When I love something, I really love it. And when I hate something, I really hate it. Perhaps it’s the Sagittarius in me, but I’m a passionate person and I’ve always been that way. If I try a new activity, visit a new place, or taste a new food or drink, I’ll probably say something like “ohmigod this is like the best thing ever!!” I love to try new things, and I get so wrapped up in the excitement that whatever the shiny new thing is, it automatically becomes my favorite. Unless of course it’s not my favorite; in which case, said activity/place/food/drink is awful, disgusting, the worst thing ever. Usually I find trying new things a positive experience, so I enjoy the excitement that each new experience brings.
This fleeting excitement usually passes when the next most exciting thing ever comes along. Everything seems to have a shelf life, and in my world, they’re usually pretty short. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bought a new item of clothing that I adored in the store, took home and wore gleefully, and then the next time I went shopping, automatically relegated the previously new item to the back of my ensemble rotation. No longer shiny and new, it loses its luster. Sometimes I rediscover its glory and fall in love again with whatever item of clothing I have cast aside, and I see it for what I fell in love with in the first place, and what was once new and became old becomes new again. Unfortunately, unless you have the income to keep up with buying a new wardrobe every time you’re bored, you end up like this every morning:
When I travel, this whole situation becomes even more difficult. You can only pack so much. I don’t always know ahead of time what the dress code will be for whatever activities I’ll be doing, what sort of mood I’ll be in, or if I’ll feel comfortable in what I brought. So my usual M.O. is to stuff as much crap as I can in my bag and hope for the best.
Last week, I went shopping for a new dress for Alessia’s bridal shower and for my friend Melissa’s surprise 30th birthday party. I had the 2 parties on my schedule, they were my only events that required me to dress up and so I made the decision to bring those two and ONLY those two dresses with me to Philadelphia. I thought, you can do this Courtney. You like these, you feel comfortable in them, you can make this decision and stick to it. So I packed them. And only them.
Off I went to Philly. Staying with my friend Alessia is always amazing because she and I are like two peas in a pod and we have so much fun together. She’s one of my closest friends because we can be truly ourselves together. We have a lot in common, but we have one major difference: Alessia isn’t completely neurotic about her appearance. She doesn’t think being thin is the most important thing in the world (not that I do, but I’ve been obviously working towards fitness and weight loss goals to become thinner). She couldn’t care less if I was 100 pounds or 400 pounds. She loves me for who I am on the inside because she thinks I’m a beautiful person inside and out.
I wish I could say that I am the same, but I think I’m actually a much more vain person than she is. I’ve always been slightly looks-obsessed and wanted to look like the supermodels and actresses on the pages of magazines. I’ve dyed my hair every color, fake-baked (and tanning booth-ed) my skin to be darker, worn tons of makeup and changed my style countless times. Throughout the years I’ve constantly altered my appearance, sometimes going very far from my authentic self. Partially because I like to experiment, I like what’s new and shiny; but also partially because I’ve never really been comfortable with myself. Knowing Alessia has helped me to become more comfortable with who I am, because she’s taught me that who you are is more important than how you look and she has loved me throughout the years when I’ve been at my best and at my worst. But as we all know, I’m still a work in progress.
She is patient and loving and understanding, but Alessia doesn’t understand how I can be so obsessed with my appearance. The drama set in on Saturday night when I was getting ready for Melissa’s 30th birthday party, and I freaked out when I put on the dress I had brought for it and hated the way it looked. It was shorter and smaller than I remembered and I felt like a stuffed sausage. I suddenly hated everything about it. The cut, the print, the style, the fabric. It was all atrocious; hideous; disgusting; the worst dress ever. Alessia tried to tell me I looked great, that I have come so far, and that it was a cute dress and I looked good. But my only feelings were of despair and I contemplated not going to the party.
One of my oldest and dearest friends was turning 30 and her family was throwing a surprise party for her, which happened to be Harry Potter themed, and I was going to skip because I felt bad about myself. And there I was, in Philadelphia visiting Alessia for her bridal shower weekend, and I was throwing a tantrum (mostly internally, but my mood was ruining everything). I just felt trapped and anxious and confused and sad. Alessia set off for her parents house to prepare for Sunday’s shower, and I eventually set off for the party.
Driving along, I saw a Macy’s and I stopped. I went in and looked around for alternative dresses for half an hour. I wandered the store thinking that people were looking at me, wondering why I was wearing a dress so short and tight and unflattering. I felt like everyone was staring at me and judging me. And then all of a sudden, something in my head clicked and I realized how insane I was acting. I was freaking out over nothing. I looked fine. I put down a pile of dresses I was about to try on and went back to my car and drove to the party, determined to have a good time and stop obsessing. I couldn’t let that dress ruin my day. That very dress that only 2 days earlier had been my favorite thing in the whole wide world. So I went to the party. And I had a great time. It was fun catching up with friends. I tried not to be so neurotic (I didn’t do the best job, but it was a vast improvement from my mental state a few hours earlier) and I enjoyed hanging out with my old roommate Melissa and our other friends. It was Harry Potter themed, how could I not enjoy myself? Even though I sort of wished I had Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility to hide me (nerd alert, I can’t help myself) I held my head as high as I could and enjoyed the party.
A few years ago, or even a few months ago, that episode would have been a lot worse. I would have probably skipped the party and stayed home by myself, wishing that I could make changes and learn to love myself and lose weight and be a happier person. But I’ve changed. I’ve changed so much. They say a leopard can’t change its spots, but I think that’s nonsense. I’ve changed in ways I never thought possible. Some things can’t be changed so easily, but you can always change how you look at a situation and how you feel about yourself. You can change your habits and behaviors and your self-talk. You can always change. And change feels good. Especially when it means wearing amazing things, like super cute leopard-print Marc Jacobs heels (which I bought 7 years ago) and actually feeling good in them, which I am now able to do. Some select purchases never lose their luster!
Thankfully, Alessia was able to look past my neurotic behavior and still love me. And I made an honest effort to focus on the positive on Sunday and to see my true beauty which comes from within (but can easily be clouded by neurotic, looks-obsessed behavior). It was Alessia’s day and I didn’t want to ruin it with negativity. And I did actually feel a lot better about myself on Sunday. Because Alessia has taught me that beauty is not what you look like, it’s who you are. And no matter how good you look, if your behavior isn’t beautiful, it’s all a waste. Confidence and beauty come from within, not from whatever dress you’re wearing or the makeup you have on. Feeling good about myself has been a long process, but I’m getting there. Just like anything else, there are bumps in the road. But I’ll get there. Change may come slowly, but when you reach the tipping point at which you feel good about yourself more often than you feel bad about yourself, you know the progress you’re making is priceless. Even if it takes you 400 shopping trips to get there.