I’m proud to say that I have never met society’s expectations, by any means. I’ve never been the perfect girl society has wanted me to be, and today, I celebrate myself for my willingness to stand out when others are too afraid to. But believe me––it didn’t always come this easily.
Body confidence is something we all strive for, and we all strive for it in individual ways. We all want something greater for ourselves, and I won’t pretend that I’m any different. Ever since I can remember, I have always been the overweight friend. I’ve always had more meat on my bones. When I was younger, I never paid any attention to it––I would just finish off that family-sized bag of potato chips and laugh to myself.
Yet as I got older, I became surrounded by other girls who scrutinized themselves, by staring at themselves in the media and analyzing their every flaw. I had never been one to do this, yet when I reached junior high, it was all around me. And the more I surrounded myself with it, the more I became consumed by it. I’d go home and stare at myself in the mirror, especially the rolls of my stomach. Then I’d pull up Instagram or Snapchat and stare at all the other girls who were confident in themselves. How come this one is posting so many selfies? Isn’t there something wrong with her that she’d like to hide? Shuffling through social media became an everyday habit, and in high school, it ripped my self-esteem apart. I became so obsessed with what others had that I didn’t, that I started devoting my entire life to it.
Today, I think it’s funny how society is trained to like and comment under the same kinds of posts. If we were to outline the exact photos that get the most likes on Instagram, I’m sure they’d all be pictures of the same kinds of girls who wear their hair and makeup the same way and buy all the same clothes. I’m no idiot –– like I said, my insecurities have forced me to be aware of the trends that other girls are following, and if I were to pull up my Instagram account right now I’d know exactly which accounts to search for in order to find them.
So I’m not exactly sure what changed in me since high school, but now, I can pull up these posts and laugh to myself. Really, genuinely, whole-heartedly laugh and move on with my day. The lesson that time taught me is that just because these kinds of posts exist, you do not need to copy them. You can idolize a certain celebrity or even admire another girl at your school without trying to be an exact replica of them. We should all learn to appreciate one another’s beauty without ignoring our own.
I should also note here that an insecurity is not an accessory. It should not be the norm to complain about the way you look, and it should not be the norm to gather in the bathroom with our friends and whine in front of the mirror. It should not be a conversation-starter to bring up your love handles or a new blemish or how greasy your hair is.Why is this a culture we so often embrace within our friend groups? We are so prone to agonizing over our flaws when we’re in a group. Why don’t we go ahead and change this dynamic? We need to be for others what we’ve always wanted for ourselves: encouraging. When one of our girlfriends begins to tear herself apart, we need to be there to celebrate what makes her different.
The more we agonize over the same, impossibly-perfect image, the further away we’ll be from happiness. And at the end of the day, a smile is the most unique, beautiful (and might I add, inexpensive) accessory we can wear.