Today I had a day where I didn’t feel all that beautiful. You know those days, the kind that every woman has, where her hair, skin or body doesn’t feel quite up to her standards. Sometimes it’s not just a day. Sometimes it’s a few, sometimes it’s a week, or months and sometimes it starts at puberty and never really ends. First you don’t feel skinny enough, or pretty enough and while life moves forward you’re too consumed with stretch marks, pounds and wrinkles to ever really look up and see the big picture.
I’ve lived most of my life feeling removed from these worries, at least more than a lot of women. I’m really lucky to have had that. At a young age, I realized that you’re in far less control of how you look than who you are, so your energy should go into the latter. The struggle comes when I think I can control how I look, whether it’s obsessing over my skincare to make my acne disappear or trying to find the perfect workout to make my body look just how I want it to. For the first time in my life, over the past year, I began to treat exercise as a way to feel strong, take ownership of my body and remove myself from what I felt women were expected to look like. Looking at myself in the mirror made me feel strong and proud.
Now, the circumstances of the world have confined me to my house, and my life is much more stagnant mentally and physically. As my weight increases and my body changes, so does my time to nitpick and struggle with accepting myself. I still work out, but without the racks and the environment of the gym, exercise feels much less empowering.
During a particularly grumpy moment today, I stopped and wondered why what I look like even matters to me. I came to a new understanding; as a woman, I feel my appearance is directly related to my self-worth. Intrinsically, I feel that the way I look directly impacts how much my friends, family and romantic interests will love and appreciate me. When I imagine myself being happy, that happiness always comes with beauty. And I realized that’s bullshit.
Now, I know this isn’t rocket-science or even news. We all know that women are held to unacceptable beauty standards, but how often do we think about how badly we still want to be pretty or what that prettiness means? How many of us radiate a beauty that comes from reflection and self-acceptance? How many of us aim to portray ourselves as easy fits into the boundaries of beauty presented to us by the magazines and instagrams of the world, completely ignoring that the people in all those photos are just doing the same thing? How many of us feed our insecurities by seeking praise and compliments, gathering temporary joy from them and then feeling empty until we are praised again? How many of us are contributing to the problem just by fitting in? I know I am.
As I begin my journey of coming to an understanding with my own sense of beauty, I feel grateful to be part of a generation of women moving towards living on our own terms. I feel grateful to live in a world where so many people are fighting publicly to prove that beauty is not black or white, and that being a woman is not one thing. To all my fellow women, wherever you may be on this journey, lean on your clan, and godspeed.
Gif by Caroline Farrell.
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