Going beyond the cookie cutter

Sometimes being different is better

When I was 10 years old, my great grandmother would tell me “you’re so tall, you could model, if only you were a little thinner.”

I spent years of my life staring at models, wanting to look exactly like them. They seemed perfect; with toned bodies that by some miracle looked good in everything they wore.

I was never the shape that modeling agencies sought out. I wasn’t naturally skinny, or athletic and I felt like it definitely showed. I went to high school in an upper middle class neighborhood and everywhere I turned were girls who looked like they belonged on a sorority’s Instagram page.

It was strange to grow into my body knowing I wouldn’t look like that, unless I dieted or went to the gym for hours every day. I applaud people who do this – it takes hard work and dedication, but I didn’t do anything like that, I would just stare at myself in the mirror and wish away the fat.

More than half of teenaged girls are, or think they should be, on a diet, according to studies done by Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders. About 3 percent of these teens go too far and become anorexic or bulimic.

Even now, I sometimes find myself in front of a mirror wishing bikinis were for me. But my mother always tells me they don’t flatter my figure.

There’s a huge amount of pressure placed on girls to have the ideal body, which makes it much harder to accept yourself when you’re not.

My younger sister is only 13 and I can see her going through the same struggle as she slowly comes to understand that she wasn’t blessed with natural skinniness.

Today, many models, most recently Iskra Lawrence in the #AerieREAL movement, have been going beyond the cookie cutter model image, telling us it’s okay to love what we have and to never let it hold us back. The campaign changed the lingerie industry, changing the focus from the Victoria’s Secret red-hot sex appeal to a more natural, accepting beauty.

This gradual change in the modeling industry is refreshing and I hope it continues. I want my kids to grow up being themselves, not comparing their bodies to what they see in the media surrounding them.

I still struggle in the pursuit to fit this persona, this ideal body type. I’ve definitely made huge strides for improvement and surrounded myself with people who don’t care that I’m not a size zero; they just want me to be happy.

I go shopping with my friends who tell me I can wear whatever I want, as long as I feel confident in it. Sometimes it’s hard to look in the mirror with that mindset, but having people to cheer me on always helps me get out and flaunt what I have.

I can’t guarantee that every day you’ll feel flawless. Some days are better than others.

I still have “fat days” or feel bloated and don’t want to face the world, but I power through for the good days, the days I feel like I’m beautiful and can take on anything.

I hope to have more of the latter and for me; it lies in both what I wear and how I wear it. I don’t always feel like putting everything I’ve got into my appearance and I shouldn’t have to.

Some days are for comfort and some are for style. I wouldn’t say I'm confident in sweatpants, but I definitely don’t care what people think of me. How I look every day isn’t a top priority, I want my success to be reflected in the work I do rather than solely based on how I appear.

Lindsay Gilder is an assistant features editor and can be reached at lindsay.gilder@ubspectrum.com