body image

the year is 2012, i'm a junior in high school, i'm sporting steve madden's troopa combat boots with the free people trapeze slip, and i'm practically throwing out my back in a vain attempt to make my butt look bigger.

A BUBBLE BUTT WAS ALL I WANTED. it was all anyone ever talked about!! i did all my squats and i did all my deadlifts, but it wasn't enough. i wanted MORE. a group of boys tweeted a "top 10 butts at mountain view" list and i didn't make the cut (seriously! this happened!). i was de-va-sta-ted *claps on each syllable for emphasis*. i tried not to have bitter feelings towards the volleyball girls in their cute little bootie shorts, but it was just too much. my seventeen-year-old heart could only handle so much.

fast forward, the year is 2017. i'm 22, queen bey is pregnant with twins, and alexis ren's 24 inch waist is basically revered as much as the american flag. kayla itsines is everywhere i look. people are downloading body tuning apps (is that what they're called?) to give themselves thigh gaps in photos before posting them. i find myself standing in front of my full-length mirror, shifting my weight and my stance to find the most flattering angle for my body. A THIGH GAP AND A FLAT STOMACH IS ALL I WANT.

my perception of the "ideal" body has changed over the years. i now could care less about having a voluptuous backside, just like i didn't even know what a thigh gap was in 2012. the reason for this shift is because of the influences around me. aka, YOU! my aunt recently visited the phillipines, and she was amused to see "intensive whitening lotion" for skin available for purchase at every drugstore. my tanning-lotion tanning-membership paying bank account finds this amusing as well. the filipinos think white skin is beautiful, so that's what they want. americans want dat bronze glow, so we put ourselves at risk of skin cancer to get just a few shades darker. beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and the beholders are the people and the influences you surround yourself with. if all the posts on instagram, twitter, and snapchat (RIP vine) began to prioritize, say, extremely muscular lower legs, we'd probably all be doing calf raises until the cows came home. it's all a very repetitive cycle. we as a group decide what is beautiful, and then we all try to achieve it.

during my pregnancy, i had so many friends and family members beg me to post more "bump pictures". they wanted to see my body progress and watch the amazing miracle of life develop inside of me. i would do my best to deliver, hand my phone to my instagram-husband (LOVE U, B), pose for the camera, look at the images, and sob. my arms looked puffy and my legs were huge ("brandtly!!! why do my legs look big?! i'm not carrying a baby in my thighs!!!!!") and i would never post the pictures. seriously! if you go back and look through my instagram feed, i have very few full body pictures of myself pregnant.

WHICH. IS. STUPID. it was my first pregnancy! my first time bringing another human into the world! i was a living, breathing miracle! child birth is AMAZING. and i have little documentation of it because i didn't like the way my thighs would touch when i would stand to take a picture. that time of my life is gone, and i will never get to live it again. 

so, since we are all so influenced by how other people view our bodies, i propose that we ~*~uNiTE~~*~ and collectively decide to find beauty in our bodies based off of what they DO as opposed to how they LOOK. you should feel beautiful as you carry your child, despite the weight you will inevitably gain. you should feel stunning as you hug a struggling friend, offering words of comfort and advice. and you should feel like freaking gigi hadid when you pay for the person's meal behind you in the drive-thru line. your actions and your smile and the sparkle in your eye make you beautiful. NOT, as cliche as it sounds and i am slapping myself for even typing it, the number on the waistband of your jeans or on the scale.

it would, of course, be ideal to not be influenced at all by what others thought/said, but i think that is a fairly lofty goal. no matter how many times i tell myself that it doesn't matter, or my husband tells me it doesn't matter, or my mom tells me that it doesn't matter, it still gets to me sometimes. i still feel bitter towards alexis ren's flowing body, just as i felt bitter towards the mountain view volleyball team in 2012 (go toros). it's very difficult to NOT be influenced by other people and by the media because it is all around us all the time. 

i say we prioritize kindness over a small waistline. compassion over lean legs. selflessness over a tanned and toned figure. i think it would do a great deal of good for the world to look a little deeper and celebrate, as one direction sang in 2011, what makes you TRULY beautiful.