This is a bit of a serious post for Fun Friday, and a sidestep topic-wise from what we normally write about, but it’s something truly worthy of sharing. I came across something honestly beautiful on Facebook today. A young man, still in high school from the looks of his profile, started an “event” on Facebook called Tell Her She’s Beautiful, where the entire purpose is to tell women and girls—or anyone, really—that they’re beautiful. Maybe especially girls who don’t hear it a lot—none of us hear it enough. The words of this high school senior kind of just knocked me flat this morning:
It has come to my attention that as I grow older, girls get more and more self conscious of themselves. This hurts me, because every girl is beautiful in their own way. They all want to live up to standards that the media has set for them, like being paper thin or double Z breasts. It really breaks my heart to see all of the girls to wallow around and hate who they are and think they aren’t worth something.
The founder of this group is encouraging everyone from February 11th-14th (yes, Valentine’s, my dears) to let the people in their life KNOW that they are beautiful.
Body image is something that has always been an issue with me, as it is with most women… and probably a fair few number of men. I can tell you flat-out that I’m not the normal perception of beauty—in a world where we’re shown a lot of tall, thin, and blonde, I’m a short, maybe overly-curvy brunette, and I’ve had my own issues with weight. In high school I had guy friends who’d get seriously frustrated with me because I thought I was fat—when really I wasn’t. Because of that insecurity, though, I gained a fair amount of weight in college, becoming more or less what I’d been afraid of thinking I was before. It took a long while for me to not only decide to take control over my body again—but to really honestly feel beautiful about myself, and the fact is, I didn’t get there on my own. It really did take that frustration from my guy friends, and being taken by surprise—being treated like I was beautiful, by men in general, being told I had a pretty smile, etc.
It also took some shifting in the way the world sees beauty as a whole. The view of one type of person and one type of figure being beautiful really is changing in the world—albeit slowly. The perfect-face, perfect-body beauty perception is starting to bend and creak in a global world where beauty hasn’t always been defined by Hollywood—where ideals of beauty reach far before Hollywood so much as existed.
I think of the changes I’ve seen, both thanks to celebrities who have never quite fit the “normal” checklist of beauty, or thanks to counter-culture, underground movements like this facebook group. I think of Cindy Crawford—who was originally told that her mole would have to be airbrushed out of pictures, when it ended up becoming her signature, and what made her stand out from the rest. Of Delta Burke, who was one of the first celebrities to design clothes for curvier women. I think of Queen Latifah, an exquisitely beautiful woman in her own right, who promotes a healthy weight—whatever that is for you. I think of The Biggest Loser, which never tears its contestants down for what they’ve done to themselves, but teaches them to love themselves enough to be healthy—in a nation where obesity, and worse, childhood obesity is at staggering levels, healthy really is beautiful, and it’s never an unattainable goal.
I think of Operation Beautiful, another underground movement that I learned about again thanks to a man. This movement encourages people to leave anonymous notes promoting self-esteem and good body image… leaving post-its and saying things like “You’re beautiful the way you are” on fashion magazines, or on bathroom mirrors, thousands of people telling other people—especially women telling women—that they’re beautiful. Women choosing to lift each other up rather than tear each other—or themselves—down. And really that is beautiful.
This is something that’s been on my mind a lot lately, and obviously not just mine. Just yesterday my friend Julie over at shinyshiny linked me to an article about appreciating your scars from 1000 Awesome Things. It’s a really endearing article, and I found myself looking over my scrapes and scars last night… I was a klutz as a kid, so there are a lot of them!
And since I’ve not only been a teenage girl, but also been aware of the young adult audience since before I technically counted as a young adult myself, the fact that body image issues are making their way into YA literature is fantastic, too. A couple of the titles I’m particularly interested in checking out myself are Models Don’t Eat Chocolate Cookies by Erin Dionne about a girl who loses weight to avoid getting sucked into a fashion show (yes, you read that right!) and North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley, about a girl with a large birthmark covering half of her face, both of them focusing on self-acceptance and personal feelings of beauty and worth—forget what the world thinks.
I’m still not the skinniest straw in the pack—far, far from it. In fact I still weigh quite a bit more than my high school “skinny.” But I’ve learned to honestly love myself and my soft, hourglass figure and my stick-straight brown-is-brown hair. Beauty really isn’t a definition—it’s a feeling. It’s one you can choose. And it’s a good one. So from me to you, you—yes you, right there, reading this—YOU are beautiful. Own it.