It’s interesting to see how obsessed our culture has become with body image. From perfect celebrities on magazine covers to slender runway models, we hunger for beauty – or what we perceive as beauty.
My mother fights hard to stop me from wanting to change or alter my appearance. As a young teenager, I was not allowed to experiment with eye shadows or hair dye. I remember putting up (what was then) a convincing argument to be permitted to start shaving. I didn’t want my track and field teammates to make fun of my hairy legs anymore. I finally got my ears pierced right before freshman year of high school.
A little over a year ago, while living and working overseas in Southeast Asia, I was about 90% certain I wanted to get a tattoo. Though I was a recent college grad at the time (and feeling both independent and somewhat of a rebel), I still had the urge to consult my mom for her guidance. She told me it was my body, and I could do what I wanted with it. Needless to say, I left Indonesia tattoo-less. However, my aunt in the Philippines did convince me to get my hair chemically straightened (something I’m not proud of, as it has lasted for over fourteen months), as well as teach me the art of proper nail care.
Half a year ago, someone I was interested in dating told me I had to “apply maintenance” to my facial hair before he introduced me to his friends. I no longer to speak to him; no one should ever dictate my appearance. However, what he said triggered something else in me: a need to remind myself that I am beautiful in my own way. I started eating healthy and exercising five or six times a week. I became passionate about fitness, health and wellness. Strength – emotional, mental and physical – is important in order to truly be comfortable with who I am. Strong is the new sexy.
Perfection is an impossible feat to achieve. Today, I can count the number of times I’ve worn more than just eyeliner in the single digits. The only beauty products I’ve ever purchased are nail polish and lip balm. My idea of beauty may change as the years pass. But I know that through it all, if I am happy with who I am, the rest of the world better be as well.
I’m a writer and mental health advocate. If you would like to engage in further discussion on the perception of beauty, the importance of strength, or self-confidence, feel free to email me. Alternatively, you can find me on Twitter @mamatanap.
Virginia Beach, VA