Abandoning beauty standards exposes real beauty

Cassidy Jackson, senior editor

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Picture this: Hundreds of tweens racing through the middle school halls collecting yearbook messages. Remember when you were one of them? When you ran around compiling a stack of “H.A.G.S” from a mass of people who didn’t care an ounce about you and a handful of heartfelt “final” words. Ahh.. yearbook signing: the best day am I right?

In eigth grade, the main signature I craved was my art teacher’s, Mrs. Wu. I ran to the art room, handed her the yearbook with eyes full of excitement. She handed it back and it read “You have true inner beauty.” My immediate thought was “This is a load of crap!”

I couldn’t help but think “Inner beauty?! What about outer beauty?!” Missing the point, I wanted so badly to hunt down Mrs. Wu and ask “Why didn’t you tell me I’m beautiful? Am I not beautiful?” That night, I concluded I’m not.

To me, beauty was everything that I wasn’t. I defined beauty as being white, curvy, breezing through puberty, having flawless skin and having boys’ flock at your feet. Not one of the pieces of that puzzle fell into place for me. I’m not white. My awkward phase came for me at the start of high school. With puberty came pimples, lots of em, and male attention? What’s that?

So,  freshman year, I felt far from beautiful. I distinctly remember whenever I would wash my hands at school, never looking up, because my reflection was simply a reminder of all the things I wasn’t.

Every morning of freshman year was the same for me. I’d wake up and grab the first huge sweatshirt and leggings my eyes laid on. . Dressing up was like playing pretend, an unsuccessful attempt at masking my low self-esteem.

For awhile, I thought my self-esteem issues were abnormal, but negative self-image is sadly normal. According to a Hearts of Leadership study, it was concluded that 90 percent of girls from 15 to 17 want to change at least one aspect of their appearance, body weight ranking first.

Media exacerbates the confidence issue, as according to a study done by AdMedia, 69 percent of girls surveyed said that models in magazines had an influence on what they perceived as “beauty.” Through the images we see, unconsciously we form definitions of beauty.

During my sophomore and junior year was when I began to push myself. At that time, I realized every negative thought and each ounce of envy I felt was me metaphorically pressing a self-destruct button, and I became sick of that feeling.

In hopes of changing it, I ripped the band aid off and forced myself to stare at my reflection. I began scribbling “Love Yourself” in my assignment notebook, even though for a while, I didn’t believe it. As soon as my eyes grazed my notebook, I thought “Why you lyin’ girl?,” but like a muscle, I trained my brain to change most of, but not all, the insidious thoughts.

I also wrote down in my notebook“You’re intelligent” and “You’re important,” attempting to shift the focus from my exterior to my interior. Character has for me begun to trump the external. I’ve realized what will truly take you far in life is your character. Most importantly though, I understand that Mrs. Wu writing “You have true inner beauty” is the best compliment of all.   

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