I opposed anything remotely considered girly as a child. That included doing hair, practicing makeup and wearing fancy clothes. I preferred spending time learning how to ride a skateboard and wearing oversized T-shirts instead of adequately taking care of myself. With this perspective, I experienced actually loving myself late in life, learning how to grow from a scared young girl into a beautiful young woman. I often think of this night as the moment I changed from a weak caterpillar to a strong butterfly, ready to flap her wings through her life.
Even so, that stage didn’t come for a long time. When I came to college, I hated how I looked. As time seemed to go by, it only grew worse.
My freshman year of college, I experienced my first stage of depression.
The sadness and lifelessness all seemed to hit me at once. And I didn’t know why. I had friends, a loving boyfriend and a caring family. Why would I not be happy?
I’m Hispanic. I was born with naturally kinky hair. My tight curls coil from top to bottom and sometimes frizz out on an extremely hot day. Big and bold, they’ll never accept anything less than a large amount of hair gel.
I love my natural hair, but it always causes problems. Kids bullied me from middle school on for how it looked. Girls mocked me for how large it would grow when the heat of summer hit. Boys would stick gum at the ends because they knew it would be almost impossible for me to get it out. At one point, the idea of “rocking” my natural curls in college seemed like a far-off planet, impossible to conquer. So I stopped caring.
It wasn’t just the hair that added onto my insecurities. My weight also became my worst enemy. I dreamy of looking like the girls that boys kept pictures of on their binders, like Megan Fox or Emma Watson, but I was chubby up until high school. Even when I did lose the weight, I never thought I could rock a cute crop top and high heels and go out and dance. I didn’t think I could do anything.
It would all pile again and again onto each other, but those two insecurities made everything worse.
Now, when my freshman year of college came around, I felt awful. Some days I didn’t even want to step outside my door. I holed up in my room, hiding under my covers and wanting to forget about the world around me.
Despite my depression starting to take hold, I decided to join an organization, Her Campus. HerCampus is an online publication that writes articles for college women, trying to get them through college life. Everyone there was really nice. I knew that if I wanted any chance at a social life, this group would be the way to go.
One night, they held a gala event. As a good member, I knew I had to go. As I said earlier, though, I’m not the best at dressing. I had no fancy shoes. I had no real party clothes. I had nothing.
So in my desperate attempt to try and look remotely good, I grabbed the first dress in my closet. Black and short, it would have to do. I glanced at my eyes in the mirror. They looked bloodshot and saggy. I hadn’t gotten real sleep in months because of school. When my body did allow sleep, it only lasted a few hours. The nightmares would start, and I would wake again for another day. It was torture and it made me look awful, but I couldn’t do anything about it tonight.
My eyes traveled towards my built-in closet and landed on my shoes. I didn’t own heels. The one pair of flats looked torn. The shoes in my closet weren’t good enough for this. I started to lose hope that I would feel confident enough to show up to the gala. Then my eyes spotted them: a pair of black pumps, exactly my size. But they were on my roommate’s side of the closet.
Out of options, I left a quick note, put them on and headed to the gala.
I wobbled instantly. Heels were never my thing. I always thought as a kid that heels were like being a Barbie, or a princess, and I was completely against those for such a long time. When I got to high school, I never felt confident enough to even try rocking heels even though I slowly became used to wearing feminine shoes. This time, I had no choice. The heels would have to do.
I walked to the mirror that hung on our door and looked at myself. My eyes went to the dress I wore to the heels. For the first time, I liked how I looked. I actually liked how I looked. The little scars I’d see on my hips or the burnt marks from the straightener I used just seemed to evaporate. I didn’t see a chubby little girl. I saw a maturing, young woman.
I ran a brush through my hair and then felt so inclined to even lather gloss on my lips. The black pumps made me confident. That night, I smiled genuinely with my members besides me. Something I didn’t think I could still do.
A year later, I’m the happiest I’ve been because I started practicing self-care. I still have my issues and bad days, but they’re not as often or as bad as before. I give myself the time to make myself look the best I can be. I allow myself those little baths to calm my nerves. I let myself splurge sometimes on expensive clothes. Because I know I am worth the time.
Never be afraid to borrow some of your roommate’s clothes. It might just save your life. My roommate’s black pumps transformed me into the better student and person I am today. Taking care of yourself is essential to the college experience. Those shoes were the first step in my new and improved college journey.