“She looks so gorgeous. I feel like a sack of potatoes”
“Some people just win the genetic lottery when they’re born”
“It’s such a simple red dress and yet she looks like a million bucks”
The stage was adorned in balloons. A chandelier was hung in the middle of the hall. Disco lights flashed everywhere. The decoration was impeccable. Yet, the only thing people could talk about was the girl who looked so unrealistically pretty in that dress. And just as I was thinking of those things, the girl in question entered the hall. And I realised, we were wearing the exact same dress – just in a different colour.
It amazed me how self-conscious people were around her. Every girl was wearing something they’d undoubtedly spent hours picking out. Every girl out there was all dolled up. Everyone – guys and girls – looked beautiful. And yet, in front of my very own eyes, I saw people’s confidence falter when the bombshell in red joined us.
And me? I felt like a swamp monster. Wearing a pretty dress didn’t make me feel pretty. She had a pretty face and an hourglass body which I couldn’t even compare to. Insecure? You have no idea. I went home and stared at my reflection for a long time. I couldn’t help but feel ashamed of the way I look. I couldn’t stop but wish I was like her.
I wanted a nice figure too, and so, I stared searching for fitness centres nearby. The next day, I got a membership for a fitness centre in the hopes of hitting the machines everyday and sweating away my layers of fats. But hopes don’t turn into reality when you can’t accept the way you look, and feel like a Shrek in comparison to all the others. After 3 days, I stopped going. Again after about a month, the desire for a perfect body returned and I too returned to the fitness centre, but the cycle continued. For months, I kept going to the centre, not going for months, going again and yet again, stopping.
One day, while talking to my A- levels coordinator, I came to know of the Duke of Edinburgh International Award. The prospect of striving for a better version of me piqued my interest. Upon knowing further about the Award, I decided to participate in the Bronze level. As music has always been my passion, I took up guitar classes for the skills section and volunteered to coach vocal classes for primary school kids for my service section. And as for physical recreation – you already guessed what I took up- yes, physical fitness and bodybuilding.
If it were not for the constant reminder inside of my head that I had to do this for 3 months in order to complete the Award, I would’ve probably never stepped foot back in the fitness centre. The first few weeks heaved a toll on me – physically and mentally. Things were hard when it was so difficult for me to accept that this was the way I looked and all I could do to it was accept it, love it and tone it up. It was hard to accept my body when I’d been picked on as a kid because of the way I looked. But gradually, I started enjoying going to the fitness centre. I found my interest in bodybuilding and lifting. My first aim to go to the fitness centre had been to reduce my weight, but through the course of time, I stopped caring about the numbers in the scale. Slowly, I did lose weight but my fat rolls weren’t what I concentrated on when I looked in the mirror. The mirror showed me a girl who had come so far from someone who hated the way she looked. The mirror showed me a girl whose eyes had softened from the self-hatred she felt for the way she looked. The mirror showed me a girl who had found acceptance through bodybuilding.
I changed my physical recreation time duration from 3 months to 6 months. And even when my Award is completed, I know that my love for lifting will keep me going to the fitness centre. If it were not for the Award, I might age but I’d still be that 16 year old girl who hated the way she looked. If it were not for the Award, I’d never have found the happiness in teaching something I love to those who are equally passionate about it. If it were not for the Award, I wouldn’t be the person I am today, and I’m forever indebted to the Award for helping me become the person I am today.
GEMS Institute of Higher Education