Edit desk: Happiness is not a number

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Erin Hom

Fifty-five pieces of Goldfish are 140 calories. Not one more and not one less.

Every morning, during my sophomore year of high school, I would count 55 pieces of Goldfish and put them into a baggie to bring to school. I needed to know exactly how many calories I was consuming.

I remember feeling so unhappy — like there wasn’t a thing about myself I could appreciate — just because I didn’t like what I saw in the mirror.

Looking back to this time, I definitely do not consider what I was doing normal nor healthy. But appearance is something that many girls think about.

It concerns me how often girls obsess about their weight and appearance. What concerns me even more, however, is how ordinary this obsession has become.

Negative body image is an issue I believe is overlooked because of how normal it has become.

It’s pretty hard to go through the day without hearing comments from girls about “how fat they feel” or “how they’ve been eating so much lately.”

As girls become teenagers and eventually adults, their opinions of themselves are so easily swayed by what they see around them: their friends, edited magazine covers, celebrities that they envy.

It is so easy for people to judge themselves harshly. Comparing their bodies and appearances to others is even easier. It makes confidence seem like such an unattainable quality to build.

On the other hand, girls are judged so quickly when they do have that confidence. People often see confident girls as conceited and self-centered, like there is something wrong with loving yourself.

It seems like there is no right answer.

When did it become the norm to not like the way you look?

Confidence is not the ability to think you are better than everyone else. It is not just about liking your appearance. It also includes the ability to be strong and lead others.

Heart of Leadership is an organization that promotes this idea by encouraging women to overcome different pressures to be what is culturally perceived as “perfect.” It aims to help women “develop their natural leadership abilities.”

According to Heart of Leadership, 53 percent of American 13-year-old girls are “unhappy with their bodies.” It is more unfortunate that this 53 percent turns into 78 percent by the time these girls get to be 17 years old. These numbers are greater than what I thought they’d be because it’s difficult to think most girls you see may be one of these statistics.

At the same time, though, these numbers are not unbelievable. If I truly think about what age I started paying attention to my appearance and how often I hear other girls talk about their weight, these numbers start to become a sad reality.

“Skinny” is not bad, but it is also not an image that needs to be glorified. I think this an idea that girls are not taught.

Girls are socialized to compete with and compare themselves to one another. Not accepting yourself and not being satisfied with what you see in the mirror can have some scary side effects that go beyond just low confidence. When you look for acceptance and assurance from others, that’s when you lose sight of what really makes you happy.

Happiness is not a number on a scale or calories consumed in a day. It’s not how much skinnier you are than the next person. Honestly, I don’t know what it is because I’m not here to preach. But I’m here to hope this obsession with wanting to be skinnier turns into wanting to be happy and healthy.

People need to put less focus on image and less pressure on themselves to attain that image. Confidence is not found in the mirror. Confidence isn’t a look. It’s not a trend. It’s a feeling and an urge to want to lead, succeed and be happy.

I no longer count my Goldfish, but instead, I eat them until I’m happy.

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Erin Hom, ’19, is an assistant lifestyle editor for The Brown and White. She can be reached at [email protected]

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