It’s a dirty word for most people. We throw it around like a curse: “She’s just insecure” when a girl is mean, angry, or derogatory in any way. But I think it’s something most of us face in one way or another. Admittedly, it’s also something I’ve faced for a lot of my life. I faced it when I was a kid, and I realized I wasn’t wearing the same clothes as the other kids. I faced it as a teenager when I realized my makeup wasn’t as good as the other girls’. I faced it at Duke when I realized that I wasn’t as smart as some of these other students.
And I face it now, in China, as I realize that my body type does not fit the ideal body type here.
Don’t get me wrong; I definitely have some privileges besides body type, but for the purposes of this I’ll only focus on my body. I’m five foot ten, a good few inches above the average height of the Chinese woman. My body has also grown curves in the past few years and, combined with my height, this means I wear a pretty big size. In addition, my feet are pretty large – a good size 9 or 10, which means it’s virtually impossible to find shoes my size here.
Combined, this can leave a girl feeling pretty insecure. I cycled through a few ideas, most of them revolving around the idea that I should somehow change myself. I should lose a few pounds; I should exercise till I throw up; I should – okay, maybe I couldn’t actually change my shoe size, but you get the idea. These thoughts haunted me every time I tried on another pair of shorts that wouldn’t fit.
Then I looked in the mirror. I thought about it critically. And I realized that even if I didn’t necessarily fit their desired body image, that didn’t mean I was lesser. It just meant I was different.
I am at a healthy weight, around the weight that I am supposed to be. I am tall, which means I might be a bigger size, and my feet are big. But that’s the way God made me. I look at myself, and I see that I am beautiful, even if I might not see myself that way.
I know that as a somewhat thin, white woman I’m still within so many standards of beauty. I know that so many people outside of these groups feel the pressure of these beauty standards so much more than I do. But I hope that you recognize your inherent beauty. You are beautiful.
And I am beautiful, too. In our society sometimes, it’s considered ‘conceited’ to say that, especially for a woman. But I am. By virtue of being human, I am beautiful.