You know those times when you wish you could just go back to who you were 5 years ago and advise the hell out of yourself based on the overload of information you've collected in your most recent, wiser years?
Yeah... I've had a lot of those. In a world where being skinny is hot, fat shaming is subtly everywhere (special shout out to the unrealistic mannequins in every store), and people are constantly having to redefine themselves and their based on the world around them, it's so hard for anyone to be comfortable in their own skin. But even with all the negative stigma flying around, there exists simultaneously a revolution. A revolution against the "ideal" body, face, gender... I, like the many ad campaigns stepping up to promote natural body types and skin types, am hoping to be a part of this revolution that starts small; with the simple realization that no one but yourself is in charge of how you look or feel.
In elementary school I was a pudgy child. Being petite, all the weight was around my waist and in the apples of my cheeks, but I didn't really care. I just went to school and learned and did recess and had fun.
And then I got to middle school, and guys liked girls and girls wore mascara and eyeliner and wore tight tank tops from Aeropostale with leggings and Uggs and the cool kids were the "beautiful" ones. I guess it is biological. People like attractive people-- it's just something that happens (I've seen this firsthand where I used to waitress, with a fellow
-rather hot- coworker, and though he'd provide equal or lesser quality of service to customers as I would, he would get massive tips from women customers. But that's another thing).
"Beauty" (or whatever that was), became the *thing*, and everyone was trying to bust acne and slim down and work out, and cover up-- and I just felt lost and behind; the odd one out in my jeans, converse, and pullover shirts. I didn't like wearing makeup past mascara, and I just wasn't into it.
And then I hit high school and discovered that makeup wasn't so bad... I had a face for a canvas and access to all of the paint. I wish I had discovered sooner that it's not necessary, and that you can wear it because you want to or because it boosts confidence, not solely for pleasing someone else.
But the pressures still lingered, with clothes, hair, face... All of that. And I just got so sick of people's judgement that I decided to go naked for a week, essentially. I didn't bother with makeup and I disregarded slaving over my wardrobe and it felt. So. Good. Not giving a care about what people thought and summoning the bravery to put yourself unmarked in front of everyone like a token of "take it or leave it" really boosted my self confidence.
Finally, senior year rolled around and I was practically all the way settled into my skin when one day I actually clinched the deal with myself. I was doing a video project with my English class and it involved me dressing up as a cowboy. My friend decided it would be a fun idea to put a beard on me with water-proof eyeliner for the shooting of the film. The beard looked good on camera, but by the end of class I didn't have time to wash it off before my choir class. A bit panicked and embarrassed, I changed my clothes and bore the beard to the choir room, letting my hair fall in front of my face to avoid awkward glances.
Well, it didn't work that well, because people gave me all kinds of looks going down the hallway, and my choir teacher practically fell down laughing when she finally caught a glimpse of my face.
But the more people looked at me, the more they laughed and I laughed with them, I realized that being able to laugh at yourself is so crucial-- that being able to forget vanity for 90 minutes and concentrate on your actions and the people around you is soooo valuable.
Since then I find it easier to go places in my own skin, with or without makeup, without all the self-consciousness. And I'm not saying makeup or working out or dieting is bad-- not at all. By all means, do you and be the healthiest version of you that you can be! Just make sure that it contributes to nobody's happiness other than your own.
I personally don't work out a lot (I bike a ton, and when I waitresses I'd be on my feet swiftly walking for like, 5 hours) and sometimes I'm not satisfied with what the mirror shows me. But it's okay! Everyone has that dissatisfaction at one time or another, but if I decide to change something I'm sure as hell not gonna be doing it for society, a partner, or anyone else who is going to judge me.
So honestly, go wear that bikini, even if society (or your mom!) says you're not "beach ready". Go eat that extra slice of pizza because you're a little hungry. Work that winged eyeliner you love because it brings out your eyes. And just relish in your own confidence. Beauty isn't a look. It's a feeling. A state of mind. And you alone have the power to harness it.