Narcissist lady standing at mirror and looking at reflection of her back. Young woman trying shirt on, hugging herself. Vector illustration for self love, self-esteem, female behavior concept

For most of my life I believed I wasn’t beautiful. This was the narrative I was given until it became internalized as my absolute truth.

I would never be the face on a beauty magazine. I would never be someone others aspired to look like. I was not the standard or even remotely close to the standard of beauty.

In my 40 years on this planet none of that has changed.

I became OK with it, as I’m sure so many of us have.

But, it’s not OK.

As I stare at my naked body in the mirror taking in the mixed terrain – the lumps and bumps, scars and stretch marks – I think to myself, “What about this isn’t beautiful?”

Hoping my skin was a different shade, my eyes another color, wishing for longer legs because this is a world not built for short people. Always wishing parts of my body were more than or less than or just altogether completely different.

Why did I accept that I was that bowl of porridge desperately wanting to be chosen because I was “just right”?

The fact that most  of us don’t fit the incredibly marginalized beauty standard doesn’t mean WE have to change. It means the beauty standard itself needs to change.

Inclusivity in and of itself is beautiful.

It means beauty isn’t just one thing that continues to make the rest of us feel inadequate. I don’t want to feel inadequate and I shouldn’t because I’m not. Neither are you.

Inclusivity means beauty is all the things.

But for this standard to change, we have to change our thought process. We have to put away that beauty-measuring yard stick we weaponize between ourselves and others. We need to appreciate the uniqueness of each person’s beauty instead of comparing it to our own – as if one type of beauty is superior or inferior to the other. Believe me, this is a competition no one ever wins.

Why are we so desperate to edit our own existence in an effort to duplicate another’s?

It’s not OK that anyone different should be made to feel “less than.” Aside from the sheer shortness of my legs, there is nothing “less than” about them compared to longer ones. My short legs are capable of many great things.

My body is capable of many great things. Probably some I have yet to discover.

My full-figured body tells the story of a person who is conquering her eating disorder. My body tells a story of my darker days when my mental illness wasn’t handled to the best of my abilities. My body tells the story of resilience, as my hair fell out more than once yet came back again.

Why can’t I be an example of a new standard of beauty? Why can’t you?

Laura Kaponer is a mental health advocate and social media blogger, as well as a volunteer with the local chapter of NAMI. #LauraKaponeris1in5 (as 1 in 5 Americans have a mental illness).