Sometimes I think life would be easier if I were prettier. If my face was more symmetrical or my teeth were straight or my skin was better. I literally thought, “This wouldn’t be happening if I were prettier” as a server in a restaurant continued on his way, oblivious to my repeated attempts to catch his eye for a beer refill. And some things in life would be easier. There are many studies that show that strangers are more likely to rate a physically attractive person as more intelligent, or nice, or a bunch of other positive things. (It’s called the physical attractiveness stereotype, or the halo effect, and 30 Rock’s take on it is pretty hilarious.)
But…who cares? I’m not a model or an actress or anyone else who might rely on looks to get by. Why should it matter at all? I have now been married to the most incredible man I know for more than six months, and we are surrounded by amazing people who love us. They don’t love me because of how I look. My little sisters wouldn’t love me more if I was thinner or had a perfect smile. There would not have been more love at our wedding if I was more traditionally pretty and had a perfectly toned back. Maybe total strangers would be more likely to think highly of me, but I am not looking for the love of total strangers.
It is hard to shake the societal standards of beauty. I try to shake them off every day, which can be exhausting, but it’s also worthwhile. I don’t want to look at my wedding photos and think, “I wish my arms were more toned” instead of “Oh my God, we look so happy.” I want the women in my life to see an example of someone comfortable in their own skin so they can be more comfortable in theirs. When we have kids, I want to teach them to love themselves and see their intrinsic value, and not teach them to measure their worth based on aesthetic standards.
That starts with me. It is hard. Sometimes it feels like a losing battle. But I don’t ever want to give up on it. Because I am beautiful, because I am happy and capable and creating an amazing life for myself which has nothing to do with how I look or how much I weigh. I appreciate my eyes that let me see the beauty of the world, my arms that let me hold the people that I love, my belly that enjoys a good laugh and holds me up for a 5:03 plank, the legs that carry me over many miles as we explore new places (and I finish half-marathons). I am grateful for the blood that flows through my veins and animates my limbs, the lungs that contract and expand and allow me to experience the world for another second, the billions of components that work together to keep me alive for another minute, hour, day.
I am alive and I cannot think of anything more beautiful than that.