I don't have a perfect body.
It's not anything shocking-- most people don't, contrary to the images that media push as the norm. But, like almost everyone again, I fell prey to these false ideas of what beauty is or what a normal body is supposed to look like.
Going shopping was a nightmare and the epitome of my worst fears; being forced to judge myself and my body in front of a mirror. It was always like this-- I started puberty in around third grade, while most other girls were carefree about their body types and had not yet been victimized by societal standards. Immediately, I noted that my thicker body type was not homogenous to others. At a young age, my self-body image was drastically disturbed.
Another non-shocker: I'm not alone in feeling this way.
A national report was conducted, commissioned by the Dove Self-Esteem Fund, which defined these unsurprising aspects, such as that 62% of all girls feel insecure of themselves-- that's seven in ten girls whose self-worth is inadequate.
So what do we do? How are we supposed to feel confident in our bodies if everyone else around us feels the same? If everyone perceives beauty as the front cover of Vogue or the assortment of Victoria's Secret angels? If stores continue to sell one-size products and clothing designs marketed towards bodies who are slim and small-chested?
After eighteen years of this constant struggle in my life, finally, there was a saving grace.
I heard about American Eagle Outfitters underwear, fitness, and comfortable clothing line called Aerie from a relative who works as a manager-- but of course, I was suspicious if her praise in the brand was simply promotional bias. But, while back-to-school shopping for college and looking for bras that would fit my larger chest, I found myself at the Aerie store anyway.
What I saw wasn't what I was expecting. Plastered along the walls were models of all different shapes and sizes-- and not in the "different shapes" kind where they find a model with slightly thicker thighs and advertise her as 'plus-size.' There were girls with all different skin tones, including actual melanin tones, and not your stereotypical light-skinned model. There were women who looked to be in their forties and girls who looked the same age as me. Girls who sported their bras with disabilities, with skin conditions, with abs, with flat stomachs, with cellulite.
Girls who were just like me.
But it was easy to think that it was just a promotional campaign to adhere to younger society's new interest in body positivity and female empowerment. I was still slow on making judgement.
That was, until, I got fitted. Because of my larger chest, I thought they would give me one bra option, like how any other place does. But instead, the woman helping me gathered a plethora of variations, matching my skin color, adorning my favorite color, and in structural designs that felt comfortable for me.
Feeling a little less alone, I went into the dreaded fitting room to try them on and look at my body in the mirror-- something, as I stated previously, that I despised.
When I got in there, though, the mirror was covered in Post-It notes, all with different messages of positivity written from all different kinds of girls who had previously stood in the same spot I had. They read, "You're beautiful!" or "That looks great on you!" or "Kill it with that confidence!" Inevitably, one would have to smile while reading them.
And there I stood-- actually smiling in a dressing room. I was smiling at the notes, and then I was smiling at my body, because I was killing it with the confidence, just like all of the models that they featured. They looked beautiful, so why couldn't I?
It's easy to say that something changed your life. But after enduring years and years of being harsh on myself and my own body, for the first time, I was loving it. Aerie's REAL campaign doesn't hide women's realities or touch them up to nonexistence. It embraces reality and encourages beauty among women and within ourselves. It is the exact change that the fashion industry and media needs.
If you're like me, don't give up hope. While it can sometimes get hard, brands that promote female empowerment and body positivity legitimately can boost your personal self-esteem and body image. Aerie is a new and prime example, but it is something that both could be and should be universal.
But if my experience with Aerie taught me anything, it's that you're not alone and that you're absolutely beautiful, flaws and all.
This article was not sponsored by Aerie.