Beauty Is in the Eye of the Beholder

This essay is part of our “What Is A Woman?” series in tandem with our brand new podcast. This season, our community is exploring the question, “What is beauty?”

“Do you think that Kristyn needs a boob job?”

I was in the seventh grade when a friend of mine blurted this out to a boy I liked, as we were hanging out during recess.

“OH MY GOD,” I thought. “Why would she ask him that question? Of course he’s going to say I need a boob job!”

“Nah, I think they’re fine,” he responded as he jumped down from the jungle gym.

His response gave me a smile of relief, but it was short lived. Soon, his comment was drowned out again by the never-ending thoughts in my head, telling me that I wasn’t enough. I had been insecure about my chest and the way that I looked. All the boys that I knew desired the girls with big boobs and big butts – those who were all around “thicker” than me. I was skinny, always had been, and even though my guy friends thought I was “cute,” I was always just a friend, never the girlfriend. I would listen as the guys in my class drooled over popular celebrities and girls in my school, none of whom looked like me. I would watch as “Will you go out with me?” notes were passed to my friends and they received undying affection from the boys I liked. Then at the end of the day, I would go home and watch the celebrities and video vixens on TV, the deemed “dime-pieces” that the whole world seemed to love, and would wish they were me. I just knew that my life would be better and more fulfilling if I received the kind of attention that these women were getting.

My mom and grandma would watch in agony, and try their best to reassure me that I was beautiful and the opinions of others didn’t matter. But for me, they did matter. I never felt pretty enough.

When I was in the eighth grade, puberty officially set in, and I began to fill out a little more. I started to get more attention. Things were looking up, and I thought that maybe, just maybe, high school would be better than middle school had been. And it was! I had come into my own; my confidence was building, and boys on Myspace were sticking to me like flies. (Mmhmm, remember Myspace, y’all?). I was in the zone! I was looking good, I was talking to boys, we were flirting...

“On the scale of 1 to 10, you can never be a 10. The highest rating you’ll ever get is an 8 because your boobs are too small. If they were bigger, then maybe you could be a 9,” said my best friend as we walked our high school hallway.

*Record scratch.*

Wait, what? Just an 8? But I…but the Myspace…it’s poppin’…how am I only an 8?! Surely there was someone out there who would say otherwise, right? If I found someone who I really liked and who liked me just as much, they would think I was a 10 and perfect in every way, right?

“On a scale of 1-10, what would you rate me?”

“Hmm….I say an 8.” [Smiles.]

[Frowns internally.] “Okay, I know you thought one of your exes was a 10. What about your other ex?”

“You’re acting like 8 is a low number. I’m not saying you’re ugly or anything. You’re a cute girl.”

[Heart melts, soul catches on fire.] “But you apparently think every girl looks better than me!”  

Once upon a time, I allowed these moments in my life to define me. I was insecure about my body, my attractiveness, and my worth. Even when my self-confidence was through the roof and I thought I was the bomb, all it took was one person who said otherwise, and it would turn my world upside down.

Instead of focusing on my defined cheekbones, straight and sparkly white teeth, my naturally petite muscular frame, and long legs, I focused on what the world told me I lacked. Instead of celebrating myself as a whole person – a unique, old school music-loving poet, a loyal sister and daughter, an intelligent introvert with an open heart and old soul – I had reduced myself down to a set of boobs and a number on a subjective scale.

I let that number define me and it shaped me into a person I didn’t recognize or like. I became depressed and my personal life began to suffer greatly.

As women, we often feel the pressure of the world on our shoulders: the pressure to look good, to act a certain way, and to fit into a suffocating mold. If we don’t fit into that box, we fall into the trap of feeling inadequate and unseen. Those moments, as tough as they were and as embarrassing as they are to look back on, taught me a valuable lesson.

Don’t allow others to determine your beauty or your self-worth. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and you are the beholder.

Your beauty and your worth can never be defined by anyone outside of yourself.

Beauty is originality.

Beauty is intelligence.

Beauty is self-acceptance.

Beauty is love.

Beauty is all that you are and the unique gifts you have to offer the world.

Beauty is you.

My dear girls, I hope that you see it, too.