This year, as part of our Take Back The Beach program, we are asking YOU to tell us about your experiences with body talk and self-perception. Below, one reader's story.
"It's Not My Responsibility To Be Beautiful — I'm Not Alive For That Purpose"
I was in the eighth grade, and my acne was spread across my face so profusely that my classmates called them freckles — a "joke" only clever when you're young enough to consider watching R-rated moves exciting. I was flat-chested. I wore glasses and had braces. I felt like the "before" picture in every issue of Seventeen. "Of course, I don't like her — she's ugly." This was something someone said about me then. It was spoken so casually, it wasn't even an opinion; it was something everyone already knew to be fact, so I took it as one.
Once I entered high school, I was constantly waiting for things about me to change. The changes were never for myself, but for an idea of myself to be fulfilled. I would be more likable if I was at least a B-cup.
When I was home one night, probably dramatically thinking it was because I was too "ugly" to have real plans, I came across a quote on Tumblr, by Warsan Shire, that stuck with me. "It's not my responsibility to be beautiful — I'm not alive for that purpose. My existence is not about how desirable you find me." And it shifted my perspective on the importance of beauty.
It was my quote of choice I referred back to when the guy I liked only wanted to hang out at his house, or when I would constantly get in trouble for talking in class, because at least I was funny. This is not to say I don't look back on my time in middle school. Sometimes I find myself running late because I catch myself in the mirror at an angle that makes me question everything.
It's weird to think a mean comment from over 10 years ago could still follow me around. I know, rationally, that those comments don't matter. I don't acknowledge the unwanted opinions of men in 2017, and here I am holding on to one from a 13-year-old.
But I remember the big picture. Any transformation I go through will be for myself, and will mean something. So when I think about changing my top for a third time when I need to be in Brooklyn in an hour, a trip that takes me an hour and 15 minutes, I think about my purpose. And, in a way, it gives me the confidence to be the type of person who has a greater a purpose, regardless of how I look.
#TakeBackTheBeach essays are meant to reflect individual women's experiences. They have only been lightly edited (if at all) by Refinery29 and do not necessarily reflect the company's point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behavior.
Have a story of body image and self-perception that you want to share? Submit your essay to our Take Back The Beach contest here.