If I had to describe myself in three words, none of those words would be confident. Just thinking of three words with which to describe myself makes me feel uncomfortable, like I’m trying to give myself compliments. If I had to, however, I would probably use quirky, kind, and caring.

From the time I could walk up until about nine or ten years old, I thought I was going to be a child model. In fact, I acted like one. In every picture I would pose for the camera with my long spider legs, hand on the hip, and a face I was sure the camera loved. I’m convinced that the Kardashian clan has studied my childhood photos to learn how to create the perfect pose. My mom was a photographer, so there were no shortages of opportunities where I could flaunt my “stuff.”

Then, at an age that was far too young, I hit puberty. My hair went from soft and flowing to frizzy anScreen Shot 2014-12-28 at 4.52.17 PMd tangled, I got braces right around the time my acne kicked in, and I gained weight in places that used to be considered “skin and bones” by nagging grandparents.

However, nothing compared to how I felt when my chest started growing. Most girls I knew were excited to grow boobs, even filling up their training bras with socks, pretending to be a full-grown woman. But all I wanted to do was play basketball like my big brother. Well, basketball was out of the question once I figured out that even with a sports bra, I would have a bounce. I skipped the phase of wearing training bras and went directly to the real thing.

Some girls would say, “Well, that’s a blessing,” but they obviously don’t know the torment an eleven-year-old gets when she can’t run during PE because the boys yell out “boobs!” in the gym. The confidence I once strutted in front of the lens was shattered, and my male classmates, for whatever reason, stopped looking me in the eyes.

Even through college, boys I should have probably stayed away from shattered the development of the confidence I lacked. For example, a boy I kept around far too long once told me that he saw the progress I was making from workouts at the gym, but I still needed work. And then he proceeded to grab my upper thigh. At the time I ignored the fact that my body was actually of average size and that going to the gym should be for me and no one else, and instead I pushed myself harder to look better for someone who — at the end of the day — would prove to be insignificant.

Maybe it’s because I’ve since graduated college and my schedule has cleared up, or maybe it’s because I’ve decided to surround myself with better people, but I recently took the time to really focus on why confidence is something that is lacking from my personality. Everyone feels self-conscious from time to time — which in many ways is healthy — but no one, male or female, should ever be able to dictate the three words that you use to describe yourself. You should be kind because you want to, you should be quirky because that is you, and you should be caring because you care.

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