mean you don’t have any. A positive body image won’t magically appear when you reach a certain weight or when you look a certain way. It’ll come as you begin to realize that your body has carried you through life. Your thighs have carried you when you didn’t have the energy to walk, your stomach has held many of delicious foods, and your eyes have let you see the beauty of the world. Don’t grow up the same way I did, don’t learn to love yourself again, learn to never fall out of love with yourself. The day you decide to love yourself is the day you’ll conquer the world. You can only hate yourself for so long before what you think becomes who you are and that’s a life that isn’t fun to live.
Aleksandra ‘Oly’ Zayac
Junior at Elon University (North Carolina)
Oh little one,
I see you eyeing that favorite cake batter ice cream. Oh, why’d you turn around? And…she’s made eye contact with the model cardboard cutout advertising some don’t-have-the-ice-cream jeans. And…cue the crying.
I could tell you not to cry. I could tell you that you are beautiful. I could tell you that picture is photo-shopped and that no one looks that way. But I know there is no magic advice to bring you up from embarrassingly hysterically crying on the floor.
I will tell you this, though. Today sucks. And tomorrow might suck too. But all you need to know is that it will be okay. You are not crazy for wanting to be thin. But being asked why you’re so thin isn’t all it’s hyped to be, either.
You may not think this now, but you are worth so much more than what that mirror growls back at you. People truly care about what you have to say and what you have to offer.
I can guarantee that you have not lost five pounds by walking five feet and you haven’t gained that five back by sitting down.
Know this: you are cared for; you are loved. You have so much to offer to this world, but only if you believe me.
Let today be a little rough but please allow tomorrow to improve. You’ll feel great in dresses and jeans and eat that ice cream once again.
There is a future, and yours shines like the glimmer in your eyes you’ll one day have back.
I could tell you I love you from five years older, but I want you to tell yourself today.
Take mom’s hand, stand up, wipe the tears, give mom a smile, and, when no one’s looking, give that model cardboard cutout the finger—it’ll make you feel better, I promise.
Be here for you in five years,
Your happier self.