And it's not even like we grew up in different countries. Here we were, American women who watched the same movies, read the same magazines, and even liked similar fashions. But we drew the line when it came to body image. It slowly dawned on me what a strong influence a person's culture can have on her perception of beauty — and how, if I had been born into a different culture, I would never have experienced all of those body insecurities growing up.
As you might have guessed, those guys who ridiculed me for looking too skinny in my shorts were men of color, like me. If it were a group of caucasian men on the corner that day, odds are I would be telling a whole different story. That's not to say every single person is a prisoner to the culture he or she grew up in, but it’s hard to argue the idea that heritage heavily influences what we what we find attractive. It's funny how I could feel so out of place all those years just because I was someone else's idea of beautiful instead of my own.
And while cultures vary in their ideals of beauty, they share one common flaw: the pressure to look perfect, whatever perfect may be, contributes to low self-esteem in women. The reality is that every woman should strive to be healthy, whether healthy is a size zero or a size twelve for her particular frame. Every woman is different and beautiful in her own way, so why should we all try to look the same?
I didn't become comfortable with my body until my late twenties, and I honestly regret that. I wish I'd learned to love my body sooner. Two children and a decade after I first became conscious of my body, I've finally realized just how beautiful I am — and how beautiful my body is! I may never have an ample derriere like J. Lo, and my coworkers may never reach a size two, but one thing we all can achieve is self acceptance — and that’s the most beautiful trait of all.