Pretty Enough

Wildcat staff writer Melissa Perez opens up about her battle with body shaming, and how she arrived at self love.

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Makayla Huerta

A staggering 78% of 17-year old girls are insecure about their bodies. For staff writer Melissa Perez, it’s the social media influencers with impossibly skinny bodies that fuel her insecurities.

I stare at myself in the mirror as I analyze every part of me that isn’t enough — the way I can see my stomach bulging out if I don’t wear high-waisted jeans; the stretch marks that line my arms; the roundness of my face and the small pouch of fat underneath my chin that makes it look like I might have two. 

I was a chubby baby, but as everyone knows, chubby babies are adorable. But as years passed, the “adorable” label became my greatest enemy.

I first noticed the shift from “cute” to “gross” in the sixth grade when, at the end-of- the-year pool party, the girls showed up in their bikinis while I arrived in a tankini and shorts. I couldn’t help but compare myself to every girl at the party. 

As a ten-year old, my biggest fear should have been a monster under my bed, not the monster I saw in the mirror. 

In middle school, I became conditioned to wear loose-fitting clothing, as it seemed that only thin girls were allowed to wear crop tops, shorts, and skirts. The locker rooms became my biggest fear as I could not cover up while changing, leaving me exposed to the judgment of my “peers.” I had become part of the 53% of 13-year old American girls who feel unhappy with their bodies. 

As a ten-year old, my biggest fear should have been a monster under my bed, not the monster I saw in the mirror. ”

Once I entered high school my self-confidence plummeted. Every day it felt like there was a competition between the thin girls to see who could reveal the most skin. But when bigger girls bared skin, it was called “gross” and “ugly.” 

Social media has also influenced my perception of beauty. Girls flood their feeds with selfies in bikinis, cute dresses, or the latest fashion trends that I could never even dream of wearing. Every time I open Instagram or Snapchat, I’m compelled to compare myself to my mutuals and to an avalanche of influencers.  87% of women compare themselves to images off social media, and even though it’s well known that influencers often Photoshop their images, the photos still haunt me as I know I could never look as skinny as them. It seemed that no matter where I was, in real life or online, I was never going to be “pretty enough.” The number on my scale dictated my way of life, and I was not allowed by society’s standards to feel beautiful. 

I still struggle with self image. Some days are better than others, when I can look at myself in a mirror and smile as I pull on my favorite crop top. But on other days, I stare in the mirror and count my body’s flaws. But I do find comfort in knowing I’m not alone: 78% of 17 year-old American girls feel insecure about their bodies. 

Although it’s not easy, I try not to allow my body image to control my life. I am much more than my weight or the size of my body. I’ve come to understand that while I may not fit society’s standards of beauty, I know that I don’t need anyone else’s approval to feel worthy and “pretty enough.”