The Size and Shape of Beauty

I used to be chubby. Not fat, but fat enough to fall into the chubby category.

I hated the way I looked. I was chubby and round-faced, with geeky glasses and the social skills of a potato. It felt like I had the body of a potato as well. For the longest time during my late teenage years I felt like the ugly duckling in my family and in my circle of friends.

My chubby self and a close friend of mine from way back

Back then most of what was considered beautiful was skinny, and the media made sure to cement that perception. In our family of then three daughters, its influence was apparent: we would have salad only dinners and take turns running on this beaten old treadmill. To this day my sisters and my mother would immediately point out if any of us seemed to be gaining weight. Every time any of my sisters and I meet after not seeing each other for a while we would ask each other if we’ve gained weight. It’s almost a reflex.

I remember my mother in various stages of her life, whining or complaining about her weight. I remember when I was a child watching her get dressed, and her telling me how big her stomach had gotten from bearing 4 children. I remember her telling me just a few weeks ago while we were shopping how big she had already gotten and that nothing in the department store fit her anymore.

As a child I saw how big of a deal a woman’s size and weight was, how much it affected her perception of herself and her beauty. And once adolescence kicked in, there’s not a moment in my life that I can remember wherein my own body weight, size and shape was not constantly on my mind.

From my preteen years through to my post-college years I struggled with my weight. I constantly envied all the thin, “pretty” girls at my school– the ones who owned every room they walked into. The ones who would get picked for school pageants, the “crush ng bayan” who would become prom queen or star of the night. I kept thinking, If only I would lose weight, I’d be just like them. I’d be beautiful. I’d be confident. Every time I’d walk into a room heads would turn like they do in those teen movies and novels, and I’d be the most beautiful girl in the room.

Eventually I did lose weight. And I did feel more confident about myself. But there was still something amiss.

It wasn’t until a few years later that I realized– there was still something wrong with the way I saw beauty, and myself. I still envied other girls, the girls in the spotlight, the girls who grabbed attention, the “most beautiful girl in the room”. And I was already stick thin by then.

It was thanks to a certain pug that I got past this line of thinking.

The Eye of the Beholder

You’re probably thinking, “What now? How did a pug suddenly become the solution to a woman’s struggle with weight and self-image?” Let me explain.

I like dogs. I like ‘em a lot. But I looooove pugs.

How can you not love that face?? (vetstreet)

I love pugs with their cute little faces and grunting noises and curly tails. I love pugs for their playfulness and feistiness. I love pugs because for me they’re just the right size– big enough to walk without worrying they’ll get run over, small enough to set on my lap and cuddle. I love pugs– but some people don’t like them, what with their smushed up and wrinkly faces, and annoying yaps.

Other people like labradors better, or golden retrievers. Some like mini pinschers while others love bulldogs and pitbulls. No one is forced or influenced to like just one type of dog or one size of dog, and no one is expected to. Every dog is appreciated for their uniqueness, and every dog lover has his or her reason for loving a certain type of dog.

And i know it seems odd (and maybe even insulting) to liken women’s beauty with the unique appearance of dogs but that’s how I understood– we all have a unique beauty to us. Every girl is beautiful, just beautiful in different ways. And everyone sees beauty differently too. It doesn’t matter how fat or thin or chubby or skinny I was or would be. I’m not supposed to please everybody with the way I look. Being “the most beautiful girl in the room” was a myth. What really matters is that I am happy with myself. And the people who did love me really loved me for me.

I’ve been chubby, I’ve been skinny, now I’m somewhere in between. Our bodies change as our lives change and we can’t deny it. We may try to slow it down, but in the end we really can’t stop our bodies from naturally changing.

I’m sure I’ll continue to struggle with my weight. I’m sure I’ll continue to get unsolicited remarks about how I’ve lost or gained weight. And I’m sure people will associate those remarks with how beautiful they think I am, or how beautiful I think I am. But they shouldn’t. WE shouldn’t. Because beauty, true beauty, is unchanging. No matter our size or shape or weight, beauty will remain if we allow it to remain in us. Beauty is not just seen with our eyes but with our minds. If we perceive something as beautiful no matter what, it will always be beautiful.

Always remember that you are beautiful.

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