When I was in high school, I hated myself. I mean really hated myself. I didn’t want to look in mirrors. I wore baggy clothes in hopes of hiding my body. I was constantly comparing myself to the girls around me, who it seemed were all thin and “perfect.” I would sit trying to take up as little space as possible. I preferred to eat lunch alone so I didn’t have to deal with people staring. Were they actually? I’m not sure anymore, but I was sure of it then. I felt like I was a whale and I felt like all eyes were on me when I would eat lunch. It was high school, so there were a few cruel kids. Kids who would moo at me. One kid who, when I was standing in front of the board without realizing, said: “lose some weight, fat ass.” But when I look back on pictures from high school, I really wasn’t that big. But I felt like it. I was covered in stretch marks. I was so embarrassed of my body all the time. Dieting didn’t work. I didn’t have the willpower for it. Food was the bane of my existence but also my comfort. I was taken to nutritionists. I was given dieting tips from everyone. But it never worked and it just left me feeling defeated and worse about myself. So, I decided to try a different route. Instead of trying to change my body, I decided to change my outlook. I hated having my picture taken and looking at all the things I hated about myself. So, I started there. I took a selfie every day. I wasn’t allowed to delete it, but I didn’t have to post it anywhere. It took a long time, but it started to work. I started to feel more confident, little by little. I started to post them. And other people liked them too. Maybe they were only trying to help me along the way, but I believe they were being honest. It took about a year before I felt confident enough to wear the clothes I wanted. I started dyeing my hair wild colors and took control of what I could, instead of focusing on what I couldn’t. I stopped listening to the “rules” of what I could and couldn’t wear because I was (and am) fat. I realized that happiness wasn’t going to wait until I was skinny. I could have it at any weight. I started wearing the clothes I wanted to. I found my confidence only going up. Of course, there were still difficult days. There were still some things I didn’t think I could wear. (Spoiler alert: I can.) But now, there’s nothing I stop myself from wearing. I don’t have time to wait to be happy. I have better things to do with my time than be miserable. I never realized how exhausting hating myself was until I stopped. It’s been several years since high school now. I’m the fattest I’ve ever been. But I’m also the happiest I’ve ever been. So, go out there. Eat the food that makes you happy. Wear the clothes you want to. Don’t wait. Happiness doesn’t need to wait until you’re an “ideal size.” You can have it now. I won’t say it was easy. I had my ups and downs. I still do. But my good days outweigh the bad ones now, when it comes to self-love. I have found freedom in loving my body at the size it is. I see people saying things all the time: “I can’t wait until I’m skinny and can wear this.” “If I had a body like that, I’d wear that too.” But you can. You can wear whatever you want right now. All bodies are beautiful. All shapes and sizes. Don’t let anyone or anything stop you from taking your happiness into your own hands. It’s a long journey, but it is so worth it.