Male or female, there’s no denying the existence of beauty standards created and nurtured by the media. From how your eyebrows should be shaped to the width of your waist, an ‘ideal appearance’ exists for every part of our bodies. Many of these ideas are shaped by advertisements, photoshop, and popular culture. And despite the many good-natured and well-aimed campaigns to promote self-love and reject these so-called beauty standards, they still resonate with certain populations.
Personally, I grew into my teenage years right as the coveted ‘thigh-gap’ became a pillar essential to beauty and good looks. In 8th grade, I’d spend what seemed like forever in front of the mirror standing with my legs planted just far enough apart to still look natural but also to achieve a visible gap between them. Little did I know, whether or not you had a thigh gap is actually largely determined by the bone structure of your hips. Some people have it naturally, and for others, like myself, it’s literally not in our bones. Time went on, my weight fluctuated, and my legs began to touch, (the horror!) So fearful that I wouldn’t fulfill this beauty standard, I actually started to only wear skirts and dresses throughout most of High school so that I wouldn’t reveal that my legs actually touched. (Crazy, I know!) I mean, I can’t even imagine putting in that much effort each day now, lol, sorry everyone.
In 2015, I drove cross-country and moved to Oregon. In the craze of getting an entirely unfurnished house into functional condition, I never bought a full length mirror. I found myself leaving the house quicker because I wasn’t busy criticizing my outfit in front of a mirror and changing into 3 different things for 20 minutes. I felt more confident in my clothes because I hadn’t given myself the opportunity not to. I began to—gasp—wear pants again! Revolutionary, I know. However, at the time I was thrilled about it. I became more comfortable with myself and accepted the things about my body that I hadn’t for so long. I decided to appreciate what my limbs could do for me, like walk or run instead of punishing myself for not replicating what I saw in magazines. I focused more on what clothes made me comfortable, and dressed for myself. I became more confident and sure of myself.
I made a relatively small change to my world, but it played a huge role in reframing the way I thought about myself. Removing a simple long mirror from my bedroom granted me the space to cultivate a new healthy relationship and appreciation for my body. Of course, I still use mirrors all the time, and I have definitely caught myself out in public in a couple interesting outfits without a full-length at home. But, despite that, it’s still a pretty great trade-off in my mind!
By Abby Cole