Proud2Bme | The Body Positive Guide to Back-to-School Shopping

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The Body Positive Guide to Back-to-School Shopping

By River Zain Ceballos--Going back to school always gave me a sense of nervous excitement –and I think we can all collectively agree that the best part is the shopping! A lot of us have that mentality of “New school year, new me. When I walk those halls, I want to feel like a rock star.”

But for a lot of kids – teens and young adults alike – back-to-school shopping can be anything but fun. I used to hate it because it was such a hassle for me to find the clothes I liked in my sizes (I was a heavy kid). To me, it was always the time to find out just how “out of shape I got this summer.”

Everyone wants to fit in and we all want cool clothes...but what if we can't find our sizes or afford them? I've learned that back-to-school shopping isn't meant to be torture and isn't supposed to make us feel bad about ourselves. Everyone is unique; we all come from different backgrounds and we all have different body types. If you're comfortable with your body, finding clothes that best complement you becomes easier.

Always keep in mind that you’re dressing for yourself, not dressing yourself to impress others. I used to think like that and I'd end up buying shirts and jeans that I swore to my mom were “my size” but secretly were too small and I'd have to squeeze into them all school year. I was one of those people who compared how I'd look in a certain shirt opposed to a jock or someone of a smaller size.

I currently work in retail at the popular clothing and pop culture store Hot Topic. This back-to-school month, we've had thousands of kids and young adults come through our doors hoping to find that perfect outfit, some cool pants and accessories so they can go to school feeling good about themselves. A lot of them were entering junior high or high school for the first time. I remember how nerve-wracking it was for me, so I was more than happy to help.

The problem came though, when it was time to try on the clothes they'd picked. I've had a few young men and women alike walk into a dressing room to try on gear and come out with a confused yet embarrassed facial expression. The issue? They didn't believe they looked good enough to wear what they chose, or the clothes didn't flatter their figure and they said they were “Over it. I hate this.”

I was surprised to find how many young men (who had reminded me so much of myself) were a lot more self-conscious than they let on. After leaving the dressing room, they'd confide in me that they weren't the same size as they were last year; maybe they were a pants size or two bigger or their shirts were a little snug. I had to remind a lot of them that it would be okay and that we'd find what they wanted...in their sizes. I was on their side and would spend as much time helping them shop as needed.

Summer is a time for us to put our busy schedules behind us and sleep in, stay up late, enjoy late night food runs with friends and lounge around the pool like we're being paid to do it. Adding a few pounds to one’s frame is almost expected and absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. It's easy to feel like you're the only one going through that dreaded back-to-school shopping phase but I can assure you that everyone feels like that. Everyone gets nervous and has their confidence knocked a little bit.

Our parents must be aware and remember what we go through as impressionable young adults. We get insecure, our bodies our changing, puberty happens, and fitting in is the most important thing in the world to us. A lot of parents can become unsympathetic without realizing it, and without meaning any harm. If I didn't work in retail, I wouldn't have noticed these things.

If you're anything like I was, be vocal with your guardian. Let them know that maybe shopping and trying on different-sized clothes isn't fun for you, and emotional support would be appreciated. You can also ask if bringing a good friend along would be okay. No one can comfort you and make light of what seems like a serious situation like a good friend can. I always had my older brother to shop with while growing up, so he'd give me style tips and due to the fact that he was on the heavier side as well, he filled me in on what brands and styles would best work for me.

I can assure you, however, that confidence is the best thing you can wear this school year. It is something that you can't buy and if you attain it, no one can reach within you and take it. There's nothing more beautiful than looking into a crowd and seeing hundreds of kids of all shapes and sizes, dressed differently – uniquely.

Size and name brand clothes don't make a person. They have nothing to do with how great you are or what you're capable of achieving. Surround yourself with great friends, pick out a positive quote that you can recite or read every morning when you wake up and always remember who you are.

Now go out and have an AMAZING school year! I believe in you.

About the blogger: River Zain Ceballos is a spokesperson, print model, actor, and activist. Follow him on Twitter @RiverC_Official.

For more by River Zain: 

Post-Holiday Reflections

Breaking the Perfection Mold

I Have a Voice and I Intend to Use It

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