If you had asked me how I felt about crop tops two years ago, I probably would've said something like, "They're super cute, but I could never pull them off." (A few months later I'd be eating my words, but we'll get to that later.)
At that point I had been figuring out some of the chronic illness issues I'd been dealing with, had lost quite a bit of weight, and was getting into a better place health-wise, but even at a smaller size — which I always (incorrectly) assumed would make me happier — I didn't feel at home in my own body. I'd always been under the impression that I needed one of those Instagram-ready, perfectly-toned ab situations in order to actually, you know, show my stomach.
It's weird, because I'd never had those expectations for other people—I'd seen people of all shapes and sizes rock the hell out of crop tops before and I loved the way they looked, but those people weren't me. I could easily look at another person objectively and see how beautiful and stylish they looked, but my relationship with my body always came with complications that couldn't be captured in a snapshot.
"I'd never had those expectations for other people—I'd seen people of all shapes and sizes rock the hell out of crop tops before and I loved the way they looked, but those people weren't me."
You can imagine my surprise when I found myself standing in front of the mirror in a dressing room, midriff bare, actually falling in love with a crop top for the first time. It was white and a little flowy with buttons down the front, and it only cost $10 (a price I could justify wasting if I later decided crop tops still weren't for me). So I bought it.
It hung in my closet for a while, unworn with the tags still on, waiting for me to work up the nerve to wear it in public — an occasion I was both kind of excited for and secretly dreading. Then, one particularly hot and sunny day in June, I had plans to meet up with a friend — and a bunch of intimidatingly cool people from Twitter that I hadn't met before — to get my photo taken for a portrait project he was working on, and I decided it was time to push myself out of my comfort zone. I snipped off the tags and put on my new crop top and a pair of jeans, swiped on my favorite red lipstick and left before I could change my mind (but not before texting my best friend for encouragement).
To recap, a couple of things happened that day: First, I made a bunch of new friends, and more importantly, I was so busy talking to people and trying not to melt in the heat that I didn't really even have time to think about the two inches of my stomach that were on display. It was the push I needed to know I could survive wearing a crop top in public without being overcome with insecurity. Plus, my portrait (which got to be in a book and a gallery show!) now hangs in my bedroom, and even though you can't even actually tell I'm wearing a crop top in it, it serves as a reminder to never stop challenging my insecurities, because there are amazing opportunities to be had instead.
This was an especially important lesson to me because, in the past, coming face-to-face with the things I didn't like about myself always left me feeling defeated. I missed out on a lot of fun times because I was so frustrated with myself and my clothes that I couldn't see past my supposed flaws and felt too depressed to even make it out the door. But that day was the first time I fought back and won, and it has made every battle after that a little bit easier and easier.
Now, if you asked me for my take on crop tops, I'd tell you that I don't fully feel like myself when I'm not wearing one.
The truth is, we're often so much harsher on ourselves than we should be or ever would be on other people, but the wardrobe rules we feel like we need to follow and the restrictions we place on our own bodies don't do anything but make us feel bad and keep us from being creative and finding our confidence.
"Challenging your rules and insecurities isn't an easy thing to do, but if you like something hanging on a rack, I say this: Instead of writing it off, try it on."
I'm not suggesting that some coveted item of clothing like a crop top or whatever else you may have been keeping yourself from wearing is some sort of magical cure. I know it's not — it takes a long time to learn to love a body you've spent all your time feeling insecure in. And even when you learn to love it — even when you can look in the mirror and feel awesome — there are good days and bad days. I still have moments where nothing in my closet feels quite right and I don't feel great about myself, but I also feel the progress that I've made over the last few years and how it's made a huge difference in my life.
Challenging your rules and insecurities isn't an easy thing to do, but if you like something hanging on a rack, I say this: Instead of writing it off, try it on. If you like it, buy it. Wear it. Try to embrace it, even if you feel silly or worried about it at first. If there's one thing I've learned, it's that the only thing you need to do to pull off a look is to wear it. Do what you love, and your confidence will catch up eventually.