Known as the bliss of our teenage era and the last step to adulthood — entering high school entailed a lot of physical and mental changes. For instance, when my high school uniforms were made simpler — with less pockets and colors as compared to the usual grade school uniform — the said change was meant to be a reflection of “maturity and growth.” However, a lot of students thought otherwise, as I remember familiar conversations about “uniforms being a tool for repressing self-expression and originality” echoing the hallways during breaktime or in the classroom during debate class.
Students who violated uniform policies, such as wearing shorter bottoms, or tight-fitting blouses have experienced their respective consequences—a lower conduct grade, a verbal warning, or even a humiliating lecture in class. All of these were too limiting, too traditional, too demanding, my batchmates have said. Despite the clamor and the subtle truth in it, I had always found myself half-heartedly agreeing for the sake of it, because personally, I had always liked school uniforms.
Generally, school uniforms were convenient, and slightly affordable as compared to buying whole sets of outfits per fashion trend. Uniforms have spared me the mental exhaustion of deciding which outfit to wear, or which looked most presentable. But most importantly, I had realized that these pieces of clothing have somewhat kept me mentally stable. Through the years, I had considered school uniforms to be my personal safe haven.
School uniforms protected me from exposing my truest, physical self. The flowy skirts or baggy jogging pants prevented people from seeing my big thighs and hairy shins. The loose blouses draped nicely on top of the fat around my arms, and kept my broad shoulders snug. The barrier between prejudice and vulnerability brought a sense of comfort throughout high school, taming my body insecurities when worn. For a while, wearing them had the ability to silence the voices in my mind, the very ones calling me “fat,” “unhealthy,” and “overweight” almost every single day.
It was a series of triggers that had me indulged to this toxic, somewhat endless cycle of self-judgement. One came from a physical trainor’s remark after training, one stemmed from a classmate’s “harmless” comment, another from a relative’s infamous “tumaba ka” greeting. Then came along the diet culture, the body shaming trend, and the excessive addiction to aesthetics, all of which came from society’s beauty standards, that my generation had been exposed to entering our ripe, teenage years.
Fluctuating hormones, metabolic changes and all during adolescence, I struggled to balance my physical and mental “metamorphosis” with the pressure of abiding to these inconsistent and shallow beauty standards, whilst adjusting to other changes in high school, such as school work, schedules, and the heavy pressure of passing college entrance exams.
So it had made sense for me to simply run away from my physical insecurities. It was easier, safer even, to hide conveniently inside loose pieces of clothing during school. But such as high school, uniforms were only temporary.
During my last year of high school, a lot of my school mates excitedly talked about the so-called “college bloom or glow up,” where people just instantly looked better and prettier body-wise when entering college. However, along with “glowing up in college” was the fear of “freshman 15,” which entailed people gaining weight during the first year of college due to stress and adjustment.
Thus, I tried to physically prepare myself for college, where uniforms were no longer required. The very thought of wearing “trendy” outfits was a bit daunting, since I liked hiding and staying within my comfort zone. But there was something about the false hope of looking better in college, that had pushed me to continue on the excessive exercise and drastic diets.
It didn’t work for too long. I was not mentally nor physically capable of being consistent with the demanding lifestyle. When I broke, I gained more than I had originally weighed even before college started. My metabolism slowed down, and my confidence plummeted to a negative. And before the pandemic, I missed many opportunities to hang out with friends, all because I hated the way I looked. I was utterly disgusted with myself.
Yet, up until now, my mind undeniably clings to this superficial fantasy of having a “perfect body.” Even when my own body had told me to stop, I would still, willingly, embark on the same toxic cycle of dieting and binging, all at the cost of my mental health. Instead of school uniforms, I resorted to wearing loose clothing, just to continue hiding from the pain. But it was never enough to silence the whispers every now and then that would say “I am never, physically enough.”
Despite the downfall, I was lucky enough to have a welcoming and accepting college environment. It was through my friends and mentors along the way, that I was at least able to acknowledge that methods such as wearing loose clothing, unhealthy eating habits, and excessive exercise, were merely band-aid solutions that failed to address my body issues.
So in a superficial world that tends to capitalize on people’s insecurities, I needed to somehow gain a sense of control for myself, and that starts with prioritizing my own mental health. If I continued to adjust to society’s ever-changing standards, I was never going to be satisfied with the way I looked.
Though I still have a long journey ahead in truly understanding my body insecurities, I learned that it was important to stop and listen to my body. Instead of silencing the voices in my mind, I strive to truly acknowledge and analyze why these voices call me such derogatory comments, and why I had to resort to hiding in school uniforms instead of just being comfortable in my own skin.
Thus, instead of hoping for that perfect college glow, I start to long for the very day where I wake up bright and early, look in the mirror without hesitation, and see my face truly glow with confidence. I then would make myself some hearty breakfast instead of dieting it out, listen to music, and let my body unapologetically move to the rhythm. And right after a good coffee break, I long to genuinely hug myself despite looking like an utter fool, for it is the smallest of things that truly make a huge difference in completely loving your imperfect self. [P]
Graphics by Jase Manatad
Patrice Bianca R. Yapjoco, also known as PB, is a BS Agriculture student and the Online Editor of UPLB Perspective. Her interests revolve around food, art, funny vlogs, and songs, despite having a “sintunado” voice. Despite this, she hopes to help amplify the voices of those who need to be heard, and is still constantly learning and relearning the things around her.
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