Uniquity is Universal


photo by Kate Haas

I snuggle up in a big, fluffy blanket between my two best friends. Our stomachs are full of pizza, and our nails are freshly painted. YouTube videos that could only be funny past 1 a.m. play in the background. They tell me they hate their curly hair, wish their stomachs were flatter and want to be just a couple inches taller. I don’t understand why they feel these things, and I tell them how perfect they are until the sun rises. 

They are not the only young girls wishing they could change themselves. According to now.org, 53% of 13-year-old girls are “unhappy with their bodies.” The percentage grows to 78% by the time they turn 17. 

My own relationship with my body has been a rollercoaster of contentment, confidence and contempt. Sometimes all three happen in one day. But over the years, I’ve become well-versed in not giving a crap about what anyone else thinks of me or my body. I’m happy with myself just the way I am, and I try to spread that attitude to my peers as much as I can. 

It’s heartbreaking to me how young people resort to dangerous means of weight loss, namely not eating, to achieve the ‘perfect body.’ I wish they could see that everyone is unique, and that in itself is beautiful. There shouldn’t be an ideal body type, skin tone, height, hair texture or anything else, because those traits are just effects of how your DNA was rearranged from your parents’. 

Body image today is a game of tug-of-war between social media displaying images of perfect bodies and the beauty industry trying to increase diversity in body size and race. Representation in the professional beauty world may continue to improve, but young people today care a lot more about what they see on social media than what they see in magazines and commercials. Many compare themselves to their Instagram feeds, but those images are often edited and not real. 

Teenagers still have a lifetime to live in their own body — there’s no replacing it or upgrading it, so they need to learn how to be happy with what they have. No one can ever really be happy if they’re constantly wishing to be skinnier or taller their whole life. Learning to love what you have can be a long process. Starting off with just appreciating clear skin or a nice new haircut can go a long way. 

Increased representation in the beauty world is necessary and empowering, but making an even bigger difference in the concept of body image and self-love is going to take us personally deciding to lift each other up and celebrate our differences. Young people have the power to make this decision and start a trend in body positivity that could last generations.