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Defining Beauty; Defining Me

My name is Meschida. I am a woman with physical insecurities and I embrace being perfectly flawed.

I cannot write about being fat, overweight or morbidly obese, because I’ve never lived in that type of body. However, I am haunted occasionally from the fear of becoming overweight because it runs in my family. I somehow landed on the opposite side of the spectrum and grew up as a tall, skinny, flat chested girl.

Recently, I travelled to India. During my trip, I had a conversation with my fellow travelers regarding insecurities that women have about body image, beauty and the idea of perfection. At one point, I pulled out my phone and started scrolling through pictures of my family members. We stumbled upon a picture of my sister and I during the Labor Day Caribbean parade in New York. They immediately pointed out how tall, slender and radiant my sister is. Then they asked why I wasn’t in the parade. I confessed that I felt I was not the ideal body weight and was not comfortable parading half naked on the streets of Brooklyn with excess rolls being visible. I quickly observed the confused reactions on the faces of the women. I immediately knew that they could not see the flaws that I truly believed I had.

India simultaneously opened up my eyes to how fortunate western women are on so many levels and how cheated and deceived we are by our misguided society.

Every culture and society seems to have its own perception of beauty. In India, it’s in the way a woman dresses, the colors she wears and the way she carries herself. In some African cultures, women are stereotypically defined as beautiful if they are voluptuous. In some Asian cultures, women are deemed attractive by their bound feet. Many European countries idealize thin, blond- haired, fair-skinned women. In the West, we seem to be driven by trends. In all of this, where do I fit in? Where do you fit?

As a child growing up in the Caribbean, I was always told how beautiful I was, yet every time I looked at myself, I did not quite see what everyone else saw. I remember being 18 years old and around 119 pounds. I still had to shop at children’s clothing stores, yet I went to a modeling audition and was rejected for being “too fat,” which crushed me. It was the beginning and end of my interest in modeling. Later, after graduating from college, I remember being forced to reexamine my physical stature as I started to date men. I felt that men were turned off because I was so skinny and tall. I started becoming envious of women with more curves, bigger breasts, and rounder butts. I hoped that my small body frame would fill out quickly.

Now, decades later, at 5’ 9,” and fluctuating between 155-160 pounds, I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been. I struggle daily with body image insecurities, such as stretch marks, cellulite, extra water weight, new curves, growing breasts, muffin tops, and stomach fat.

The thing is, as women, it does not matter how thin, fat, short, tall, black, white or brown we are, we all go through those stupid self-destructive judgmental phases where we over scrutinize our physical appearances. We all sometimes get caught up with the false perception of what beauty is when we are subliminally reminded of our youthful glow, disguised through makeup ads and retouched images in the media and on billboards.

Today, I admit even though I go through bouts of insecurity, I embrace my physical imperfections because they add to my exoticness, uniqueness and overall character as a woman. I embrace my kinky hair, full lips, curves, emotional outbursts, nurturing disposition, friendliness and ambitious persona, because together, they define me.

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