I Am Not My Body

Photo by Flicker

Photo by Flicker

I had this crazy experience once: I realized I didn’t have enough time in the day to put on make-up, eat, drive an hour to college, sit through classes, complete homework, work a full shift, and sleep eight hours all in one day. As a consequence, I had to cut things out of my daily plan to make time for what mattered. My first period teacher let me eat breakfast in class, saving me an extra 20 to 30 minutes a day. Other classes were simple or had down-time, so I could do homework during those periods, which cut-down on after-hours busy work. Six or seven hours of sleep was usually plenty—who needs sleep when you've got an exam in the morning? Although it affected my health and grades least directly, the following routine-cut was the one that impacted me the most, and not in a good way at first: I stopped wearing make-up, and stopped accessorizing and wearing cutesy clothing, favoring comfort (and extra time) over trend.

One evening, after what felt like weeks of resentment, my (ex) boyfriend and I got into an argument again, one that exploded out of seemingly nowhere. I wish I still had the three-page text message to relay exactly what he said, but it simmered down to these key opinions:

  • Your lack of form is not attractive.
  • You need to wear make-up to be attractive.

I had not changed who I was as a person: I was still the smart, ambitious, curious, free spirit I had always been. But covering up my breasts—my sex appeal—and wearing no make-up to “enhance” my feminine features, lowered my worth as a woman in his eyes. Apparently, to be a woman—a desirable woman—I had to look the part, simply being myself was never what attracted this boy after all.

I am not my body. No woman is. We are the levels of intricate beauty within ourselves that make us into the kind, passionate, driven, and beautiful creatures that we are. No amount of make-up or form-fitting clothing will ever change who we are or what we stand for as individuals. Being attractive doesn't mean you have a slender figure, large breasts, a full bum, or even a pretty face; the most attractive aspect about every woman is her true character, the woman she can only be when she is confident in herself. If a man can’t respect you for who you are without “enhancements,” then he doesn’t deserve you at all; but if you can’t be confident in yourself without the make-up and pretty clothes, then who are you to yourself? 

When I stopped wearing make-up and became comfortable with myself in my own skin, is the moment I finally felt free. There's so much happiness, confidence, and freedom from worry of others' judgement found in being who I am. Life is more than what I'm going to wear or how I'm going to display myself to others. When I think about the question “who am I?” and what it means to be a woman, I like to listen to “Try” by Colbie Caillat. Her lyrics are inspiring for the simple reason that she’s encouraging her listeners to reject the standards and stereotypes other people set for women. Being true to yourself is the most empowering experience you can ever accomplish in your life.  I've come to truly know who I am; I don’t let an image or idea make me try to be someone or something I’m not. It is time that women reject society’s standards of what a woman should be and what she should look like; not all women are made the same.

Society has set the standard for women since creation. We are seen as inferior, weak, pretty little things, which must dress-up, play nice, be docile, and, in recent years, be sexy and a representation of desire. I’m not saying that a woman subjects herself to these preconceived ideals by wearing make-up or formfitting clothing, but it is concerning that women of todays society feel like they can’t be seen in public without make-up or dressing up. Our need to put on a facade for others, to meet an ideal image that strangers have created for us, is a clear sign that we are still holding ourselves to a standard that we are our bodies and what people see on the outside will dictate who we are on the inside. This couldn’t be farther from the truth, and I can prove it.

Every day I go to work without make-up on, I do not gussy-myself-up for the sake of customers or even my bosses, and you know what? People still talk to me, they still like me, they still compliment me on a job well done, and customers even come back and ask me how I’m doing. I’ve made acquaintances and developed friendships without any make-up to hide behind. I feel as though my confidence in myself is what allows people to see me as a person, and not just as a cookie-cutter ideal of who I should be as a woman. 

If my example isn’t enough, then I refer again to Colbie Caillat. Her Vevo video for “Try” has reached 45,997,264 views on YouTube and is still counting. Women want to see a change. Women want to be free of the burden of society’s standards for them. Caillat’s lyrics speak to our souls: we want to be true to ourselves and not hide behind make-up and clothing. We want to be recognized as important and beautiful for just being who we are.

Next time you go out, don’t feel like you have to take a shower first, that you need to put make-up on to look presentable, that you should wear a blouse and a skirt instead of jeans or sweats, you’re just going to the grocery store: who do you have to impress? Why should you have to impress? Just go get what you need and come back home to enjoy your day off or the time you have before work. Not only will you have more time in your day, you’ll feel satisfied that you didn’t let society’s standard for women dictate that you put make-up on to be beautiful, let alone to just be in public. You’re already beautiful just being a woman, just being yourself.

You are not you body, and your body does not define you.