A Woman's Truth: How I Realized my Own Beauty
Beauty is such a loaded term. Is it just about something that is aesthetically pleasing? Is it internal? Is it swayed by society? According to the women I asked in What Does Beauty Mean To You?, it is about confidence, power, and feeling comfortable in your own skin. But we all come to that in a different time, some later than others. And if you are anything like me, it was quite the ride to get there.
Most of us have at least a few years of an awkward stage around middle school or high school. I was no exception. I had metal braces for three years, I cut my own bangs, over plucked my eyebrows, and had the worst acne. Throughout much of those years, I would have never considered myself beautiful. I focused on my flaws, how I looked compared to classmates and celebrities, and had pretty low self-esteem. Although anyone who knew me then may not have realized this, because I was privy to taking plenty of mirror pictures, and loved shopping and makeup. But that was all part of the journey, that is realizing your own beauty.
And doing that is probably one of the most difficult things you can do as a young woman. When I was between the ages of 12 and 20, you could not have paid me enough money to leave the house without makeup on or post a less than flattering photo online. I even loaded on the foundation when I had a fever, because I didn’t want my pediatrician to notice my skin. I also hated my nose, my body that never seemed to grow out of children’s sizes, and my flat butt.
Everything from finding clothes to fit me to changing in the school locker room, and even sleeping over a friend’s house made me anxious. I would look around at the beach and convince myself that everyone was staring. I never smiled with my mouth open for fear of anyone seeing my braces. And that went on for years. I know that most women who are reading this will probably have similar memories or even present thoughts.
A lot of this self-doubt comes from society, but a lot of it is also brought on by our state of mind. So when did I come to terms with the fact that I wasn’t as unfortunate looking as I perceived myself to be? My junior year in high school. I met a boy. He was my first kiss and really the first guy that ever gave me the attention I so desperately craved. But instead of finding confidence in my own self-image and within my own mind, I based my beauty and self-worth off the romantic success of this relationship. I weighed myself based on how I was seen by him. And not only was that majorly dysfunctional and unhealthy for my self-image, but it delayed my true confidence from coming out.
Having someone else, a number of other people, or even society determine how you see yourself will never help. We tend to think the worst or think we know what others are thinking. Not only are we often wrong, but either way your beauty is about realizing what it is that you think of yourself, not trying to read the minds of strangers.
Looking back now, I am actually thankful for those unfortunate times, because I learned a lot about myself, and where confidence really comes from. I thought my self-esteem was fine during this time, as I was getting attention. It was not until years later that I finally discovered having confidence in my own beauty comes from within, not from any external source.
Although compliments are always welcome, all the ravings in the world from friends, family members, romantic partners, or even strangers will not boost your confidence the way you can. Sadly, there will always be people with be rude things to say as there will always be kind people, but nothing anyone else can do or say will change how you view yourself when you look in the mirror. Although it took a lot of self-reflection and even some therapy along the way, I did eventually realize my own beauty.
Of course, I still have doubts and things I view as flaws, but I care a lot less about them. My acne may not be gone, but rather than focusing on what a stranger will think, I focus on what I can do about it. Even though my skin is far from perfect, I am proud to feel confident enough to post a no makeup selfie to Instagram. I may contour my nose and conceal under eye bags, but now when I look in the mirror I focus on the good rather than the so-called bad. That is really all I can do. It is all anyone can do.
There will always be imperfections, because real life is not photoshopped. But if you can take those imperfections in stride and see them as parts of you that build your character rather than parts that tear you down, your confidence and, therefore, your beauty will soar. Believing in your own beauty is not about being cocky or conceited, it is about confidence and believing in yourself. It is about having a healthy self-image and knowing that you deserve the compliments you hear, feeling good when you look in the mirror, and brushing off a less than flattering photo.
As women, we all deserve to come to peace with our own beauty. Not only should we be able to realize that it exists, but we should be able to celebrate it. Yes, it just takes time, patience, and a lot of self-love to get there, but I can tell you it is so worth it.