Growing up, I always wanted to be a size 8. That was the number of beauty back then and being beautiful gave you value.
The last time I saw that size was the summer after sixth grade when my body took off without me.
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We had moved to Maine. No longer living in the Southern California neighborhood, but a rural forest with few friends. We stayed inside most of the year.
As I ate and grew, I had no idea what was weight gain and what was just growing into a woman.
Being adored by boys was the goal of most young girls. After all, growing up to be adored by a man, married with children and still a size 8 meant you were worth something.
When my volleyball coach slid next to me on the bleachers one day, full of advice on weight loss, not for the sake of athletic ability but to rid me of what she called my “cottage cheese legs,” I took it in as truth.
In the depths of fighting an eating disorder, I weighed myself 10 to 20 times a day.
Each change on the scale marking the amount of worth I gained or lost with every ounce.
Every number told me something about myself and I believed it until my soul cried out, tired of the sickness.
Elevating the importance of clear skin, the right curves and of course thick, shiny hair seems to come natural in every generation.
It doesn't matter where you go in the world, there is a standard of beauty in every society.
When a Miss USA contestant pranced across the stage in a white bikini last weekend, the Twitter-verse proclaimed her as “average” or “normal” and having a “healthy figure”.
Some compared her to other contestants who were seen as “crazy skinny” and a “bag of bones.”
Did they miss that fact that they are STILL judging her on her body? She is still prancing around in a bikini with stilettos and at a size 4, she is not a “normal” size.
This is my question: Who set these standards? Who gets to decide that if our bodies turn out a certain way, we may be deemed beautiful?
When do we as women, moms, wives and friends achieve our value? When do we get to believe we are enough?
How do we change the conversation so our daughters will know that who they are is more than enough?
I propose we set a new standard for beauty. Let's start with women who hold up kindness and love and a deep faith.
We'll admire forgiveness and laughter and the strength it takes to get up when life knocks us down.
It isn't in a bottle or a dress size or even an ability, but it is planted firmly in the depths of character.
Instead of walking across a stage to be judged, perhaps we will find it in the rubble of a tornado as we sift through the broken lives of our neighbors.
The incredible worth of being climbed on by toddlers with wet finger painted chubby hands can't be marked on a judge’s scorecard.
May beauty be found and treasured in the foil casserole dish dropped off for a grieving family or the gently voice of an old friend on the phone. We'll add in late night chats, early morning coffee and enthusiastic hugs.
We find joy when we share a sunset, hold a hand and lift a spirit.
Above all, let's stop trying to measure worth by a pants size and make it something we do with and for each other.
Who gets to decide that if our bodies turn out a certain way, we may be deemed beautiful?