If a genie in a bottle asked me to make one wish, I would wish to have the ‘perfect’ body. The genie would then ask me to define the ‘perfect’ body. Without hesitation, I insist it’s a skinny and feminine body with just enough muscle and tone to add shape and definition. This includes a perfect proportions, lengthy legs, and must have a thigh gap.
The current media worships the skinny look. We are inundated by the ‘ideal’ body type everywhere we turn: mannequins, supermodels, actresses, TV personalities, Barbie, pageant contestants, and more. Born with a short stature and athletic build, I have had crippling doubts about my appearance. I was totally controlled by other people’s ideas of what I was supposed to look like. These beauty standards are unrealistic and can have a detrimental effect on the eating habits and self-esteem of countless women—including myself.
In an attempt to attain the ideal body type, I engaged in negative behaviors including restrictive eating and compulsive exercise. As I began losing weight and becoming thinner, I became motivated to cut out more and more from my diet. Eventually, I was barely eating anything, but I was overwhelmingly thin—a body I had long yearned for.
I was skinny, but I was miserable. I had a thigh gap, but I was somber. I was toned, but I was weak and frail. Before developing anorexia nervosa, I equated thinness to happiness and beauty. And, let me tell you, I couldn’t have been more wrong. My personality had been stripped from me. My ability to interact, laugh, and enjoy life had vanished. And, while my goal was to become more attractive by becoming skinny, I became undesirable and frightful.
Life had some harsh lessons for me. By developing an eating disorder, receiving intensive treatment for it, and having the strength to recover from it, I changed my entire personality and perspective on life. And I realized, not just intellectually, but right down to the core of my being that true beauty shines from the inside out. It’s about loving yourself for who you are, not what you look like. It’s about being truthful, honest, helpful, and trustworthy. It is about being the best person you can possibly be.
So, when the Miss America competition announced on Tuesday there will be major changes, I instantly got the goosebumps and had to pinch myself. According to ABC News, the organization will be scrapping their swimsuit competition and will no longer judge contestants based on physical appearance. Instead, contestants will take part in a live interactive session with the judges, and will be asked to demonstrate their passion, intelligence and overall understanding of the job of Miss America. The organization is also getting rid of the evening gown portion of the competition and instead asking contestants to wear attire that makes them feel confident and expresses their personal style. The contestants will also discuss how they will advance their chosen causes, called “social impact initiatives” by the Miss America Organization. This cultural revolution of women showing the world who they are as a person from ‘the inside of their soul’ is empowering, inspiring, and promising.
My hope is that this change encourages us to focus on our character over our appearance. As a result, our society will become healthier, happier, and more productive, which should be our ultimate aspiration. And, who knows, soon the most compassionate, giving and caring individual may be pictured on the cover of magazines like Women’s Health, Seventeen, Self, VOGUE, or InStyle.