Yesterday I found myself in the same Kohl’s, standing in the same dressing room I once stood when I was growing up. The same fading blue wallpaper, and the same squeaky white doors that you have to force to close. These same walls pretty much watched me grow up.
They are the same walls that saw me cry when I struggled to find jeans or tops that fit at 12 years old. They are the same walls that saw me rejoice the day I zipped a pair of 9’s over my hips. They’ve seen my nerves as I shopped for my back-to-school outfits, they’ve seen my smiles as I tried on homecoming dresses. And now as I’m nearing my 20th birthday, they were the same walls that surrounded me just yesterday as I overheard a conversation between a teenage girl and her mother.
Behind my door, I listened, and it brought me back. It brought me back and broke my heart because as I stood there in that same usual dressing room, I felt as though I was hearing my younger self speak. I knew exactly how this girl was feeling as she spoke through her tears, having to tell her mom who was on the other side of the door each time something didn’t fit, and how she picked herself apart, sighing, telling her mom how everything she tried on made her look “fat.” I was once in her shoes (and heck, don’t we all still have our moments). But her hearing her frustrated cries really brought me back to a time, a time where I needed to hear just this:
To the girl in the dressing room,
I hear you.
And I hope you believe me as I write these words, no matter how much you may deny them in the moment.
I hope you find yourself smiling one day, as I am now.
I hope you listened when your mom told you that, “all girls are different.” She was right. I know I’m certainly not the same as the girl to the right or to the left of me, and that’s okay.
I hope you realize that these tears are only tiny, fleeting moments compared to all that’s ahead of you.
I hope you realize that your identity is certainly not found in the size 13 I hear you crying over.
I hope you realize that true joy doesn’t begin nor will it end with a number.
I hope you choose to eat and see the food as fuel; not something to avoid altogether in order to shrink.
I hope one day you’ll no longer run from the scale, and that the number you see won’t play on your mind as much as it used to.
I hope one day you’ll see working out as a form of appreciation, not punishment.
I hope you realize all that this body is capable of.
I know you’ll find yourself smiling one day, as I am now, but until then, still just try to believe what I say.
I hope when you go home and look in the mirror, you learn to see you. Not just a shape, but you, a mind, and a heart. Give it time.
I hope you realize that off-days happen to everyone. Even to the girl who you think has it all together. And let me tell you this; they may come but always, always go.
I can sit here listing all my hopes for you, but here’s what I know; I know one day you’ll be smiling as I am now.
I know one day this mindset of your’s will shift.
I know one day you’ll learn to love and embrace all that you see in the mirror.
I know one day you’ll learn to eat and not feel guilty. These mind games will cease, and you’ll no longer deprive, and learn to no longer dwell on every single bite.
I know one day you’ll find a life full of health, confidence, and joy.
To the girl in the dressing room; I hear you, and I know you because I was you.
To the girl in the dressing room, my last hope for you is this; I hope one day you find yourself in a dressing room, listening to a conversation just like the one you had with your mom, except this time, you’re the one smiling, as I am now. I hope you choose to pause and listen, and are able to hear the echos of the girl you once were.
I hope one day you stop and find yourself smiling as you think to yourself,
“Hey. It does get better.”