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  • Lotus Magazine MC

yours truly, megan

I look different now than I did four years ago. Between the time we were sent home for Covid my freshman year, and junior year when everyone came back, I grew out my hair, parted it in the middle, got a good balayage. I got contacts. I outgrew the baby fat in my cheeks. I lost weight without trying.

By the time junior year began, I didn’t really think I looked that different. I had confidence that my hair improved with professional intervention and abstaining from kitchen scissor bangs. I knew I lost weight because my doctor told me I did. I didn’t think these changes were something anyone else would notice about me, until I saw a friend I hadn’t seen since freshman year. The first thing they said was “Hi.” The second thing they said was, “You look so small.”

Comments on my appearance started to come when before they had been largely nonexistent. While my friends would always offer up compliments, it was the ones from strangers and acquaintances that mattered, people who I felt didn’t have a stake in my happiness and wouldn’t lie to make me feel good. “You had such a glow up,” from someone I don’t know very well at a party. “You look so different, like in a good way,” from a freshman year study partner. Compliments that I eat up every single time, but at a certain cost, because they always seem to come with a hidden caveat. They never seem to stop at “You’re so pretty.” They always quietly imply, “You’re so much prettier than before.”

I appreciate compliments, but it’s hard to reconcile the kind words with the weight of the opinions that seemingly hide behind them. I know nobody intends to hurt my feelings, but in my swirling, anxious mind, their words affirm the thing I had always simultaneously desired and feared — if I just changed x, y or z about myself, things would be better, people would notice me more, people would like me more.

I’ve always struggled with comparing myself to others, and now I feel like I’m constantly comparing myself to the old version of me. It feels mean, like I’m confirming all the things I was afraid people were thinking about me at that time. I constantly find myself stalking my own Instagram, zooming in on old posts, picking apart everything about myself. “Your arm doesn’t look chubby when you press it against your body like that now,” I found myself thinking, staring at a post from high school. It was just an observation, but such a cruel one coming from the only person who would know that the right side of my body was just so slightly cropped out of frame, out of fear that others would think the same thing.

I often worry that, because I hadn’t consciously done much to change myself, that someday, without warning or reason, I’ll simply change back. I really hate that fear. I don’t want to be afraid of gaining 15 pounds. I don’t want to feel nervous to look at my own face in the mirror. I don’t want to use other people’s feelings about me or my looks or my body as a crutch to lean on, to lighten the load of learning to love myself.

I want to love myself, not because I’m somehow better than I was before, or because someone told me I was worthy of it. I deserve to know what it’s like to feel worthy of my own love as I am, all alone.

Yours truly,



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