Mental Health, mental illness

Who Cares What Others Think? part 1

casually modeling the shovel handle and my new Jamicure

When I was younger, middle school-aged, people started noticing my hands. I have long fingers, and my fingernails naturally appear long no matter how they’re trimmed because of their shape. In elementary school, a friend commented that my nails had a lot of “white”. I’d just trimmed them because she wore her nails short and I wanted to be like her in just about any way possible. “What? I just cut them,” I argued. But she’d meant the white part that starts near your cuticle and forms a half-moon shape. I wasn’t sure if this was a good thing or a bad thing in her opinion.

Then, in middle school, my circle of friends decided that my best feature was my hands. They were so beautiful, my friends insisted, that I should be a hand model. We did research, and apparently, hand models have to wear gloves pretty much all the time to protect the moneymakers. I was not about that.

(It feels almost insulting now that my friends couldn’t find something more noticeable to choose as my best feature. I find that pretty laughable now. I was a pretty awkward-looking adolescent, and I like to think I’ve grown into my appearance, but whatever.)

Years passed and thus began the era of dumb internet surveys so your friends can learn useless “facts” about you. “What is your best feature?” asked so many of said dumb internet surveys. “My hands,” I said. Sometimes I included “and my eyes”, which are the same beautiful, oceanic color as my dad’s, but I was concerned that they were small and for most of my then-life hidden behind glasses and above dark circles.

I feel like the takeaway from this memory is twofold. I chose not to acknowledge my eyes as one of my “best features” because though I thought they were pretty and I was proud that I inherited them from my dad when the rest of me looks like my mom, I felt they were unworthy of someone hearing that was my opinion and then checking, only to disagree. After I got contacts, a male acquaintance asked his friend in front of me, “Don’t contacts make her eyes look smaller?” (Years later, a friend ran into him in college and they discussed me: “She got so pretty,” that male acquaintance said. Yeah – that ship sailed.) I cared a whole awful lot about what other people thought of me, or even what I thought they might think of me. The more I think back upon memories of my school days, the more I realize I was really worried about what people thought of me. I think I still worry a lot, but I’m working on caring less and less.

My second observation is that it really only matters what I think of me, and that is this: I really appreciate my hands. They are nice-looking, I guess, but at this point I’m really more interested in what they can do. And my eyes? They require a lot of correction, but I am so glad I can see the world around me. Appearance is fine and dandy and certainly the first thing people notice, but what my body can do is frankly amazing. I can walk and run (jog short distances, if I’m being honest). I can stand on my tiptoes and reach my arms for things on top shelves. I can sing and play the guitar with my “model-esque” fingers. I can scratch my dog’s belly and talk to her in a voice that makes her ears go up and her tail wag. I can hug and kiss my loved ones. I am proud of my body now, whatever it looks like. But to be honest, I’m pretty happy with that, too.

part 2 to come


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