What It Means To Be Beautiful

For as long as I can remember, I have always been unsatisfied with my body, whether it be the way it looks or the way it feels. I struggled with this throughout adolescence and into my early adulthood. According to the Park Nicollet Melrose Center, 80% of women in the United States don’t like the way they look. 

One of the most important influences on body dissatisfaction is the apparent focus of peers and the public. It is an issue rarely addressed in the media. In fact, a survey of the contents of Seventeen Magazine revealed that the majority of pages are dedicated to articles about appearance (women’s magazines have roughly ten times the amount of content related to dieting and weight loss than the average men’s magazine). Women all over the globe read these columns, witness images of the so-called “flawless” models and are overcome with the feeling that they are not good enough, pretty enough or thin enough. 

Photo courtesy of Gurls Talk

Body image is defined as a person’s perception of the aesthetics and sexual attractiveness of their own body, involving how a person sees themselves as compared to societal standards. These standards differ depending on your race, ethnicity, country of origin, gender, etc. But who decides standards? Why are there standards in the first place? The concept of the “ideal body” dates back thousands of years ago, so why is it still upheld today? As cliché as it may sound, women come in all shapes and sizes, so why does it even matter? Here’s the simple answer: it doesn’t. The only existing standards are the ones you set yourself.

Photo courtesy of @marcelailustra

Why should I, as a free woman capable of dressing and looking however I please, have a pre-determined appearance governed by a society that influences how I am treated by others? There is no real “normal” way to look, nor is there a “normal” body type for women. In Western culture, young girls are pressured to succumb to this mythical “normal.” This pressure causes a percentage of females to develop eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder (BED). The Eating Disorders Coalition says that every 62 minutes, at least one person dies as a direct result of an eating disorder. It is a heartbreaking statistic that resonates with me because of its preventability.

Women are not objects to gaze upon and judge based on appearance. While we take pride in our appearances, as every woman appreciates the positive feeling of beauty and sex appeal, we shouldn’t allow others to categorize and berate us based solely on how they perceive our looks. If we do, our mental and physical health is at risk of deteriorating.

No matter what you look like, I can assure you that you are worthy. You are worthy of love, you are worthy of praise, and you are worthy of attention. Your body image starts with you. If you feel confident in the skin you’re in, no one can tell you any different. If you don’t like it, the only person who changes you is you. 

Photo courtesy of Her Campus