By Diana Denza
Fill in the blank: If only I _______, I'd _______.
For years, I told myself that if only I were thin, I’d be popular. If only I had a better-paying job, I’d be less stressed out. If only I were funnier, I’d have more friends. This harmful cycle continued until I was left in a constant, dizzying haze of self-doubt and despair.
I idealized models’ impeccably Photoshopped bodies, pore-less skin, seductive eyes, and carefully styled locks. I restricted so much that I lost 40 lbs. over the course of a semester. I expected to find a sense of personal fulfillment from marketing overpriced skincare products and squandering the money I earned on clothing and makeup.
I believed that as the number on the scale went down and my workload went up, my overall sense of happiness and self-worth would increase. Society told me that I was knocking on the good life’s door, but I was a shell of a person, terrified of fat and of failure, hiding my personality and suppressing my voice.
I’m only beginning to accept that material possessions, a job title, or a number on a scale doesn’t have the power to make me happy –conversely, it also doesn’t have the power to make me feel less-than. The standards that I and so many of my loved ones hold ourselves to are unattainable, dangled in front of us by those who profit off of our insecurities.
But we CAN fight back. As a personal reminder, I woke up a few days ago and wrote down a few moments that encapsulated happiness in my life.
- Happiness is when I dare to live authentically through my words and actions.
- Happiness is receiving a text from my sister after a long day.
- Happiness is when I see my partner come home from a long day at work when, just a few years ago, she was too depressed to leave the house.
- Happiness is the memories I have of my mother.
- Happiness is treating myself and others with compassion.
Woven together, these feelings and experiences make me whole –and, surely enough, they’re unrelated to my size or shopping habits. In the succinct words of John Lennon, “When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”