Shedding a Past That No Longer Fits

Shedding a Past That No Longer Fits (Mae Martinez is sorting through her clothes, making space in her closet — and her life — for the confidence she's building in herself. (Photo: Kailee Heller))

I have a complicated relationship with clothes. Which I suppose stems from the complicated relationship I have with my body.

Like most people, learning to love myself has been a constant battle. For a long time, my body felt like an eternal waiting room — a temporary space. I was always wanting my “better self” to appear, and when she didn’t, I blamed myself for not wanting it enough, or not deserving it enough. This led to an endless stream of diets and workout regimes that weren’t physically or mentally healthy for me. But as long as I was losing weight, I was one pound closer to living a life full of confidence, or so I thought.   

What I’ve now come to realize is that the “waiting room” was actually a torture chamber. I was stuck in a world that praised thinner bodies, and my own voice was the loudest of them all. When I recognized that I was acting out of self-hatred rather than self-improvement, I really had to evaluate my actions and the pain I was inflicting on my own body and spirit.

Since then I’ve surrounded myself with role models and knowledge that break down the walls of the room I was trapped in. It’s been a long time since these thoughts completely controlled my life, but I still find small habits that remind me of this toxic time period.

Which brings me back to clothes. 

While clothes can be a powerful form of self-expression, for me, they were tools I used to hide. When I was experiencing a surge of confidence after losing some weight, I would buy more fitted clothing. It made me feel good for the time being, but after “cheating” on my diet, I’d push those purchases to the back of my closet as a heart-wrenching reminder that I had failed, yet again. 

I recently went through my closet and found some of these outfits, which got me thinking. What’s the point of keeping clothes I don’t even wear? Why keep physical reminders of past trauma while I’m working on loving myself?

These are the questions I asked as I tried on each and every piece of clothing in my closet. At first, I wasn’t sure why I was putting on reminders of what my past self would have called a failure. But this time, I was armed with the knowledge that happiness does not equal a number on the scale. I was ready to get rid of my past because those thoughts no longer fit the lifestyle I wanted. 

I realized there were two types of clothes I had kept that I hadn’t worn in years. Either they didn’t fit and I was keeping them in hopes I would someday lose enough weight to wear them again, or I wasn’t wearing them because the world around me — advertisements, celebrities, television, etc. — said that certain clothes were for certain body types. Mine wasn’t one of them.

I kept some of the outfits in the second category, partly as a “f*** you” to society and also because I’m still working on building the confidence to match what I already know, that body size shouldn’t limit what I want to wear. 

It’s not fair to myself and all the progress I’ve made to hold onto the toxic thought that I would be happier if I lost weight, so I decided to donate the clothes that didn’t fit. There are days when I don’t feel comfortable in my skin no matter what clothes I wear, and that’s okay. I won’t always love my body, but I’m working towards always respecting it, and the space in my closet is a welcome change to help me do just that.

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