Throughout the centuries, the definition of beauty has changed, but what hasn’t changed is the pressure on women and men to conform to certain standards. In the 1920s, during the era of the flapper, a rail thin figure was coveted with an emphasis on long legs, seen in icons like Clara Bow. In the 1940s and 50s, curves were all the rage, with an emphasis on a plumper figure, like Marilyn Monroe. Then the 1960s rolled around, and we returned to the rail thin figure with the popularization of fashion icons like Twiggy and Audrey Hepburn. In the 1990s, if Twiggy’s rail thin figure wasn’t enough, women were asked to become skinnier, and this figure is coveted even today. There are two ends of what is considered beautiful today — either you have an extremely thin or curvy body. Even with the curvier body, though, it is still expected that you be streamlined with no excess skin, meaning you have to have a flat stomach and a tiny Jessica Rabbit-esque waist, which is almost impossible to obtain without the help of a corset or surgery.
Men are also under pressure to conform to beauty standards — they are often pressured to be the macho man with washboard abs and a muscular physique. If you do not possess the ideal figure, you were shamed and looked down upon. Because of this, all different types of dieting have become popular as well as dieting pills and steroids, which are more often than not harmful to your body. If that wasn’t enough, women and men are further thinned and perfected with the use of photoshop in the media. The result of this is a perfect, unattainable body.
As you can imagine, it is hard to feel positive and love your body. I, as well as many other men and women, struggled with this on a daily basis. I have always been a curvier girl. I have never possessed the coveted thin body and thigh gap that has been popularized in recent times. It was hard for me to look in the mirror and think I was beautiful. I would avoid certain types of clothing, like shorts, because I didn’t think I could wear them. I avoided any activity that required me to show any type of excess skin. I refused to go swimming, even though it was one of my favorite activities, because I was afraid I would look disgusting in a swimsuit. I tried the pills and the diets, but no matter how much weight I lost, I never felt beautiful.
It was after years of this that I realized no matter how much I weighed I would never feel beautiful if I didn’t come to love myself from the inside out. So I stopped comparing my body to those unattainable bodies I saw in magazines and started concentrating on how I saw myself. I started wearing the clothes I wanted and doing the activities I wanted. No longer did I stray away from bathing suits or from swimming. I came to realize I was beautiful and that just because I wasn’t thin or didn’t possess a thigh gap it didn’t mean I was any less beautiful as those who did.
Even though I came to love myself, there are many men and women out there who do not. Hopefully this will change. In recent times, plus size models like Ashley Graham, Mary Lambert and Zach Miko are paving the way for a more inclusive definition of what beauty really means. They are fighting for people to reconsider what type of connection size has with beauty. The answer is that size should not have any bearing on how beautiful someone is. Beauty is not measured by the size of the gap between your thighs or by the size of your jeans. It is not measured by how many push-ups you can do or by how muscular you are. Beauty is in you and in everything you do. Beauty encompasses every shape, size and color — it is all inclusive and it knows no bounds.