Living in A Barbie World – Martha Kate’s Story
I grew up with more of them than I could count. They were doctors, airline pilots, babysitters, teachers, ballerinas, scientists and more. They had beautiful dresses with matching shoes and accessories. They were my best friends and confidants. They led extraordinary lives with amazing houses and cars. Everyday was an adventure with them. They were my Barbie dolls. For the longest time I believed that if Barbie could do it I could too. Since Barbie’s spanned many different careers and looks I thought I could too. Until one day, in my early adolescence it dawned on me. I wasn’t Barbie. I was a Teresa.
For those of you who don’t know, Teresa is Barbie’s best friend. She has brown hair and hazel eyes and since I was a brunette not a blonde and had green not blue eyes, I realized I could never be Barbie. I was doomed to be the less fabulous, less popular, less known and less loved, Teresa.
I think we can all relate to feeling like we don’t fit the mold, feeling like the sidekick instead of the main attraction.
When I got to early adolescence I left my Barbie’s and it became magazines, models, and TV stars that set the standard. I remember many times being alone in the dressing room frustrated and near tears because I didn’t look like ‘all’ the other girls in the latest fashions. I remember picking my prom dress not based on what I loved but on which dress made me look the thinnest. I judged whether I was accepted, by which cute boy passed me a note in class or called me pretty. I judged my beauty on whether my makeup looked just right.
I would like to tell you that this was just a short phase in early girlhood and that it didn’t last long but sadly it did, for over a decade. And the saddest part is I am not alone in this story of self-torture, many of you understand it all too well. My eating disorder (Ed) used my thoughts of self worth to control what I thought about beauty. He told me that as long as I didn’t look a certain manner that I would never be beautiful and I would never be loved. He told me what I could and couldn’t wear because of how horrible it made me look. He told me what others really thought of me based on how they reacted to my appearance. He told me I would never fit the mold for perfection and that I was doomed to be a ‘Teresa’.
I spent years in the trap of not feeling worthy and it wasn’t until I nearly hit rock bottom that I began to redefine what my worth was. I nearly killed myself looking for a perfection and beauty that was skin deep. I wanted to be that girl that everyone stopped and stared at when they walked by but no matter if it happened or not it was never enough and I was never happy.
Those last few paragraphs are torture to write because my heart breaks for that girl who once thought all those horrific things about herself.
I am not that girl anymore but my heart certainly still breaks for her. Once I began my recovery my thoughts slowly, slowly, began to change to an attitude of loving myself rather than hating myself. I began to believe that I was fearfully and wonderfully made. I began to believe that I was loved and given grace unconditionally. It was hard, it took work, it still does and I am not perfect at it but I am grateful for all the horrible times because it got me to this place of freedom.
I want you to know how much this freedom is a part of my everyday life. Freedom is eating food because I enjoy it. Freedom is wearing clothes because I like them not because someone or something dictates my wardrobe. Freedom is wearing no makeup for days. Freedom is messy hair in public. Freedom is wearing sweats because I want to, not to hide my body size. Freedom is not crying when I look in the mirror. Freedom is enjoying exercise rather than torturing myself through exercise.
Freedom is seeing the beauty that radiates through me. Freedom is realizing that although I resemble Teresa more than Barbie that is not just okay, its awesome. Freedom is not comparing myself to Barbie dolls anymore! Freedom is realizing that I am fearfully, wonderfully, and uniquely made. Real freedom is the best thing that has ever happened to me.
I share my story here not because I have figured it all out but because I believe that in sharing our struggles we are able to help bear each other’s burdens and comfort each other in our trials. My story isn’t finished. I am still a work in progress, as we all are. But I have found hope, real freedom and that is not something I want to keep to myself.