Contributed by Julia Craggs
“I want to be beautiful”, she said.
“But why?” he replied.
Everybody wants to be told that they’re beautiful. As much as we may try to hide it, everyone wishes that some part of them was different. We want a flat stomach, toned legs, luscious hair and a flawless face. We want to be looked at with admiration, not with indifference. We’ve heard the saying “beauty’s in the eye of the beholder” countless times, but what the beholder believes to be beautiful is very much determined by what others do too.
About 5 years ago, my father asked me that simple but invasive question above. I was a young, naïve and easily influenced girl, who wanted nothing more than to be accepted by the people around me. At first, it started small, but little did I know how this tiny desire would grow to one day consume me. I began by exercising more, eating less, reading up on the ways to be healthier. It then grew to counting every calorie I ate, checking nutrition labels of every food item I bought, finding any opportunity in my day to exercise, with a feeling of dissatisfaction if I didn’t manage to. I grew a fascination for walking into grocery stores, looking at all the food items on display, putting them back and walking out, wishing I could eat them myself, but refraining each time. I would even skip lunch and lie to anyone who asked by telling them I had eaten already. Something so small, such a little desire to look ‘beautiful’ grew into a little monster within me, and it was fierce, reckless, stupid and worse of all, it was beyond my control.
My parents started to worry, but never questioned. They thought it could perhaps just be a phase all teenage girls went through. My friends at school started to notice how I would join them at the lunch table but never have any lunch in front of me, and an air of disbelief blew past every time I gave another excuse. As the days went by, it was working and I was becoming skinnier. But that wasn’t enough, I wanted more, so I kept going. I wasn’t skinny anymore, I was gaunt, and it was frightening. The body I was given, once so fit and strong, so whole and healthy, I had now destroyed. From being a top player in my team, strength and power that once flowed down through my muscles disappeared, and even running now became difficult. Some friends in school stopped talking to me, afraid or disgusted I wasn’t sure, all I knew was that it hurt, but what could I do? I distinctly remember getting on the bus once and noticing at the corner of my eye a lady looking at me, no it wasn’t the normal look of shock I had grown accustomed to, this look penetrated the deepest layer of my heart and pierced it sharply. It was a face of disgust.
“You are beautiful, my dear, why can’t you see that?”
Lying on the hospital bed, my heart rate close to critical and diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa, my mother held my hand with teary eyes and said these words to me. She bought me a cup of warm milo, my favourite childhood drink, a drink I had stopped myself from drinking ever since the fatal day it all began. I looked at myself, what I had become, what I had done to this precious body my mother had nurtured. I gripped her hand tighter and whispered “I’m sorry”.
I had lost a total of 14kg during that time. Bones protruded beyond my skin, clothes hung on my skeletal frame, and a gust of wind might be capable of knocking me down. It took me a year to admit it, but once I did, once I admitted I was sick and incapable of helping myself and opened myself up to peoples help, things got better.
The world will make you feel that there’s always some part of you that’s not quite right, that could be better. You’ll look in the mirror each morning and imagine a better body or a purer face, but the truth is, beauty doesn’t lie in these things. Beauty lies in the brightness of your smile, the happiness and goodness in your heart, and the confidence in yourself.
The dark period was over, and this shriveled up Daisy was slowly opening up its petals once again. It took me nine months to recover, and I had found something within me, greater than myself to move me to change. I use to think that people didn’t care, that they had made me an outcaste for what I had become, but how wrong I was. They did care, sometimes they just didn’t know what they could’ve said or done to make things any better.
When I started getting better and flesh started to blossom on my cheeks, people noticed. My regular school canteen stall aunty saw me one day, pulled me in to her by my cheeks and told me how glad she was so see some chub on there. The school security guard shouted across the road that I was looking beautiful that day. My friends wrote notes telling me how strong I was for braving through this and coming out stronger.
I am beautiful. Just because I don’t hear it everyday, just because I have a little extra roundness on my waist or a few little dots over my face doesn’t mean I’m not. I found that all the parts of ourselves that we want to change, those parts we sometimes hate, are the things people around us know and love us most for. They make me, me - special and unique.
We’re all like little delicate daisies, blown about by the harsh words of this world, but hold on to those roots of yours, look up to the sun that rises and shines on you day after day, and in the midst of thorns or storms, show the world your petals, and blossom.
“She was beautiful, but not like those girls in the magazines. She was beautiful, for the way she thought. She was beautiful, for the sparkle in her eyes when she talked about something she loved. She was beautiful, for her ability to make other people smile, even if she was sad. No, she wasn't beautiful for something as temporary as her looks. She was beautiful, deep down to her soul. She is beautiful.”
- F Scott Fitzgerald
We are made beautiful, don’t ever change that.