“YOU HAVE THE PERFECT BODY”
That’s one statement I’ve heard time and time again by numerous men – men that have been younger than me, older than me, even married men who have wives and children. I’ve been told by men, using these terms bluntly, that I have the perfect tits and the perfect round ass. Men have told me they get hard after seeing a picture of me. Usually all this is said when alcohol is involved, but not always. Even though I’m flattered when I hear someone say that I have the perfect body, it’s always been a deadly statement to hear. When I hear it, I secretly roll my eyes because it makes me think that my body is the only thing that these men are looking at and paying attention to.
I’ve had men tell me in my ear the sexual things they’d do to my body if they were alone with me – even when I was minor under the age of 18. Just the other day I had someone offer to buy a hotel room just so he can do “unimaginable things to me”. True story. I have the arrogant prick’s name and number if anyone wants it. But after hearing men tell me I have the perfect body again and again and again, believe it or not it can start messing with how I feel about myself. At one point in my life, I started to believe that my body was the only thing I had to offer and nothing else about me mattered because that was the only thing anyone ever commented about. Not my athletic ability, not my weird sarcastic sense of humor, not my creative mind, not my kindness, but MY BODY.
And when you start believing that your body is your only asset to life, you start to tear down yourself mentally and physically if you don’t maintain that “perfection”. You do unimaginable things to yourself. You become so obsessed with perfection that you soon don’t realize what you are doing to yourself. You can become someone you don’t recognize. Perfectionists think everything is black or white, all or nothing. They are the ones who set unrealistically high expectations for themselves and put so much pressure on themselves to achieve those expectations; and when they don’t, they are the first ones to criticize about why they didn’t achieve them. They think about what they did wrong and then tell themselves that they cannot make any mistakes again. Perfectionists internalize everything on themselves to the point where they have such negative self-doubt, that they soon start believing those negative thoughts. Constant negative thinking and feelings of self-worthlessness are one of the main symptoms of depression. Perfectionists are the unlikely individuals who can suffer from depression and anxiety. So how could an outgoing, sociable, athletic Catholic school girl from an upper middle class family like me have felt so worthless to the point where I tried to commit suicide five different times?
Let’s start from the beginning on who I am and my pursuit of perfection in wanting the perfect body, the perfect score, the perfect life…and how it literally almost killed me.
The Younger Years
Ever since I was a young child, I was an active girl with a wild imagination. I’ve always loved performing. I enjoyed watching movies and acting them out from start to finish. One of my favorites was A League of Their Own. I would act out Madonna and Geena Davis’s characters because they were opposites and I wanted to be a combination of both of them. With my imagination, I became a restaurateur. I would create a restaurant in our house and serve my parents food. I even became a tour guide. When our family would go on vacation, I’d be videotaped giving tours around our condo. I was a girl in her own world, who liked to do her own thing at a young age, but was also very shy at times.
I’m the youngest out of seven kids, as well as being the youngest out of all my cousins. Most of my siblings are half-siblings, except for one. Both of my parents have been previously married. Even though I’m close to all my siblings, I’ve always felt closest to my brother Matt. Matt is my only full-blooded sibling and when I was younger I wanted to be just like him. He was and still is one of my biggest influences in my life. I wouldn’t have played soccer or basketball or any of the other activities I was involved in as a child if he didn’t participate in them first. When my brother started playing soccer, I remember cheering him on the sidelines and wanting to get out there and play myself. Sometimes to keep me occupied on the sidelines, my dad would time me with his watch to see how fast I could run to a designated spot and back. I was a girl who had a lot of energy to exert and dance and gymnastics, even though I still love to dance today, at that time wasn’t going to cut it.
When I started playing soccer, I remember I was on a West Des Moines youth co-ed team and one of my first memories was knocking down a boy while playing. From then on I knew this was the game for me. Even at a young age, I liked the aggressiveness of battling up against someone else for the soccer ball, the competitiveness and the will to win, and I liked to run. But I was still a girl at heart. At the end of every game I would do a cartwheel that I learned from gymnastics (don’t worry I did eventually grow out of that). From then I went to an all-girls soccer team. Our team was called The Rockets, my dad was one of the coaches. And if anyone has had my dad as their coach, they know he was and still is a hard ass. My father, Keith, is someone who challenges people and encourages them to push themselves to their potential. My dad grew up as an athletic person himself and achieved accolades in football, basketball, and track. We won our first championship in a tournament in 1997 and we were just six years olds. Our team was unstoppable; we rarely lost. And since we rarely lost, at a young age I despised losing, and that soon transferred to every aspect in my life – athletics, academics, the arts, you name it. Anything I did or was involved in, I wanted to be the best that I could be, and in my mind, the best equals being perfect.
When I started attending school at Sacred Heart Catholic School, my perfectionist mindset set in. I would go on to be a straight A student in every class, and if I didn’t receive all A’s, I would study harder and longer, even all-nighters if I had to. I soon became known as the tall, athletic girl due to my growing height that would surpass the boys. I even dominated in P.E. class where I would eventually beat some school records by the time I finished middle school. In addition to my continual involvement playing competive soccer, I started playing basketball, where yet again my father was one of the coaches. I also started playing the piano when I was five years old, and then the clarinet when I was 10 years in the school band. I also performed in the school choir. I thrived on being active and anything I could be involved in, I would jump in. I was even apart of mock trial and on the chess club one year.
All of my extracurricular activities took up quite a bit of my time to where I was one to not really have a social life growing up. Playing sports was my priority, especially soccer. At point I was on three soccer teams and two basketball teams. Throughout middle school and high school, I played soccer 11 out of the 12 months in a year. Even though I wanted to perform, choir and band were always put on the backburner. I participated in concerts, competitions, and theater productions, but my teachers knew my athletics came first. It was bittersweet because I felt I was never able to show my talent in the arts to its fullest. However, I knew there were other students who were more naturally talented singers and musicians, whom I looked up to and wanted to emulate. They inspired me to still want to make the effort and be the best that I could be.
But why would I choose sports over the arts? It’s simple. I was an exceptionally good athlete, and I wanted to be the best. It wasn’t enough for me to be the fastest girl at Sacred Heart; I wanted to be faster than the boys. I remember asking our gym teacher, Mr. Flaws, if I can race against the fastest boy in the class. Now I would tend to lose every time, but not by much. Even at a young age I wanted to show that girls can compete against boys in anything. But being athletic also brought backlash from certain types of people.
I don’t know what it is about girls, but they can say some unsettling comments sometimes. I remember someone asking me in a snarky manner, “Why do you have to be so good at everything?” Now I had heard that more than once, and I never knew how to respond to that, and still don’t today. I learned when I was young that if you’re good at something, either people are going to like you for it or envy you for it. I don’t know where anyone stood on that matter, but I know I did feel alone because I felt I was different in how I acted and how I even looked.
Growing up I felt out of place because I didn’t look like any of the other girls. I was tall with long limbs, a long neck and a prominent chin. I had crushes on some boys throughout school, but I was usually taller than them so not many of them reciprocated that attraction towards me. I never thought of myself as a pretty girl then since I wasn’t petite and demure or any other stereotype girls were supposed to be. I was a girl who liked to compete and wasn’t afraid to get dirty and sweaty. I definitely wasn’t popular, but I did secretly want to be noticed and to feel accepted by my peers. And the only way I felt I could do that was to excel athletically and academically. I thought if I was never going to be pretty in the eyes of anyone, I at least was going to be noticed and accepted through everything else I wanted to achieve. With that, I focused my attention on how I can be the best at whatever I put my mind to.
I was a disciplined child. Many kids my age would enjoy going out to play and have sleepovers. Sure I did that at times and I had birthday parties, but there was something inside me that told myself if you’re going to be the best, you have practice it to achieve it. I used to have a daily schedule where I would wake up the same time every morning, make my bed, eat breakfast, go on a morning walk or run, and I would work on my skills everyday whether it was my soccer skills, basketball skills, practicing the piano or clarinet, lifting my small weights or doing an ab workout – all at the age of 7 or 8. I would finish the evening with writing stories and reading a book before heading to bed.
I felt being talented would be “the thing” that helped me to become noticed because even when I was a young girl I already had self-esteem issues with how I looked. And then high school hit where I achieved one of my biggest accomplishments in my entire life along with the incident that changed my life and sent me on a different path of suicidal thoughts, anxiety and depression that I didn’t foresee.
I hope you stay tuned for my next blog article where I will dive into the rise and fall of a soccer player and how it changed the rest of my life, ultimately for the better.