I was always a slim child. I loved running around, playing sports and I also dressed like a boy. It wasn’t a fashion choice as such, it was simply more comfortable and practical as my friends and I (only boys) weren’t the let’s stay quiet and indoors type. We liked to go on adventures. My two-year-younger sister preferred more ‘typical’ girl things. She liked to sing and dance and wear dresses. For most of my life, she kept on telling me that I should take advantage of my slim body and stop dressing like a boy. No hoodies or ugly trousers, no, I should utilise my body.
“You could be a model,” she’d say.
“I’m too short,” was my reply; it was the perfect answer as it was truthful and the easiest excuse that didn’t require me to even think about what she was saying. If she had taken the time to listen to me, she would have known that I dislike standing in the spotlight. I am not a fan of getting attention unless it’s for something I specifically put out there for people to like. And even then, I don’t always know how to reply to compliments.
My sister wasn’t slim like me. As I was born 10 weeks early, my body struggled to process food, which meant I hated eating. As a result, my parents always encouraged me to eat a second plate, which of course, I never did. But when my parents said this at the dinner table, my sister was also listening and so eventually, she became fat while I stayed slim.
My sister absolutely loved being in front of the camera. She’d do first-class model poses, knew how to dress, sing and dance. But while she knew how to do all of that, she didn’t fit into every outfit while I did. There I was with a slim and ‘perfect’ body, not utilising it.
I suppose it was a compliment but when my sister told me to wear nice clothes it made me feel like what I was wearing was ugly. Additionally, I felt guilty for having what she wanted and felt like her weight was partially my fault. After all, the only reason my parents had been encouraging us to eat more was because of me. Lastly, her comments made me feel bad because I felt like I had to live up to what was expected of me. If you’re slim, you have to fit into the picture of slim and attractive people, you should like the camera and show off. Well, that certainly wasn’t me.
Asserting her will
Just before my sister became a teenager she started playing hockey and tennis. She grew taller and all of a sudden, she became nearly as slim like me. Suddenly, she looked like the attractive girl ‘everyone’ wants to be in high school. It came so naturally to her, the posing, the knowing how to dress and what makeup to wear. I became a little jealous of her natural ability to navigate it all. And still, she kept on saying, with a negative undertone by now, “you should dress nicely, socialise more and stop being a party pooper.”
She didn’t realise that it’s not that I didn’t want to. I simply didn’t know how and was feeling insecure. The only thing I felt certain about was that I didn’t fit in and wasn’t normal, so naturally, I wanted to withdraw and disappear into the masses. If you’re invisible, at least you’re not criticised.
Around my twenty-second, I started looking at clothes again. Up until then, I had stopped spending any money on clothes and simply spend my university years in football clothes like the rest of my team. When my sister kept telling me to wear a dress in summer, I simply ignored her until finally, I asked her what she thought would look nice.
My sister was over the moon and dragged me along to one of the really expensive stores she liked (small tip, don’t start in a shop like that.) She picked a few outfits that I tried on, feeling embarrassed to leave the dressing room, but she was absolutely convinced. These were perfect. I should buy them all. Remember, expensive store?
She got angry and said that I never listened to her or valued her opinion, then moved on by saying how I was never going to look good if I didn’t even try. I tried to ignore her. I’m sure she was convinced that I had but my insecurities crept back up to the surface.
In recent years, we stopped speaking. My sister lives by the ‘I am always right and you’re wrong’ attitude, which means that it’s nearly impossible to have a relationship with her unless you are, and behave exactly as she wants you to. If you don’t, you start getting blamed for all sorts of things. I tried to be supportive for a long while, thinking our upbringing might be to blame but in the end, as adults, we have to take responsibility for our own actions and behaviour.
Not too long after our contact ceased we went into different directions fashion-wise. I started dressing more femininely and feeling more confident in my own skin. At the same time, she stopped dressing to the trends and started making more shaman-like fashion choices. (I’m not judging. Dress in whatever feels good to you!) I find it ironic that the minute I started looking like ‘the model’ she always wanted me to be, she stopped ‘utilising’ her own body and femininity for what she insisted I should’ve done all these years.
I understand why my sister struggled with her weight and appearance and why many others might but for me, from the outside, it never mattered what type of body you have. What matters is your confidence – those are the people I looked in awe at, whether slim, ‘fashionable,’ or not.
I feel a lot more confident now, can dress like I want to and feel attractive too, sometimes. The me from two years ago and I currently are like day and night. I’ve stopped feeling like I have to live up to certain standards because I’m happy with who I am and no longer need affirmation on a daily basis. I enjoy looking good and wearing what I want without anxiety. So now that I have the confidence, I will utilise the qualities that I have, which I suppose all of you have seen me do on here. 😉
Xx Marie Louise