My mother gave me a distorted impression of beauty. Through her eyes beauty had to meet specific requirements, which were defined by her brief career as a model in the 1960s. Beauty had a 24-inch waist and 34-inch hips, even if it meant eating nothing but one cup of yoghurt each day. Beauty didn’t have stretch marks, cellulite, or downcast eyes. Beauty was evenly proportioned with a symmetrical, high-cheekboned face.
When I was little I wanted to be just like her. A model. Beautiful. But by thirteen, rapid growth spurts had carved long, purplish ditches into my hips and backside, along with a few unsightly dimples. My eyes did not perk up at the far corners – they sloped away from my temples just enough to make me look sad. And I was. Because according to my mother’s rules, I had a long, difficult path to walk before I could be considered remotely beautiful or model-worthy.
For fourteen years I always despised at least one part of my body. At least one. Even after my mother dashed out of the picture when I was sixteen. She didn’t want a family that couldn’t live up to her model expectations.
Though I had the height of Kate Moss, I couldn’t master her waifish figure or sullen glare. Or Cindy Crawford’s sultry pout. I dieted and exercised like a lunatic to keep myself thin, but celery and cardio didn’t erase the marks of adolescence on my butt. Sure, they eventually paled to a creamy shade of flesh, but they were still there. My personal flaws. Just like my un-sexy eyes and awkward nose, which turned up a little too much at the end. And my lackluster cheekbones, which didn’t protrude in seductive angles like those women whose figures I envied in the Victoria’s Secret catalogue. I didn’t have their perfectly flat abs or hourglass shapes. Buying their bras and underwear didn’t make me look like them either.
I had little to no appreciation for my body or personal beauty until I was twenty-seven years old. I’m thankful for my revelation happening sooner than later. Some women hate themselves their entire lives.
Two very different events changed my perspective within a year’s time: getting diagnosed with a serious illness, and choosing to escape the weight of that sickness by training for a marathon. When I crossed the finish line after 26.2 arduous miles, I burst into tears. My body – the one I hated for most of my life – had carried and pushed me 26.2 miles. My mind had gone along for the ride, and it exploded into a thousand tiny fragments after the journey was over. It blew up my mother’s superficial expectations. Looking like a model didn’t define me as beautiful. Beauty was the ability to train and run a marathon, to cheer on friends who were struggling alongside me, and smile at strangers as they waved on the sidelines. Beauty was loving and appreciating the body I have and keeping it healthy and strong so I can enjoy it for years to come. I didn’t have to be a supermodel to be beautiful. I simply had to be – and love – myself for who I am.
I don’t compare myself to fashion models and celebrities. I don’t measure my looks against other women and try to ascertain whether my body is as sexy or attractive as theirs. I feel sorry for the attractive girls and women who are running to plastic surgeons and begging for bigger breasts, duck lips, and Botox to smooth their worried heads. Plastic and silicone ruins their natural beauty. But that is my opinion. Just like my mother had hers. I’ve discovered that beauty can be defined in multiple ways – and it changes from person to person. Confucius sums it up best: “Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.”
– Written by Miss A