My Body & My Choice
How many times have you felt like you didn’t meet a certain beauty standard? I wanted to share a personal journey with you because I know that someone reading this has gone through their own battle with beauty.
In high school, I was rather slim and ate whatever I wanted. Exercise was what people who had nothing better to do with their time did or so I thought. It certainly wasn’t for me.
After graduation, I attended Florida State University and my dorm room was across the street from Krispy Kreme, Taco Bell and Burger King and at the time, I was in heaven. Honey, I could see the hot doughnut sign from the building and it always called my name. Doughnuts and cheese quesadillas with hot salsa because I love spice and whoppers with cheese were all a part of my nutritional value chart. I knew the menus and the prices and over time, I made friends at all three restaurants. Even today, I believe that “friends in high places” equates to friends who oversee the food.
Between the three restaurants, it was like the old tv show Cheers (millenials, you won’t remember that one:); however everyone knew my name. And the gym, well no one knew me there.
After about 6 months of frequent visitations to my restaurants, I returned home for a visit and I saw a few people that I had gone to highschool with. One of my old classmates said: “What happened to you”? What he meant was, wow, you’ve increased in size. What I did recognize quickly was that he was not paying me a compliment.
And admittedly, it hurt my feelings.
Had I really changed that much? Did I look different? I hadn’t even noticed. I was too busy responding to the hot doughnut sign. After all, when the sign lit up, I felt like they had personally requested me to come over and I don’t like to disappoint. Funny right!
After replaying my classmate’s commentary in my head, I began to take a look in the mirror and began to recognize that some of my clothes didn’t fit as well. Maybe I had gained some weight but did this mean that I was any less beautiful? I was in college in pursuit of higher education and I had left home to better myself and represent our hometown well. All my classmate saw was a girl who had experienced freshman fifteen (or maybe a little more in my case) but the point remains. The donuts, you remember. But I digress.
A few months passed and nothing changed about my eating habits, only my thoughts of weight gain and body image. This was now something that I was paying attention to. I was noticing people who I thought were smaller than me and reflecting more. One day, I had a doctor’s appointment and it was discovered that I had a lump in my breast. It was a scare indeed. They told me that I was a high risk patient and that I had to return regularly for checkups. And while sitting in the doctor’s office I resolved that I wanted to become physically fit so that if I had to fight any health concern, I would be in the best possible shape to do so.
Dare I say, I entered the gym? Well I did. I also began to examine my eating habits and began releasing meat from my diet. I felt good about the choices that I was making for me and no one else. From the time that I began working out, I felt better about me. I was engaging in a constant act offsetting and reaching goals and it felt so good. I stopped comparing my body to the bodies of other young ladies my age. I also realized that as I worked out, I said goodbye to the skinny girl from high school. That wasn’t my body type. I had to learn to love the frame that I was given and eventually I did.
But more importantly, I was taking good care of me.
That was a long time ago and I have maintained my healthy lifestyle ever since. I’ve been a pescatarian (fish is the only meat that I consume) for over 20 years.
It pains me that we are judged so critically by our exterior and through worldly perspective, it would seem that all of the amazing things that we do such as the pursuit of education, service to our communities and even wealth building come in second to societal imposed standards of beauty. What if beauty were defined by our souls and what we give to the world? What if our social media following was dictated by how many good deeds we did and not how well we could twerk? What would the numbers look like then? I’m sure very different. And while it requires some degree of talent, has twerking saved the world yet? No.
I say all of that to say, if you’re reading this and you have ever felt less than because of the way the world has defined beauty, I’m sorry. It hurts. But the good news is that you don’t have be a victim. We hold the power to take a stand for ourselves and all of the women and girls of the world. All of my work is to this end.
Simply put, if we don’t feel beautiful and love ourselves first, we will never realize our full potential in every other area of our lives. We must know that we are enough. Recognize how beautiful you are. You were wonderfully made and if there is something that you are not happy with, make it better but most importantly, do the work on the inside and do it only for you. Only you have the power to define your beauty. All my love. ❤️
Ardre Orie, Author|Film Director|Advocate
P.S. Join me and countless other ladies at The Beautiful Mile and let’s take steps together to redefine beauty.