I couldn’t remember why I did it, but it must be after an argument I had with my mother on whether I should be wearing a certain beauty product, so that I would still look beautiful when I’m old. I told her that beauty wouldn’t even matter when we’re old, and it was our footprints we leave in this world that matter. She snapped and we ended up not talking for several days.
Many girls and women even believe their physical appearance determines their worth. They think it is the thing they can offer to carve a decent place in the world. I was like this too, until I discovered a long time ago there are a lot more a woman can offer to thrive and advance in life.
Having a brown complexion, I am often told to wear sunscreen, use an umbrella, and wear long sleeves when I go out so that I won’t get any darker. I was forbidden from participating in outdoor activities, which I love the most. I was not allowed to go to the beach after 7 a.m. and before 4 p.m. So many restricting rules only to keep a fair skin.
But now that I’ve had my awakening, I don’t bother with these rules anymore. I’m not afraid of getting a tan, and I delight in breathing freedom in the 8 a.m. air. While I am aware that my physical appearance may seem to be important at first, it is my words that make people see who I really am.
I have watched my friends starve themselves and do excessive physical exercises in order to get in shape. I can understand feeling that you have to have a perfect body to be likeable. I was once one of them, until I realized that no matter how hard I tried, I would never get Gigi Hadid’s body. And I also realized that unless I make money from my body, I have zero responsibility to have a perfect one.
Of course exercise and balanced diet are important – I’m not encouraging you to be a couch potato. But the obsession to have an ideal body shape as represented by the media needs to change.
Over time, I have learned to embrace my own look without trying to manipulate it too much. I have started to embrace my pear-shaped body and my often-shamed butt. I don’t bother wearing soaring heels to mask my 153cm stature. I still wear make-ups and skin care products; I still do yoga; and I am a vegan. But everything I do is solely for the sake of my body’s wellbeing. There are no targets, no one to impress. I love and accept my body, therefore I take good care of it. People’s opinions and media depictions don’t matter because they don’t live in this body. So as long as it is healthy and I am happy, why should I go any further solely to follow what is perceived as ideal?
Yes, it is easier said than done and I can only say this after I’ve conquered most of my insecurities regarding my physical appearance. Some of these insecurities still linger, sometimes playing tricks with my self-esteem. But know that beauty does not only come from the outside. It is the way you talk, the way you perceive the world, the way you deal with your problems, the way you get back up after every failure, the way you radiate positivity – these are what make you special. So, if someone rejects you only because of your physical appearance, believe me, it’s their loss. Because you are so much more than that.
Oprah Winfrey said it best: “Listen to your values, goals, and ambitions, rather than worrying about what will make you look good.”
Pritania Astari is currently doing her co-assistant duty in the Medical Faculty of Universitas Gadjah Mada. She despises any kind of stereotypes especially when it comes to women, holds a special interest in feminism issues, and is a yoga enthusiast and a husky lover (though she sadly does not own one).