The Teen and Body Image

At what point can someone say, with confidence, that they are beautiful? What constitutes being beautiful? Does it suddenly happen when you reach a certain age, or is there some sort of merit prerequisite? I don’t believe that any of those standards apply. For me, being able to say with confidence that I am beautiful came with a little shift of perspective.

Like many people, I have been chubby my whole life. When I was in elementary school, I was excluded for games for being “too fat” and “too weird.” My life felt like a constant battle between myself, my wants, and my body. I never felt that I was good enough simply because people told me I wasn’t. That belief solidified into reality for me as I grew older and heard the same phrases over and over again, with no one to tell me otherwise. By the time I was a teenager, I was convinced that I was the most worthless human being on the planet, simply because of my body’s shape.

By the time I was a teenager, I was convinced that I was the most worthless human being on the planet, simply because of my body’s shape.

During high school, I switched out of conventional schooling and into an alternative schooling environment where critical thinking was required. As I shifted into this new environment, I began to realize certain truths about the world, one of which is that no one can truly define beauty.  When a group of people look at a certain piece of art, not everyone is going to agree that it is or is not beautiful. And just like two paintings are never the same, two people can never be the same either. In that sense, we as the artists of our own bodies, cannot let others define if we are beautiful. If we believe that we are beautiful, then we simply are. No matter what other people say and no matter what other people may think, they aren’t you and they don’t live your life in your body.

If we look at it from that standpoint, there is no one who can say that you are not beautiful!

But it isn’t a mindset that can become yours overnight. For me, after a lifetime of being put down for simply looking how I look, it certainly wasn’t overnight. When we are told things our entire lives, especially as children, we tend to accept them as truth. If we expect there to be a sudden, drastic change in nearly a lifetime of conditioning, it will not happen.
You have to approach it gently. Start with simple things. If you look into the mirror and say, “I hate this part of my body,” Immediately pick another part of yourself that you like and give yourself some love. Another way of doing this is, if you look into the mirror and see an area you are unhappy with, place your hands on that area and send as much love as you can. After all, it carries you through your day, it make sure you can do all the things you want to do, why do you need to hate it?

Another exercise would be to try to stop comparing yourself to others. To go back to the painting analogy, you cannot place a Warhol next to a Picasso and expect them to be beautiful in the exact same way. In this sense, by comparing yourself to other people and expecting yourself to be just as “beautiful” as they are, you are automatically setting yourself up for failure. Praise your own unique and truly individual beauty simply for the fact that it is you and it is yours. Being gentle with yourself can be another small step toward a healthier body image. Try praising all the little things you do so well. Somehow, in our busy schedules, we all find the time to put ourselves down. Why can’t we use that time to bolster ourselves? After all, that might make the day a little easier to get through!

It’s the little things that will help you to change how you think about your own beauty and the beauty of others. Remember to be gentle to yourself, be kind to yourself, and seek happiness. No one deserves to be put down, especially not you.

About Jackie Kaden

Jackie Kaden is an artist in every sense of the word. She’s formally studied such subjects ranging from acting, photography and creative writing to figure-drawing, 2D design, painting, and digital media. In addition she is currently working on her second novel, I Hate Washing Spoons. Jackie plans to attend UCLA and study Design and Art History in hopes of becoming an Art Director for Film and Television. Her motto is: “Imagine yourself doing what you love and loving what you do, being happy from the inside out, experiencing your dreams wide awake, being creative, being unique, being you- changing things to the way you know they can be, living the life you always imagined.”

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