Wednesday Wisdom: My Body is Not a Limitation

Whenever someone talks about beauty standards, I think back to picture day during my sophomore year of high school. I had been pumping myself up the day before because after years of bad pictures, I was serious about looking like a covergirl this time around. My outfit of choice was a long-sleeved shirt tucked into a lace skirt. I thought it looked great, until my mom commented that the outfit “made me look wider.” Before you say anything, I know my mom only had good intentions. She wanted me to look my best because I also wanted to look my best. Once the pictures were developed, all I could see was my wide shoulders, taking up what looked to be the entirety of the frame, as if someone had crammed She-Hulk into a shoebox.

That picture day was one of many examples. There have been plenty of times that I saw my body as a limitation, a barrier that separated me from certain things I wanted to do. I couldn’t wear yellows or whites because my skin was “too sallow” and lighter colors made me look sick. I couldn’t wear maxi dresses because I was too short and Cosmopolitan magazine had mentioned that the combination would make me look like I was “melting into the ground.”

No v-necks because my bust was too small, no musical instruments because my hands weren’t big enough. There were a bunch of “can’ts” and not nearly enough things I was allowed to do. For a while, the majority of my features were not things that made me unique or beautiful, but rather things that prevented me from being the person I wanted to be and from doing all the things I wanted to do. I loved blues and maroons, and while I still do, my reasons for wearing mostly those colors back then were that they were supposed to make my “sallow skin” look better.

Beauty standards have always been rules that tell us what we can or cannot do. If you are heavier, you shouldn’t wear stripes. The same girls are mocked for wearing workout gear because somehow that suggests that they’re just “trying to be skinny.” Smaller girls are told that they look like 13-year-old boys, that we don’t have hips, that we’re just skin and bones. So many aspects of the typical “beauty standard” tries to pit us against each other, as if one body type, one skin tone and certain types of facial features can be the definitive rubric for what is beautiful.

If the majority of women all looked the same, maybe, just maybe, the rest of us could be considered minorities. Maybe in an alternate universe where being shorter or wider or paler was not the norm, our features could be considered limitations. Except that this isn’t the world we live in. My body is not, and has never been a limitation. I can admire girls who are tanner, taller or curvier than I am and still love myself.

It might be true that my hands aren’t wide enough to play instruments, but the same fingers have taken me to state competitions for playing the piano. I may be too short for maxi dresses, but those same legs can ride for miles on my bike and look fantastic in a pair of shorts. Yes, I am still as pale as can be. I also own too many pastel colors and I love v-necks. To tell you the truth, I have never felt more beautiful. Other women are speaking out against these so-called beauty standards. People shouldn’t be praised for telling us that we are beautiful in spite of our flaws because we should not be seeing them as flaws to begin with. In honor of body positivity week, I offer you some advice: Wear whatever you want, do whatever you want and be whomever you wish to be. Nothing and no one is stopping you but yourself.

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