Everyone has that thing that they hate about themselves, that one feature that sticks out to them more than anyone else. For me, it’s my back.
I hate my back.
A lot of people would think that this is an odd thing to worry about. At one point when I was younger, I remember open back dresses and tops were all the rage for a period of time. I wanted to wear these fashions and they looked so amazing to me, but it was very rare that I ever bought anything with an open back, and even when I did, I was afraid to wear it. Afraid of what people would see, and how I would look.
This is because I have scoliosis.
Scoliosis is a condition describing someone with a curve in their spine that goes from side to side in an S or C like shape. Essentially, my spine is deformed. It is not a straight line. This is something I have had for a long time. No one knows exactly what causes scoliosis. Usually it is congenital (meaning the anomaly is present at birth) or idiopathic (cause unknown, usually with the onset of adolescence) in nature. Mine is the latter.
I found out about this when I was about 12 years old. I could have had treatment to adjust my spine, a brace could have prevented further curvature, but delay of action left its literal mark on my bones. Corrective surgery is an option, but back surgeries are always quite serious. The recovery time alone would be about six months, not including physical therapy, and leave my back with a wickedly awful scar; and since I have minimal to no back pain on a regular basis, doctors advised me against the surgery unless I just really wanted that perfectly straight spine.
Not a fan of major surgery, I declined and decided to live with my crooked deformed spine.
Most people, when they look at me, they cannot tell. Aside from my doctor, and my parents, the only person I ever met who could tell before I told them was a tattoo artist I went to for the tattoo on my lower back. But even though these other people could not tell, I feared they could and were just lying. I saw myself as a freak and cursed the fact that my spine wasn’t the straight line it should be. When I looked in the mirror, I could see one side of my rib cage was more prominent than the other. I would push on my body and try to will myself to magically mend my spine through sheer willpower and even though I knew it wouldn’t happen, I would still try. I would feel depressed that I could never have the perfect hourglass shape no matter how hard I tried because it was physically impossible.
I used to forget about it from time to time and I still do sometimes, to be honest. I don’t think about my back all the time, I have more important things on my plate usually. But when I was younger and I considered wearing anything with an open back, or a bikini top, my mother was always right there to remind me…
“Everyone will see your back if you wear that.”
“Do you really want to wear that? Your back is messed up.”
“Do you want everyone to see your back?”
The way she presented it, you would have thought I was some female version of Quasimodo or something. Worse yet, because she said these things, I built up this complex about my back. So I hid my back as much as possible, feeling embarrassed to even wear a swimsuit.
When I started modeling it was a break through for me body image wise. The more shoots I did, the more my confidence grew. But even with my rising confidence, I would still only look at photos of a model with their back to the camera and think to myself, “I can’t do that.”
I don’t know when exactly it happened, but over the last year I started taking an initiative to try and feel better about my back. I started doing yoga, and after November of last year I made it a weekly habit. I went to a chiropractor and had an exam and a small treatment plan arranged which ended up being two times a week for six weeks.
I don’t truly know if either or these things really helped me, but I slowly started to feel better about my back, and better about my body in general. Even when I saw my re-exam x-rays at the end of my treatment and saw my curve was still there, I didn’t feel the same way that I did before. I wasn’t in pain, my spine is just curved and I acknowledged it existed. When I walk down the street people don’t drop their drinks and stand agape in horror of my twisted spine—they can’t see it. My boyfriend doesn’t love me any less for having an abnormal spine. My friends don’t think I’m less of a person because of my back. I have managed to create so many beautiful images in spite of my deformed spine….
So why have I been letting it bother me?
Today, I was going through some clothes and I found one of those shirts I bought yet never really wore because of all those things my mom would say to make me doubt my decision. I had hidden my back for years because of her words.
I changed that today.
This is my back. I’m wearing this open back shirt that ties like a corset in the back and I love it. I bought this shirt years ago and it has always sat in the back of my closet because I was too afraid, because someone else told me I should be ashamed and hide a part of me that wasn’t perfect. But you know what? My back doesn’t look that bad. Maybe, just maybe, it never did. At least, not from the naked eye.
I’m done being afraid. I’m ready to embrace myself. I’m not perfect, and neither is anyone else. Whatever you hate about yourself, whatever you fear holds you back, whatever people tell you that you should be ashamed about…..don’t be. I’m all for self improvement, I sought it myself with yoga and the chiropractor, but don’t change solely for other people. Change for yourself if you must change, and if not, love who you are.
It looks like my back and I are finally on good terms again.