“Imitation is suicide.” —Emerson
Back in 2011, some article in Cosmopolitan told me that I should find a picture of someone with the body shape and size that I desired, and hang it on my refrigerator. That way, any time I was tempted to reach for a Klondike bar, I would see this chick, remember my goal (which was, at the time, to have pronounced collarbones and ribs), and drink some water instead.
So that’s what I did. I spent the next two years skipping breakfast, eating a single container of Yoplait for lunch, a bratwurst for dinner. I went to the gym after work and ran three to five miles every night, and I developed a chronic gum habit, single-handedly supporting the existence of Orbit in the Midwest. One day I ate nothing but half a package of saltine crackers, the next day I ate only five apples, and the day after that I ate nothing but three butter cookies.
I dropped about 20 pounds, and I finally fit in a pair of jeans four sizes smaller than what I had worn in high school — but imitation was literally killing me.
I was 19 — very young, naive, and malleable — and during that time I should have been getting acquainted with the world and with myself. But I was so focused on squeezing myself into someone else’s body that I slammed the door on my own self-development. Instead of learning how to cope with anxiety and how to regulate my emotions, I believed that all of that would magically disappear once I looked like her. I stole energy from my talents and hobbies, like playing the piano, writing, and reading, to obsess over food, to worry about whether or not I had gained five pounds from my sneaky rendezvous with a Chipotle burrito.
I didn’t even give myself the chance to discover those special, magical things everyone has inside of them, before I flagellated myself without mercy for not being like her.
Have you carved out and discarded parts of yourself because they don’t fit in someone else’s body? Are you so focused on conformity that you’re killing off parts of yourself that are necessary for you to reach your goals, for you to find love and give it in return? Are you stomping on parts of yourself that must be acknowledged, loved, and fed for you to reach your highest potential? What if those things you deem “extra” and unwanted are precisely the things that make you a force to be reckoned with, a magnetic energy that takes the world by storm?