Last week I spoke to a beautiful amazingly-built woman with a perfect figure, who was complaining about how fat she was. This puzzled me, and I responded by pointing out that I also take my diet very seriously - people have no idea how hard I have to work to maintain my figure. In fact, I need to eat chocolate every day just to ensure that I maintain my curves. This was met by a somewhat critical look. But, does it really seem that absurd that I would rather eat chocolate and have (beautiful) curves than starve myself to look like a skeleton?
I am by no means skinny, but I’m not fat either. I have hips. And breasts. And curves. And that makes me beautiful. I’m also one of the very few women I know that are really comfortable in their own bodies. Why is it that so many of us (even those who look as if they could have stepped out of metaphorical magazine covers) struggle to embrace our bodies? Why is it that women seldom embrace their own beauty?
For me, feeling comfortable in my own skin hasn’t always been the case.
I remember feeling awkward, shy, and self-critical. Technically I probably had a “better” body back then (if “better” is that which is defined by western beauty ideals). But I wasn’t confident or happy with how I looked. I didn’t live in my body the way I live in it now.
So one might ask, what has changed?
I came out of the closet.
Let me explain.
As a student I became involved with the campus lesbian and gay organisation. And I ended up volunteering to be at the society table in the student centre during sign-up week. And something incredible happened. People that I didn’t know (and have never before met) came up to me to tell me that they hated me. They told me that I was a disgrace, that I had no right to be there, and that I will burn in hell. And it suddenly dawned on me – their dislike for me had absolutely nothing to do with who I am as a person. Technically I have always theoretically known that one does not have to measure oneself against the standards of others. But up until that point, I have never before fully realised it. In that moment, I suddenly knew that the only person I had to be true to, or measure up against, or make happy – was me. Just me. Nobody else. If I can love the person that I am, I don’t need the approval of random strangers. And something shifted in me. I stopped trying to be what others expected or wanted, and I started blossoming into being who I loved being.
This had a result that I didn’t foresee. I started feeling beautiful. And suddenly I found it easier to engage with people, because it didn’t matter if they liked me or not. I was no longer the invisible quiet girl in the corner. I blossomed.
Coming out is so much more than a journey of embracing one’s sexuality. It is a journey of embracing oneself. It’s learning that the prejudice that has been spoon-fed to you about others (and also about yourself) doesn’t necessarily hold true. It is about that moment of realisation that we are all beautiful and wonderful just the way we are – and you don’t need anyone else’s approval.