So, this post is going to contain a lot of photos.
Specifically, flashback photos of muhself.
Hayley from 2008 would pretend to be embarrassed, but secretly hope it might launch her into internet fame.
I considered writing a letter to eighteen-year-old me, but everybody does that. And after spending a considerable time debating my angle, (pretty much just the five seconds between that period and capital ‘A’) I decided to just let the pictures drive the trolley and settle back with a water bottle and PA system.
You probably would like to know the topic of today’s little tour, and that my Dear Readers, is a relatively hot topic: societal standards of beauty.
I try not to prance too far into the camps of the offended elite, but I felt that this topic warranted discussion. Whether you be mother, daughter, or friend, we need to start talking less about the way misogynist comic book illustrators are portraying us, and more about the way our female specific magazines, movies, and products are warping our perception of ourselves.
I know I’m not the only voice out here–I’m not the first, and I definitely won’t be the last, but I think that maybe if more of us start telling our stories, somebody will listen.
I grew up knowing that my worth was not defined by my beauty or waist size, by a very wise set of parents.
Over and over again, I was reminded of my inherent value and individuality. However, today as I flipped through old photos of myself, I realized that my perception of *me* at the time was not untainted.
The photo on the left was taken shortly after I discovered Lookbook. It took me a few more years to create my own account, but I started taking pictures. My head-canon for not liking the left outfit argued that the shorts were too short, (hidden by the sweater much?) but if I’m being honest in retrospect, even if the shorts had been long enough, I still thought my legs looked too thick.
The outfit on the right had some head-shot counterparts that made it onto Facebook. I never liked this photo though. Partly because of the sliver of tummy, but mostly because I thought I looked really chubby.
Fast forward a year and some change. Notice the wide stance–we wouldn’t want those thighs to touch now, would we? The photo on the left was taken on a day where I tried to get a few dance shots. Those were posted, but only after I had enhanced the shadows to make me look thinner. On the right, you see another abandoned attempt at an outfit shot. I gave up after seeing that photo.
I was dancing four to five times a week at this point, and settled into what I thought was my roll as the heavy ballerina.
I finally signed up for a Lookbook account, but didn’t post very frequently. My ribcage never met my hip bones with a concave line, and “boy, don’t my knees look chubby above those socks?” I posted puddle-jumping look, but later took it down.
Eventually, I got pickier about my poses. The photo with the green chucks was an all-time favorite because I managed to hide the biggest parts of my body. The photo with the green scarf never even made it to editing because of my legs.
These photos never made it to final editing because I didn’t feel like slimming my stomach with my cheap editing software.
I definitely doctored up my abs in this photo, but couldn’t find the original to show a comparison. You know, because the internet wouldn’t appreciate that “ballon” if my gut was hanging out.
By twenty-one, I figured I was a lost cause.
If I’d never managed to squeeze my behind back into my size 4 jeans from the first picture, no matter how nice I thought I looked, *truly attractive* wasn’t really a choice.
Now, I didn’t write this post to have you all say things like, “Oh, you look great, girl!” “Don’t listen to stupid people.” or “You’re beautiful the way you are.”
Eighteen-year-old me would have, but that’s not the point.
I knew I had value. I knew logically that I wasn’t fat. I knew the expectation I had for myself was a lie.
Yet, somehow I didn’t feel that my body had a place in beautiful.
And to be honest, I’m still not there yet.
And to be more honest, I’m not really sure what the answer is. We all deal with insecurities, and I don’t think we will ever eradicate them. Nonetheless, I do believe we need to collectively point our feminine fingers at Hollywood and Cosmopolitan and Women’s Health and every makeup, fitness, clothing, and underclothing brand out there.
It’s not a matter of thin being wrong, or just adding plus sized models to your line-up…
HELLO! We call them *plus sized* models.
Thin is beautiful and should be embraced. Bodacious is beautiful and should be embraced.
YET, somehow, after all the propaganda, efforts at esteem conservation, and countless counter campaigns, the body representation chart still specializes in the extremes.
Our girls can’t merely be told that their bodies are beautiful and accepted, they have to be shown.
SO I challenge you: bloggers, media people, advertisements. Post the one about teenaged YOU. Be honest about the lies you believe and the battles that you’ve won.
I may never feel that my body has a place in America’s beauty, but learning how to not give a crap about what America thinks about beauty goes along way. God created us, and He creates beauty. We are reflections of Who He is.
Don’t forget it.
Challenge your friends to share the One About Teenaged You.
And keep those heads in the clouds~