“OMG she is so tall!” “Why is her skirt so short?” “Sorry, we don’t carry that shoe size in store.” “She should be a model.” “Oh, she’s too fat to model.” “Check out those legs on her.”
These are all phrases I’ve heard since I was a child. So short answer, yes–I battled with self-esteem. All I could focus on was my looks.
For years I starved myself to maintain the figure I thought was the perfect look. Pepsi, Certs mints and maybe Hot Cheetos are what got me through it. During those times I did not see anything wrong with what I was doing. All I knew was I needed to look a certain way to be considered pretty. All my friends were slim and I was jealous of them because they did not have to work at being the perfect figure. What was the “perfect figure” in my eyes? A woman who was slim (size 0-2), tall (5’9 or higher), perfect feet (no corns, bunions and not flat footed) and must have long straight hair. The only thing I had was the height, but I was not happy until I had them all.
I loved to dance, but ended what could have been a career in it out of fear of someone seeing my “ugly” feet. I was born with flat feet, bunions, and hammer toes which resulted in me having corns (I called them eyeballs on my toes). I was in the dance program in middle school and loved going to class everyday. I was even more excited when I was casted to dance in the Aladdin piece. Normally in class we wore ballet slippers which was perfect for me. I did not have to show my feet but could still dance. However, during our first rehearsals, the choreographer said this dance would require us to dance barefoot. It was my biggest fear. I knew the moment I took my shoes off everyone would stare at me and laugh. I was not even concerned with the fact that if I did not dance, I would not pass the class. I was too scared of the humiliation that was coming my way. I took my ballet shoes off and stood there trying to hide my toes. This one girl looked down and said, “Those are some of the ugliest feet I have ever seen.” I cried and ran off stage.
From that moment in middle school, I vowed that I would never wear my feet out. I hated summertime because all the girls would have on cute sandals and then there was me, with tennis shoes on. The worst was being invited to beach parties or swim parties and not wanting to go because of my looks. I was “too fat” to be in a 2-piece even though I wanted to wear one so bad. I was too afraid to expose my feet and I thought wearing swim shoes would make me look dumb. So, I missed out on a lot of fun parties. Why did I put so much pressure on myself? Why did I not love myself? Why did I think I needed to look a certain way to be happy with WHO I AM? Why was this such a battle for me? Did I allow society to put too much on me? My mother who has always been my number one cheerleader would always tell me how beautiful I was and would remind me that I don’t need to put this pressure on myself. She would find different activities for me to be involved in to show me just what she was talking about. I did fashion shows for church and even got back into dancing (praise dancing at church).
Wow, young Aisha went through it all…
But Who am I now? I am Aisha! I am the one who does not care what others think of me. I proudly wear sandals and show off these feet. I mean I do still have some moments when I wonder if someone is looking at me and thinking, “ewww, why is she wearing those ugly feet out?”, but who cares. I make sure I get my pedicures often and enjoy the world of open toe shoes. I have embraced my MOM body (even though I can shed some pounds) and have no shame in wearing what I want. I no longer aspire to be someone other than myself. I still hate that most stores don’t carry my shoe size in store but I have learned how to order online for the size I need. This past winter I took a trip with my best friend to the Bahamas. I had bought water shoes because I never was a fan of the sand plus the old Aisha was coming out and I did not want to show my feet. However the first day we went out to the beach and she said, “you have to feel the sand”, so I did just that. I took those shoes off and walked through the sand with my feet ALL exposed and guess what? I LOVED IT!!! The rest of the trip those water shoes stayed back…I put my bathing suit on with all my bumps and rolls showing and enjoyed the beach.
Aisha…You are AMAZING! You are BEAUTIFUL! Keep reminding yourself of this daily…Don’t ever forget it! You don’t have to be anyone but YOU! Why fit in Aisha, when you were born to STAND OUT!