Column: Struggling with narrow beauty standards

In Columns, Opinion
A girl looking the mirror, on the outside she is smiling but in her reflection she is frowning
(Dominique Villamor / Daily Titan)

I have never struggled more with confidence than I have in the past three years. As I’ve gained weight, lost muscle mass and watched my body go from toned to undefined; I have found myself feeling unsure about my appearance, like I can’t compete with other women.

“Fit is the new skinny” is what people are calling this new fashion trend, which celebrates athletic bodies and I think that it’s beautiful. It employs the support of an ideology of strong, independent women. However, as I work my way from early twenties into my mid-twenties, I am no longer fit or skinny.

Despite these outward struggles, I’m constantly working to convince myself that even though I no longer fall within the boundaries of this beauty standard, I am still beautiful.

I am 5-foot-1-inch with wide hips, bigger thighs and (to be honest) a bit of a tummy, but I have never considered myself to be fat.

I know that as I have grown older, I’ve also grown wiser. I have begun to understand the unrealistic beauty standards that women are held to.

Beauty companies are trying to sell their products through models in fashion magazines, within the late-20th century, the definition of a beautiful woman has often been described as skinny.

There may not be models with unproportioned curves and tummies that roll when they sit, but that does not mean that it’s not beautiful to have imperfections — to be perfectly imperfect.  

However, it does mean that it will be harder to convince women of their own beauty.

The average size pants that an American woman wears is a size 16 or 18, but the biggest size most companies allow their models to be is a size two, according to a 2016 article from the International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education.

Recently, companies have been promoting body positive campaigns: The Dove self-esteem campaign recognizes that not all body types are represented in media and as a result, women experience anxiety about their appearance.

Everyone looks to popular media to see what is fashionable, what is favorable and uses it as guidance for their own style. Though the self-esteem campaign presented by Dove is great, and a huge step in the right direction, there are not enough of its type in the media to undo the biases and insecurities that have already been in place.  

As I’ve grown more self-confident about myself, I have found that I typically am my most confident self when I stay away from social media, and allow myself to dress in the type of clothes that I actually like, rather than trying to be sexy or fashionable.

The truth is that there is beauty in each individual. It doesn’t matter what your body type is: short, tall, skinny, fat, wide hips, small waist. It’s all beautiful. Even though I am still becoming more confident in my body, I’ve realized that it is not up to pop culture to represent what is beautiful and what is not. We need to remember to remind each other and ourselves of our worth, and our beauty.

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