We all have words we've heard in passing or that have been spoken to us that have had a significant impact on our lives. Whether it's relationship advice your grandmother gave you or a quote about life from your favorite TV show, the words have stuck with you and have affected how you live and interact with those around you.
Ashley Graham, for those who don't know, is a model, designer and body activist who's appeared on the covers of some of the worlds most prestigious fashion publications. She's been the cover star, on several occasions, of Vogue, Glamour, and Elle, just to name a few. She took the fashion industry by storm with her fierce sense of body-confidence and her rejection of the classification "plus-size" as a model. She's one of the most recognizable models in the industry today. She's even had a Barbie Doll made in her honor.
Ashley Graham gave a speech to a room full of young women on behalf of Glamour magazine, and during her talk, she uttered a sentence that directly changed my thought process and the way I go about living my life. She said to these girls,
"Whatever someone thinks is wrong with you, that's your superpower."
In reviews of her talk and articles highlighting the most memorable moments from the speech, this as hardly one of the main focus points. For me, however, watching the video, it was the single most impactful piece of advice she gave.
Ashley Graham has been a great advocate for body positivity and self-confidence. Since her start in the fashion and modeling industry, she's been extremely open about her struggles with bullies and confidence issues growing up. She's spoken about how people in her life singled her out for her weight, how companies told her she'd never find success as a model because she was plus-size. She relayed stories about friends, family members, and romantic partners that had shamed her because of her weight and tried to get her to change to fit a more acceptable societal standard.
But she wouldn't have any of it. Instead, she took her weight, her body type, and made it her superpower. She chose to take the negativity she was shown because of a number on a scale, and she twisted it into the most positive aspect of her life. She decided that if people were going to focus on her weight, then it would be because she was gracing the covers of magazines, walking runways, and looking amazing.
Part of the reason this quote is so memorable and impactful to me personally is because, like Ashley, I struggled with my weight, my confidence, and people making comments about the way I look. Also, like her, I grew up with this aura of negativity surrounding the fact that I wasn't as skinny as most girls my age. I grew up believing that bigger = less attractive, less likable, less accepted, and just less in general. I grew up drawing a direct line connecting weight to self-worth because that's what was expressed to me when friends or relatives would comment on my body or tell me that "it's okay, you'll lose that baby weight eventually."
Bottom line: all throughout my adolescence (which is hard enough without the addition of body-image issues), I believed that unless my weight was under a certain number, then it was a problem. However, growing up, I also saw and heard so many sermons of self-love and people saying that weight didn't matter, that it was just a number.
But those words never clicked in a way that made sense until I heard Ashley Graham say that whatever people thought was wrong with me, whatever I thought was wrong me, that's my superpower.
I don't have any plans to drop my current path and become a model, but I do see myself, and others, differently. I no longer associate my value with the number on a scale. Hell, I don't even own a scale. The point is, I've learned to love myself, love every single inch and perceived flaw of my body, no matter what the media shows me, and no matter what others say I should feel about the way I look.
Obviously, the path to self-acceptance is longer than a video of Ashley Graham talking about her body-image, but it definitely helped me along. And those words, that declaration of power and ability based on what society thinks I should fix about myself, changed my life.