The United States is a nation ruled by its media, both in print and online, and whose heroes are those who appear on the big screen or model glossy lips and airbrushed skin. One hot topic overtaking the internet, riding especially on the waves of social media, is that of beauty. I see many people raising the question by first creating answers for it.
“What is beauty?”
Beauty is being skinny. . .
Beauty is having big curves on the chest and bottom. . .
Beauty is being extremely fit. . .
Just this week, I went on a trip to Spokane, Washington, with my parents and boyfriend, Giovanni, and because I wanted to make a blog post about it tonight, I asked Giovanni to send me the pictures he took.
The first three pictures were when we were in the back of my dad’s Sportsmobile and Giovanni locked my head between his legs in a wrestling move (nothing shady about it). He thought I looked cute, but all I saw in those pictures was a fat face, eyes squinted into thin slants, red cheeks, a big nose, thick eyebrows… a complete eyesore. Everything about my face haunts me, because I hate it, and I’ve hated it my whole life.
He sent a couple other pictures that showed my body and my face from far away, and while I still disliked everything, I felt it wasn’t “that bad.” But I told him to stop. I didn’t want to have to keep starring at every failure of a decent picture of me. I can’t even say good, as good pictures of me don’t exist, minusing a selfie here or there.
When I was younger, my dad was constantly away for business, and my mom took care of me. My diet was balanced and healthy, and my weight was well-managed. When my dad started living with us full-time, my diet changed. Regularly we would go out for pizza, McDonalds, more pizza, more McDonalds, and I gained weight. I got fat. So fat to the point that I was told by doctors at the age of 6 or 7 or 8 that I was obese. I remember the word vividly, even though the office, the face of my doctor, and the entire conversation is just a blur, stuck in my mind, engrained in my history thru the single word.
“Obese. . .”
I felt concerned and upset, though I don’t know if the upset was anger or sadness. My mom felt insulted, and assured me not to worry, telling me a kid can’t be obese, and that I would grow up and loose the “baby fat.” She probably only told me that to comfort me. She probably knew I had a problem, but held onto the idea that the “baby fat” would be worked off as I aged. It didn’t, and the numbers only went up. Starting high school, I weighed 170lbs, and in junior year I weighed 189lbs.
Even though I had the pleasure of a relatively carefree childhood, when I started recognizing the differences between my body and other kids’ bodies, especially the difference in mine and my best friends’ bodies, I felt self-conscious. I stood crookedly, constantly uncomfortable by the feeling of my body, and never went clothing shopping, instead wearing my dad’s baggy shirts. When I did go clothing shopping, it ended with me in tears. My mom always pestered me to take pictures in and out of school, and I hated it, because I hated seeing myself. I spoke and thought so cruelly of myself.
In middle school, I began shutting down. My best friend from 3rd to the beginning of 6th grade grew distant from me and closer to others, and while she befriended countless others, I sat alone, avoiding any possible eye contact. I eventually made some friends, but I distanced myself from people constantly. Even in elementary school, other kids extended a hand of friendship to me, but I was too shy to accept. Most of middle school was spent making quiet conversation with a few classmates, but otherwise remaining the “who’s ___?!” when my classmates hand back assignments.
High school treated me no differently, and I really shut down. My self-confidence drowned in negative numbers, and I lived most of my high school career believing that no one liked me because of how I looked. I hated myself to no end… I started taking better care of myself, however, as I began eating much healthier, and I went to the gym somewhat regularly.
The second semester of senior year was the only steadily good time in high school, and my confidence went up. I became far more active in the gym, and became even more active after graduating and taking a gap year. My weight, having started senior year at 186lbs, went down to 167lbs, about sixth months after graduating. While the numbers might not sound like the greatest success story, those 19lbs were everything to me, and my confidence reached a new high.
From there, I don’t know what happened. I don’t know where my confidence ran off to.
Right now, I’m taking a beginning boxing class. It’s a complete “ass-kicker,” as my coach says, but I love it. I don’t just want to be trim, but I want to be fit. I want to be healthy. Yet these feelings are constantly being strangled by my longing, my unobtainable wish, to be “beautiful.” I see everyone I know, and I think about how beautiful they look. I look at Giovanni and think he’s too beautiful for me, and I doubt our relationship lasting. I see beautiful people on Instagram and Facebook, and the beautiful strangers on the streets with perfectly fitting clothes and styles, regardless of body shape. And then it becomes that I don’t want to be skinny or fit, but I want to beautiful, like everyone else. I want to be accepted.
Yet I’ve realized that whether or not I’m trim or fit, it’s not going to change how I feel. I’m still going to look in the mirror and see my big nose or my badly silhouetted eyebrows or my small eyes. I’m still going to have a soft and deep voice that cracks when I raise it, and a sometimes untamed laugh, and a face that scrunches up when I smile, and social anxiety and irrational worrying. I’m still going to have a pit in my stomach before I see a picture of myself and be unsurprised when I see myself looking ugly. Loosing weight won’t change anything, so I can’t expect it to solve all my troubles.
Now, I’m not going to quit boxing or going to the gym or eating healthy with good portions (portion control is my weakness), but what I really need to work on is self love.
I’m sad to say that tonight and for the past weeks, I’ve been anti self love. I accepted myself through hate and negativity. I tried to accept an idea that I’m ugly and that I will always be. But that is not a way to accept myself and could never lead to loving myself.
I know that some people think the term “self love” is cheesy or silly, but it’s the best way to explain what we all need to find within ourselves if we want to accept love from others and, most importantly, love from ourselves. With self love, nothing on the outside matters. I don’t mean that self love is unappreciative of physical characteristics, but more of a positive acceptance of how one is and a love for every aspect of what makes him or her up. For example, self love is not hiding behind a mask of make-up or showing off bareskin while silently hating the scars or blemishes; self love is accepting those scars and blemishes, and then enjoying the person who smiles (or does not) back in the mirror, with or without makeup. Self love is accepting the flat or curvy parts of one’s body and doing the best to keep oneself healthy. Self love is admiring the work and ideas that one puts out… we cannot remove our bodies from our minds, because both are who and what we are.
Self love is love without judgement of oneself.
I dislike the whole rage of skinny being right, beautiful, and healthy, as much as curvy or fat being right, beautiful, and healthy. Everyone’s body is different, and some people are built skinnier and others are built bulkier; from nature viewpoint, animals living in the tundra are built thick and heavy, like bricks, so that they can survive the harsh cold, while animals close to the equator are the opposite, since its hotter there. One flaw in that comparison, however, is that animals have different species, while humans are the same species… okay, comparisons aside, I don’t believe in an ideal body shape and weight that everyone falls into.
What I believe in is health, and that it is important to stay active and eat healthy so that your body stays well. That is what matters, and when we value health over aesthetics, I believe people will be much happier (besides, with healthy diets and exercise there are better chemicals in the body and brain, producing happy chemicals!). The happiest I was with my body, my mind, and my life, was with a healthy diet and an active lifestyle, even though I wasn’t what society would deem bodacious. Yet for the first time in my life that didn’t matter one bit.
I want to be that happy and confident and self loving person, and I want to spread the idea of self love to every man and woman of any age, because everyone is beautiful and should see themselves for all their outer and inner beauty.
While my thoughts see beauty in a gender neutral stance, my arguments lean more towards the woman’s experience, as that is what I have experienced and witnessed exponentially in my lifetime. However, self love for men is just as important and can be absent in society as well. I could argue that men do not have as much social pressure to be a certain way, but I hear many counter arguments about the perfect man being muscular, confident, rich, “hung,” polite, and much more… but that is a whole other discussion in its own.
Self love, acceptance, and peace of mind towards oneself belongs to absolutely everyone. I wish it was as easy to put self love to practice as it is to recognize its importance and talk about it, but noticing and understanding it is an important first step.