I believe I am beautiful. I believe my beauty is inside and out, and that the same can be said for everyone around me.
I have lived in a home where outer beauty was always a concern, whether it be makeup, body, or clothing. It was never a rule to be “beautiful”; my dad always told the four girls of the family that we were beautiful no matter what. But, like nearly everyone in the world today, this wasn’t enough reassurance. My oldest sister was most worried about her face, saying her skin was too pale, her eyebrows and lashes too blonde, and she worked furiously to overcome these obstacles. My second sister struggled with her body image, dieting and controlling herself from the age of nine. Sometimes I would catch my mom looking in the mirror trying to suck her tummy in; the same tummy that protected and nursed three girls, whose sole definition of her is beauty.
As for me, I never really worried about beauty, I didn’t like makeup like Megan, I promised I would never wear it. And I forced it into my head that I didn’t need to diet and watch myself too closely to have a body society accepted, like Maddy. I never worried about my tummy, or my arms, or my thighs, because I started gymnastics at the age of five. Under this strict routine, I worked out three to five hours each day of the week, and rarely ever looked at myself in the mirror. I knew I was strong, and fit, and thought that maybe I could be accepted in society.
On August 20 of 2013, after eight years of gymnastics, I went to the doctor and complained about hip and back pains. That same day, I was told I had a minor stress fracture in my lower back, and this alone took me out of gym for six months to heal. Then I was ordered to have an MRI on my hips, which had been bothering me for nearly three years. When my mom and I got into the car that day, we both cried, because we knew I wouldn’t be able to go back.
At my MRI, nothing significant could be found, but I was told to go to weekly physical therapy. There, I was told my hips were severely out of line, and I would have to do daily exercises to realign them, and they would stick in proper position after eight months. I went to my gym the following Monday and told my coaches and team that unless my pain healed after eight months, I was done with gym.
I started eighth grade year in a frenzy of teenagers who pondered over their weight and makeup twenty-four hours of every day. I started a habit of sucking my tummy in in the mirror and imagining myself in a way that didn’t actually exist. My diet changed, and so did my body. I started worrying about my body, embarrassed about my muscly arms, my growing tummy, my powerful thighs. What I didn’t realize was I had quit right when puberty had hit all of my friends, and myself, and growing in this way was inevitable.
Now, at seventeen, I’ve come to realize that beauty doesn’t come from perfectly sculpted bodies, from high cheekbones, plump lips, and long, thick eyelashes. For me, at this point, I define beauty as simply individuality. Outer beauty, that society seems to believe is most important, comes from each person as an individual, and each of their unique lives as a whole.
Beauty that Matters by Annie is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.