My self-worth is not based on how I look

by Ozge Gurbuz

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Caption:

To be loved and to be taken seriously, I had to be a thin girl.

Credit:

Photo by Larm Rmah on Unsplash

Browsing the internet, I came across an article about how obesity in children and teenagers can cause substantial harm to a person’s health, even more so if they become obese when they are teenagers. This article triggered in me a lamentable memory of my childhood, some 15-years ago.



It’s kind of heartbreaking to reminisce about those schoolgirl days. Fifteen years ago, I was an overweight girl who was experiencing puberty, and I had a pretty hard time dealing with not only myself but also dealing with others. As we enter adolescence, I believe we all have a general idea of what it’s like and what it isn’t like — such emotional years—extra sensitive when you’re not feeling comfortable in your own skin. So, I am going to share my journey today, from being an overweight girl (“fat” according to many) to a slim girl. This story is not about weight loss. It is about how I discovered that my self-worth is not based on how I look but on who I am.


I was a very dynamic, energetic little girl. My mother used to call me “The Tasmanian Devil.” It was so hard to stop me from climbing a tree, running insanely fast, and playing soccer with friends. I was a little bit of a tomboy.

But then, at the onset of puberty, I started putting on weight, and then more weight, accelerating within a few years. When I look back, all I can say is that it didn’t happen overnight. I put on weight gradually; in an uncontrollable way. I was no longer playing indoor games; I lost my interest in running. I was being dragged into misery by everything around me.

Then I met video games. I quit moving, literally. If I were to move, it was only for two reasons: I needed to go to the bathroom, or I was hungry.


Read more –  Weight bias: when your doctor thinks you are lazy


As a kid, I was at a loss in terms of how to invest my energy into things that could help me know myself better, build my self-confidence and trigger my creativity, and my parents were too inexperienced to help me. After a short while, that funny, cheerful, playful girl disappeared. I became the real nightmare of every single mother and father, a cheerless, impatient kid who easily lost her temper. I became unhappy and was feeling unsatisfied with my life. So, I got fat.



Years went by, and I started middle school. The first days of school seemed fun. It was all about meeting new people, making new friends and chatting. I didn’t know that my appearance was going to be used as a weapon to embarrass and insult me. I knew that I was not thin. However, I had no idea I was going to be mocked for the way I looked until one day I was called “fatty.” But it wasn’t just that name. People would also call me ugly, along with many more mortifying names I refuse to repeat.

As a consequence, my grades were kissing the ground. At school, I was not taken seriously as a person; instead, I became a spectacle in a circus of torture. I learned that my body, my figure, was too ridiculous to be considered anything beyond the label of fat. People are conditioned; I realized, I was fat, and therefore, I became a lazy student, which is what everyone thought I was. But I never gave up on my thoughts.

You’d be surprised to know how often I was humiliated by some of my teachers. Some of them would deliberately hurt me, and others would watch me passively when I was bullied. The saddest part was, even though I was much younger than them, I was well aware that they could be so much better than that. This is how I discovered that labels have nothing to do with being a good or bad person. You could be a teacher, yet you could waste your life acting like a careless ignoramus.



When you’re a fat person during puberty, there are so many dimensions. You like boys, but they feel ashamed for being liked by a fat, ugly girl. See? The fat, ugly girl—this was who I was. There were too many annoying ways to label people, yet they somehow managed to give me two labels. I could be either fat or ugly, or both! This was obviously not enough to crush me. But it could have. Childhood bullying can do so much harm.

 

“ To be loved and to be taken seriously, I had to be a thin girl.”

So, this is how my insecurities grew. I rarely left the house. I remember praying to the stars with my teary eyes, “please, help me be a thin girl.” Conditioned responses and reactions were slamming my sentences, my expressions, my questions.

Therefore, to be loved and to be taken seriously, I had to be a thin girl.

In the summer of 2007, I lost the weight I had gained, mainly thanks to the swimming pool we had in my backyard. I became a slimmed-down version of my former self. It was a whole new chapter in my life. Swimming for two hours a day became a passion of mine; it took all my energy, yet recharged my batteries at the same time. I went back to being the girl I used to be: funny, cheerful, and playful.



Losing weight was not a desperate call or a need to fit into other people’s norms. I wanted to know; I wanted to feel and see what it would be like to be thin. It was more like a personal discovery.

When I returned to school after summer, I ran into many male classmates and friends, and surprisingly, I was asked out on dates by many of them. And I did go out with them.

But none of them listened to me during lunch or dinner. The boys were only interested in the way I looked. They wanted to spend time with my new physical body, but not my personality. I thought I was a girl whose ideas and opinions were worth listening too. But were my male friends listening to me, or were they just watching me? Were they even real friends? I told myself that my self-worth is not based on how I look. It can’t be.

Credit:

Photo by Larm Rmah on Unsplash

I came to believe that people are cruel, and a great deal of those are also pathetic. But I told myself there must also be good people out there, as the media was full of so many inspiring stories out there of people being inspired by others to be better than themselves.

The spark of some extraordinary people must have guided so many unhappy souls. You may call them pathfinders, advisors, guiding spirits, or even mentors. I needed someone extraordinary too, so I looked for somebody who could help me. Anybody?



And I waited. And waited.

But eventually, I made up my mind. I refused to be the chosen victim of people who saw me as fat and saw others in such a limited way as if they were flawless. Many of us fall into the trap of sacrificing what we might become, and what we wish to be, to be accepted. Why do others shape our self-image?

So in my story, I was my own extraordinary pathfinder; my own advisor, my own guiding spirit, and my own mentor. I waited until 2007 to take action toward rebuilding and recovering my real self: growing from a happy little girl, into what I wanted to be – a carefree young woman. This is when I realized that my self-worth is not based on how I look but who I am.


Read more: “Maybe you should lose weight?” How doctors gaslight women like me


If today I am a happy woman, it’s because I struggled for it for a long time. I fought for it. My truth is, if I wanted to reinvent myself, all I needed to do was try.

It was not easy to rebuild the wounded parts of my own personality; flashbacks haunted me all the time. But whatever I did, I did it for myself. And in doing so, I know I have inspired others to overcome their struggles. I know that my self-worth is not based on how I look. Do you?


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Article by Ozge Gurbuz

Ozge Gurbuz is a content creator, social media manager, and translator. Basically, her life revolves around three things, writing, traveling and coffee!

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