By: Margaret Ottersen

When I was a sophomore in high school, things were still scattered sporadically in my mind and in my life. I was lucky to have wonderful parents, but even they couldn’t stop the onset of my depression that started to eat away at me around age 14 and 15. By then, I was decently pretty. I say that because in middle school I was a complete mess. I didn’t know what to wear that would at least somewhat compliment my body in any way, my hair was always greasy-looking, and I had the whole braces, glasses, and acne thing happening. But around my sophomore year in high school, I developed bad depression. I would come home and just fall to the floor in tears, unable to get up because I felt so weak and worthless. I was unworthy of my comfortable bed. I deserved the cold, hard floor. However, I did end up with a very amazing support system. I don’t want to give his real name, so we’ll call him L.

He was my boyfriend, and time after time picked me up when I was down, literally and figuratively. Even with L, I still grappled with my depression all the time. It made me feel like I was never good enough, never pretty enough, never funny enough, never smart enough, and especially never pretty enough. I remember, vividly, going to the store and secretly buying large ace bandages and laxatives. I would wrap the ace bandages tightly around my stomach and waist so that I would not feel the pangs of hunger from not eating for days and so that I would look skinny. I am already very petite and on the thinner end of average, but still it wasn’t enough. I shrank the capacity of my stomach, so that half of a plain bagel with fake butter would fill me up for a day or two. L didn’t learn about this for a few months, but when he did, he encouraged me to stop. He would tell me that I’m perfect the way I am, and that, if anything, I need to gain weight. I was shocked. Gain weight? Nope, not happening. I also started cutting.

When my parents caught onto all this, my world seemed to spiral out of control. I know they were doing the best they could, and in retrospect they probably did the best things, but to me it seemed I was in a living hell. I was sent to a plethora of psychologist and psychiatrists and out-patient group therapy. I was put on antidepressants, which I am still on to this day and don’t plan on coming off of them anytime soon. It all helped a lot and I’m thankful for every person I met in those therapy sessions.

However, L and I did break up, and it took me a good year to get over it. When it happened, I collapsed onto the floor and grabbed the scissors and cut all the way up to the bend in my arm. My parents weren’t home, and my friend A ended up coming over and picking me up off the floor, dressing me (I had just gotten out of the shower…) and comforting me. She was wonderful. I still struggle with cutting, but not nearly as much as I used to. If the thought comes to mind now-a-days, I can usually suppress it, but if I do end up picking up my pocket knife, I don’t have the guts to make more than a scratch. I’ve also gotten out of the starving myself habit, and I eat like a king as I please, shamelessly.

I feel society’s view of beauty and femininity was a huge part in my battle. According to the majority of society, pretty and beautiful means a tall, skinny, sexy woman with tan skin and intense eyes, generally. And you know what? Normal people don’t look like that! A lot of them are Photoshoped and caked with make-up and skin and hair products. I don’t mean to preach,  but if you have a body, you’re beautiful. Don’t go through what I went through. Society is distorted, and our view of beauty is severely malformed. Pretty girls are girls with personality and who aren’t afraid to be themselves. Heck, you’re pretty no matter what. Don’t listen to the television shows, the magazines, the music, anything in the media. You are beautiful!

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One Response to Beauty, Body Image, and Feminism

  1. Amber Gipson says:

    This was truly brave to divulge, and your piece certainly encompassed the societal pressures that fall on many young women. The honesty within your writing is exceptional, and I know that it is probably more than relatable to quite a few women. I hope that organizations such as CT Girlcott allow more women to make the realization that beauty is not a standardized, cookie-cutter definition, but rather subject to various interpretations.

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