I think what made it so hard for me to be open and honest about this is because I wanted to believe that I was not affected by beauty standards set by society. But deep down I knew that I actually was.
Pretending to not be sad about how I looked wasn’t easy, but it was easier than thinking about the consequences of letting other people know that I actually cared. I thought if they knew that I was so ashamed of something so “superficial” then my arguments on liberating women, bending social constructs, and especially body positivity would become invalid, for I too am part of the problem and therefore not reliable enough as a feminist. I thought being a feminist meant being a hundred percent carefree and unapologetic of this insecurity and there was no room for fear.
I realize now that I was wrong. Being insecure isn’t why I was part of the problem. It wasn’t the fact that I had insecurities that made me not a “real” feminist. Instead, it was forgetting that feminists are all just regular human beings with fears and insecurities of their own.
The media and society tend to portray feminists as these strong as hell people who are independent, loud, proud, and fearless all the time, but that’s not completely true. I know that many of us are not like that, including me. Being body-positive and being a feminist shouldn’t mean that people have to cover up the fact that they are insecure and pretend that they aren’t at all, but making it acceptable to own up to it.
As part of this self-reflection, I decided to start owning to my insecurity, which is my body. Step number one was to wear a dress I really liked but never wore outside my house because it showed my fat thighs. I decided to wear it to the mall, but I also packed back up pants in my bag if I ever got too uncomfortable.
As soon as I stepped outside the car and walked from the parking lot to the lobby, I was faced with a lot of looks, and most of them weren’t nice. I went to the rest room after walking for about 10 minutes because I just couldn’t handle it.
In the restroom I was faced with many looks like before, but this time I witnessed for myself the power of genuine support from other women. This group of girls, probably the same age as me, went in, saw me through the mirror, and nodded in approval. One of them even gave me a thumbs-up and mouthed, “You go girl.” I almost cried, but because I was wearing non-waterproof mascara, I decided not to. So I smiled back, and immediately stepped outside and got on with my day.
Self-love is not an overnight thing, and it’s not like when you start realizing you’re a feminist you instantly become the badass people think all feminists are and should be. It’s not okay to think like that, because by doing so, it makes feminism seem like that special college club that only people who meet certain criteria can join in, when, in reality, feminists are diverse. They have their own personal struggles that some might think make them “not feminist enough”.
Instead of judging them, we should support them in their effort to be honest and to be open with their fears, insecurities, and other personal battles, just like what those girls did for me. Instead of seeing insecurities as a weakness, I think we should make it our strength as feminists, to help build each other up and grow support for one another.
I used to think that being a feminist means not needing help from others, as it would mean that I was weak. Now I understand that facing insecurities isn’t a battle I have to win on my own. I used to think that admitting my body makes me insecure means I’m not a ‘real feminist’. I admit that my appearance still makes me insecure as of this moment, but I’m working on a journey to self-acceptance.
Now I understand that we should embrace the fact that insecurities exist, instead of being afraid of what it means for them to exist. That way, we can start to love ourselves because of our insecurities, not in spite of it. Realizing that we have the power to deal with it and being humble enough to receive and/or give support to those who need our help are qualities that make us a stronger people and better feminists. We can all do it!
Sandra is a junior in college just trying to survive this one hell of a semester. She believes in equal rights for all beings, humans and non-humans alike, and always asks ‘What would Beyoncé do?’ when in doubt.