Sure, it was a little weird to stand next to Kathie Lee and Hoda in my sexy pajamas. Sure, I was a little uncomfortable. Sure, I was having visions of accidentally projectile vomiting on Kathie Lee Gifford. But I went with it. And the world kept spinning. (Also, important to note: I did not vomit on anyone.)
I wish I could say I walked off the set feeling empowered and confident. But the truth is, I went to watch the clip after we wrapped and my stomach dropped. I immediately started picking myself apart: My cellulite was visible; I looked angry (my default facial expression when I’m feeling most high-stakes emotions); I kept fidgeting. This reaction wasn’t new for me—it’s been my knee-jerk response to seeing images of myself that I wasn’t in control of for the last decade.
Still, there was something different about this.
I had heard a voice screaming in my head to stop, to not pass go, to turn around—and I tuned it out, walked onto the set of the Today Show, and modeled sexy pajamas. I had professional hair and makeup done and stood in great lighting for 10 seconds. I didn’t feel embarrassed or horrified. I felt like I had just woken up.
For so many years, my choices (in fashion, and in everything else) weren’t affected just because of that loud, angry voice telling me what my body was and wasn’t allowed to participate in. It was because I trusted it. I thought it was saving me—from ultimate humiliation, from embarrassment, from someone thinking I wasn’t good enough. Now, I knew that voice was a fucking liar.
The thing is, when you do that big, ridiculous, scary, terrifying thing that every part of you insists you’re not supposed to do—because of how you look, because of what you weigh, because of the size of your clothes, because you might fail—and the world manages to go on, you wake up. You wake up to the fact that for a long time, you’ve been saying no to opportunities both big and small.
You remember saying no to pool parties. You remember wearing a cardigan in the middle of summer and sweating for no reason. You remember deleting thousands of photos, millions of memories. You remember it all. And then, you say no more. No more of that. You say it’s time to make up for lost time, and then? Then you start saying yes.
Olivia Muenter is a writer and editor based in Philadelphia. Follow her at @oliviamuenter.