First you are born, and everyone says it.
Most of them probably don't mean it. Let's be honest: you look like a prune crossed with an English bulldog. But the people who made you, and the people who made them, believe it. Plus, you don't know any better, or care.
You get older. A different word is thrown around. A diminutive word -- "cute." Cute does not stand the test of time. It doesn't encompass, in the English language, anyway, the whole of a human being. But you take it. You know, dimly, that it means something good. Anyway, you still don't really care. You plan to grow up and become a Disney princess, or at least a mermaid.
Elementary school. Your arms and legs grow disproportionately to the rest of you. So do your teeth. You get glasses. The people who made you aren't too concerned about dressing you like everybody else, but you start to notice. Without realizing it, you're already starting to categorize yourself.
In high school, other things start growing, but boobs are not two of them. You don't fit the mould -- you never will. You aren't a cheerleader, a sporty girl, or the kind of girl who gets a boyfriend in the first week of September. One crushing fall afternoon, you finally accept, sitting on your bed with your yearbook, the real truth about you.
Such an un-feminist moment. You're embarrassed to admit it, even two decades later. You'd never dream of saying such a thing to your daughter; to any girl that age; to any girl, period. But on that day, you believe it sincerely, earnestly. All four letters of it, branding you for life.
Seventeen comes, then 18. Some brave boy mumbles something, here or there. At 20 you hear a whispered rumour: so-and-so likes your body. You cling to this desperately, like a deflating life raft in shark-infested waters. But no one else concurs, and you decide he was drunk or high.
Twenty-one, 23, 27. You get boyfriends, nice ones, who say it until it no longer matters. You get lovers who say it and then turn the other way, leaving you alone on a dance floor, or crying hot tears onto your steering wheel in the bar parking lot. By then you've figured out why. You aren't stupid. You might not have 20/20 vision, but you can still see.
You meet someone who says it again and again. You marry him, hoping it will stick. It doesn't. You blame him. You blame your body. You blame your mother. You blame Cosmo. You tell yourself it doesn't matter. You make lists of affirmations. You treat yourself to nice face creams, like the magazines say.
Thirty-six. You're alone at home. Too lazy and uninspired to get dressed, you're wearing a towel, but it makes breathing uncomfortable. So, for the most unexciting of reasons, you are topless.
You're trying to meditate, but your mind wanders, and you imagine how you would feel, in this moment, to be under the gaze of someone who matters. You do your usual cringe, feel your usual instinct to cover up. You decide that maybe, if 25 people told you, this would change. Maybe 100 people. Also, if you were thinner, bustier, 22, on the cover of Glamour, in a French-but-really-Hollywood film and the face of Clinique. Maybe.
But probably not. Under the continued watch of the imaginary person, you actually hear yourself apologize.
This is what wakes you up.
You know, in this moment, that 100,000 people could tell you and you'd never believe it. That it's like the difference between shooting heroin or creating your own serotonin, not that this is a medically accurate analogy. For the first time, you understand that it won't come from lists of affirmations, or ashtanga yoga, or expensive makeup. It will only come from your heart. And it never has.
For the first time, you stare straight into the face of the fear, the anger, and the sadness of a lifetime spent believing, knowing, breathing unworthiness. Of telling yourself, to your core, that you don't measure up. You weren't supposed to believe such things -- what would Oprah say? -- so you kind of skipped over them, hiding them under clothes and eyeliner, pretending it didn't matter.
You get up and get dressed. Oddly, you don't pay much attention, tonight, to which boots to wear, or the un-flatness of your stomach, or the lines around your eyes. You see how these have always been excuses, and that "solving" them would solve nothing.
You meet a friend for a drink. She's one of the most attractive people you know. You tell her what you've been thinking about. She echoes every thought.
That night, you dream you're in a forest with one of your heroes. The trees are shedding pink leaves, and the light is beautiful. You show him a photo of the two of you together. And you wake up, laughing.
The Golden-Globe winner told HuffPost Live how her father shaped her perspective on beauty: Beauty was very much on my mind. I had a father that would -- we would look up at billboards and he would say, "That's one version of beauty. You're another version of beauty. And she's a version of beauty. And that girl? She's another version of beauty." He always said that beauty came from within, and as much as you're younger and you're [sarcastically] like, "Yeah, beauty comes from within" -- no, beauty does come from within. I've met some of the most beautiful people, and sadly their heart is just not smiling, and that destroys it all. And then other people that aesthetically aren't considered as beautiful are the most gorgeous people I've ever seen in my life.
After the media focused on her alleged weight gain in September 2012, Gaga hit back at critics by baring her body in photographs, sharing her struggles with an eating disorder, and inviting her fans to join her in a "body revolution."
Adele says she tries not to worry about her body image and doesn't want to be a "skinny minnie." "The first thing to do is be happy with yourself and appreciate your body -- only then should you try to change things about yourself."
The actress took to Twitter to say, "I'm not trying to be hot. I'm just trying to be a good actress and entertain people."
In a powerful 2012 piece for Jezebel, the comedian responded to people who criticized her appearance: I grew up hard and am still hard and I don't care. I did not choose this face or this body and I have learned to live with it and love it and celebrate it and adorn it with tremendous drawings from the greatest artists in the world and I feel good and powerful like a nation that has never been free and now after many hard won victories is finally fucking free. I am beautiful and I am finally fucking free.
After the March 2012 frenzy around Judd's "puffy face," the actress fought back in The Daily Beast, calling the media out for making women's bodies "a source of speculation, ridicule, and invalidation, as if they belong to others."
The "Orange Is The New Black" actress wrote a powerful essay for Glamour about her struggles with self-esteem and journey to body love. She's now dedicated to making sure all body types are seen on-screen: "Ideally, I want to see all beauties, all shapes, all sizes, all skin tones, all backgrounds represented in my profession. Now that I am blessed to be that reflection I was once looking for, I’m making a promise to speak out for that little girl that I used to be."
Tate's essay about body image and motherhood not only broke the Internet; it has sparked a movement of "moms who stay in the picture."
The fitness blogger and personal trainer posted a poignant video in response to online commenters' criticism of her physique. "In this video, you will experience what it feels like to be constantly bombarded with outrageous negativity," Ho wrote in a blog post introducing the video. "You will see what it looks like to have your self-esteem stripped away. You will read real comments left by real people. You will see me struggle with my own appearance."
The "Precious" actress had the most incredible comeback to cruel comments about her weight.
On her informed, thoughtful blog "The Beheld," Autumn writes about beauty, body image, appearance and her two -- that's right, two -- mirror fasts.
Gruys went on a year-long mirror fast during which she did not study her reflection in mirrors or other reflective surfaces, or look at photographs of herself.
"I am always in support of someone who is willing and comfortable in their own skin enough to embrace it," the singer said in a recent interview.
At the 2012 New Yorker Festival, the magazine's TV critic, Emily Nussbaum, asked Lena Dunham, producer, creator and star of the hit HBO show "Girls," why Dunham is naked in so many scenes. Dunham responded, "I realized that what was missing in movies for me was the presence of bodies I understood." She said she plans to live until she is 105 and show her thighs every day.
Chung responded to critics who suggested that her slight frame made her a bad role model for young women, saying: "Just because I exist in this shape doesn't mean that I'm, like, advocating it."
The NYU student started the amazing Body Love Blog, where she posted this picture of herself and wrote an open letter to those who feel entitled to shame others for the size or look of their bodies.
This 5-foot-tall, 200-pound singer spoke openly about her weight to The Advocate, saying, "I feel sorry ... for people who've had skinny privilege and then have it taken away from them. I have had a lifetime to adjust to seeing how people treat women who aren't their idea of beautiful and therefore aren't their idea of useful, and I had to find ways to become useful to myself."
In 2013 interview with Parade, Kaling said that she was tired of being discussing her appearance: "I always get asked, 'Where do you get your confidence?' I think people are well meaning, but it's pretty insulting. Because what it means to me is, 'You, Mindy Kaling, have all the trappings of a very marginalized person. You're not skinny, you're not white, you're a woman. Why on earth would you feel like you're worth anything?'"
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