When I think back to my childhood, I envision joyous moments in New York with my friends, a handful of family vacations to the most magical place on earth, and discovering my passion for writing while journaling in my kindergarten class. These memories come in waves and fill me with warmth. However, there is something looming in the background; a shadow that taints these memories. It is impossible for me to revisit childhood memories and not remember that I spent my entire childhood wishing I was someone else. I didn’t love me, let alone like me.
During my childhood, I wished I looked different. I abhorred my appearance. “I want to look like her. And her. And her. And her, too.” I would think to myself while thumbing through countless fashion magazines. I absorbed the images like a sponge. The tall women with straight, blonde hair, blue eyes, and visible bones. I saw beauty, success, and perfection. I wanted this. I needed to acquire this ideal body image.
After all, my body image was not acceptable in society. I was not the epitome of beauty, success, and perfection. My raven curls, dark eyes, tan skin, bushy eyebrows, facial hair, and curves were a stark contrast to the models and actresses I saw in magazines and on television. I was ugly and instead of embracing my Latina genetics, I strived to change my physical appearance. I straightened my hair every day, waxed my eyebrows until they were very thin, and eventually developed an eating disorder. My body image issue brought me down a very dark path. My childhood memories are still filled with this darkness and the fact that I harmed myself for an image that is completely unattainable.
However, I can confidently say that I love my body now. I love my raven, curly locks. I love my weight gain, curves, and my thighs. I love my thick eyebrows (I’m thankful for Cara Delevingne and Lily Collins). I love that I am beautiful. But, I do have a question. Are body image issues getting worse?
I pose this question after a body image issue conversation I had with my thirteen-year-old cousin. This conversation was the first time I’ve heard the words: “I want to look like you.” My cousin went on to explain that she wanted my black, long, curly hair, tan skin, “bushy” eyebrows, and curves. She hated her strawberry-blondish hair, fair skin, thin eyebrows, and slender shape. I was confused. She achieved the ideal body image but didn’t want it. How could this be?
Later that day, I came to a realization. Ideal body image still exists. However, it exists in two forms (both are unattainable). Sadly, this could make body image issues worse. First, there’s the ideal body image I strived to attain. I refer to this as the supermodel body image. This is the classic tall, blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman with an emaciated figure. The second ideal body image is slightly mirroring my appearance. This woman has dark, long hair, tan skin, thick eyebrows, curves, and large butt (for lack of a better word). With this second image, think Kim Kardashian. Lastly, this is also an image of beauty, success, and perfection.
This makes body image issues much worse than they have been in the past. Now, young girls and young women develop a disdain for their physical appearance and they strive to obtain an image that can, for the most part, only be achieved through plastic surgery.
So, what do we do now? How can we stop body image issues? Currently, I do not have the answers to these questions. But, I do have a message to all women out there: There is no need to change your physical appearance. You do not need to look like anyone else. You are beautiful. Exactly as you are. In so many ways.