Auntie SparkNotes: Step Away From the Ladymag
Auntie's right, Sparklers: it's time to put the magazines away and just shake what yo momma gave ya!—Sparkitors
Dear Auntie Sparknotes,
How do I learn to love myself? I have tried to become more confident with myself, specifically my body, but nothing I do seems to work. Body-wise I am a slightly overweight/curvy, tall, blonde girl. I know I shouldn't care about the skinny girls in fashion magazines or such, but I can't help but notice them and I find myself comparing me to them even though I know it's bad for my sanity. Even when it's just normal girls on the street, I feel very aware of my size and find myself wishing I could have a skinny body like theirs. Even the clothes I like in stores seem to be, for the most part, more suited for other girls.
I try not to obsess about it, but I am by far the largest (in both height and width) out of any of my friends. I have a large chest and I always feel so big around everyone, especially my petite friends. Sometimes I can look in the mirror and really like how I look, but the second I step into public places I feel very self-conscious and not so awesome any more. How can I learn to like myself for who I am? I try to work out at the gym and go hiking to lose some weight, but I realize that I shouldn't try to kill myself, and that genetically I will never be like those other girls. But I can't seem to find myself beautiful, and all of the actresses and female models I respect and admire are all skinny. How can I learn to love my curves?
There are so, so many ways to answer to this question, Sparkler. But since we have to start somewhere, let's begin with this:
Stop looking at magazines.
Please, please stop. At least for a little while. Because as entertaining as ladymags can be, they're also shallow, and stupid, and full of ridiculous lies, and they're specifically designed to make you feel terrible about yourself—because that's what keeps them in business. After all, if you don't come away from the latest issue feeling insecure about your hair, your body, your cosmetic routine, and your ability to attract dudes, then why would you ever pick up the next issue in order to read about The Underused Adverbs That Drive Men Wild and Ten Easy Ways To Ensmallen Your Butt?
And when it comes to the images of skinny girls inside, of course you're going to compare yourself and come up short. Not because you're less beautiful than them, but because they aren't real. Every photo you see, from the editorial spreads to the advertisements, is the product of hours of makeup, angles, lighting, and photoshopping. Nobody looks like the models you see in magazines—not even the models themselves. (And if you don't believe me, then look at this. And this. And this. Oh, and watch this! It's INSANE.)
So, that's step one. And then, once you've stopped bombarding your poor eyeballs with pictures of women who've been airbrushed to look like human Bratz dolls, do this: Stand in front of a mirror, in your underwear, and check yourself out. In order to appreciate your body, you've got to really look at it, and keep on looking until you can list ten things about your physical appearance that are beautiful. Seriously, list them—anything from the curve of your waist, to a favorite freckle, to the strong calves you've got from hiking—and don't stop until you're done. And when you start comparing yourself to skinny celebrities, or your petite friends, or random thin people you see on the street, remember your list. Those are all the things, unique to you, that make you gorgeous.
Yes, this is going to be a challenge at first. After all, you're fighting against a lifetime of exposure to narrow, unattainable beauty ideals; the media is deeply invested in perpetuating the idea that a) the most important thing you can be is pretty, and b) the only way to be pretty is to be thin. But neither of these things is true. And the good news is, it gets easier. Over the years, you'll start to notice that gorgeous women come in all shapes and sizes. And that even people who aren't thin or conventionally attractive are still loved and appreciated and successful for qualities that have nothing to do with washboard abs. And that your curves might have felt weird on your teenage body, but as a woman, they make you a smokin' hot stone cold fox. (You don't have to take my word for it; just ask Marilyn.)
And please remember, too, that you're not alone. Appearance-related insecurities are something every teenager experiences, no matter what they look like. (For every letter I get from someone who's unhappy about being bigger, I get one from someone who's miserable because she's skinny.) Trust me, by the time you're 22, you'll be both exponentially hotter AND more comfortable in your own skin than you are right now.
Oh, and about those skinny celebs you "respect and admire"? For the sake of your own sanity (and mine!), make it a point to also have some role models who are famous for more than just having long legs and pretty faces. There are millions of amazing women on this planet, and the vast majority of them have accomplished things that are a lot more important and impressive than looking good in a bikini. And when you're talking about women worth admiring, you owe it to yourself—and to the world in general—to look for them in places other than the pages of Vogue.
Got something to add? Tell us in the comments! And to get in touch with Auntie, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or check her out on Facebook.