What makes you love yourself? What do you have to do when you wake up in the morning to smile at yourself in the mirror? What makes you beautiful?
For me, the list of what I had to do to be presentable to the world was extensive, if ever achievable. It was a list of hair, makeup, overdone exercise, calorie counting, shaving, and plucking. Even after all these rituals, sometimes I would still be unsatisfied with who I saw in the mirror. Let it also be known that this routine took time, two hours or more if I was going all out. I would tear myself down everyday in the mirror, unconsciously. It became such a normal thing for me to do that I didn't think anything of it. "Everyone is critical of themselves" I'd tell myself as I left the house feeling self-conscience and disappointed. Or if I did ever feel good about myself, it was a fragile confidence, a confidence based on the mask I was wearing, not what was underneath. There is healthy criticism, definitely, but there is also a thin line between motivating and destructive.
I remember the day well, the day I realized how insane it all was. I was in the shower, about to shave my legs for thousandth time since I was ten, and I stopped. I looked at the razor and my leg and thought "Why am I doing this?" I didn't want to. "Who are you doing this for?" Certainty not myself. I thought about before I ever shaved my legs, and the first time someone ever told me that I had to. I was in fifth grade and I wore shorts because it was hot outside. Note that, being a chubby kid, I was self-conscience about wearing shorts anyway, but I was starting to feel okay by the end of the day, like a normal kid. Until, after a quiz, someone passed me a note, written on it was this: "Do you shave your legs?" I looked to the person with a confused look and shook my head. They passed me another note, saying "Well you should." I recall rushing home that day, and begging my mother for a razor, because I needed to start shaving my legs. I remember crying.
Then, six years later, with a razor in my hand again, I realized that I was still that girl. I was still that scared fifth grade girl who just wanted to be accepted, just wanted to be beautiful, or at the very least, I wanted to be invisible. Not a blemish on the face of society. I put the razor down and decided I would let it go, even if it was just for that day. Then the next day came, and I still didn't want to shave, so I didn't. I figured that if I ever wanted to shave my legs again, I would do it, because then I know it would be for me and no one else. That day never came. I found myself doing yoga, in downward faced dog and seeing my legs, hair and all, and for once, I smiled. I had never smiled at my legs before, and that's when they were technically society's standard of beauty, I was always wanting to change them. Thinner, toner, "you missed a hair," but now, I loved them. I love every hair, because my legs were my legs.
When summer rolled around, and it was time to wear shorts, I was admittedly nervous. What would people say? I stuck to my gut, I clung to that love in the pit of my stomach for the parts of me I was learning to accept. Not because they were perfect, but because they were mine. When I say "perfect" I mean what culture says they should be, directly or indirectly. I got a lot of comments. I'm not going to lie, I got a lot of mean comments. At home, at school, jokes with a judgmental tone, and I even got dumped by a guy who liked me until he saw my legs. It was hard but it was also cleansing. I never backed down. Suddenly I could more easily see just who I wanted in my life. Each person who judged me for parts of me I refused to be ashamed of anymore could leave. The door to my heart was wide open and each person that left, the ones who stayed seemed that much more beautiful. Afterward, I found I was attracting the kind of people I wanted in my life, the kind that stood up for me, believing in what I was doing. I love these people for who they are, just as they love me.
I didn't stop there either. It became kind of like game, to find parts of myself I didn't love and expose them for what they really were. Not perfect. I am not perfect, I am not America's barbie doll. I am human. I have hair where humans grow hair, I have boobs that are not sculpted by the gods, I have skin that gets blemished, and I have fat where humans have fat. I am not in love with all my parts yet, and I am still a work in progress. Honestly, I hope to always be a work in progress, striving to be the best me that I can be, but it's a different criticism than it was before. Before I didn't want to be the best me that I could be, I just wanted to not be me, I wanted to be someone else, someone perfect. I see now that no one is perfect but most of us are still stuck as the us that was first told "you need to shave your legs" or "you need to put on my bra" or "you need makeup." You don't.
As someone who chopped off her long tresses, who rarely wears a bra, who rarely wears makeup, and does not shave her legs, I am here to tell you that you do not. If you let yourself, you don't have to do things because you are afraid of what people may say or think. Let them leave, they are truly the smallest price to pay for the love you will have for yourself. I promise you, you will still be attractive, but finally to the right people. You will find that Beyonce confidence that most people think is just for Beyonce. I am not perfect but I will not judge you, I will not put unrealistic expectation over your head, I will not set a bar and tell you to jump for if. I think that's what society should strive for. Clean, happy, kind, and real.
The issue with having a list of things you have to do to be beautiful is that it implies that you are not beautiful the way you are. Burn the list then look in the mirror.
You are beautiful.