Written by Delani Weaver

Who or what defines the standard of beauty? What makes a person beautiful? This answer will vary from person to person. No matter how rich or famous, old or young; every girl, every woman has dealt with self-esteem issues at one point in their lives.

Even as an adult, I still struggle sometimes. I still stare into my mirror sometimes and wonder if my life would be easier if my skin was lighter, if my hair was longer or relaxed, if I weighed less. Growing up I was always the biggest girl on my mother’s side of the family. Family members would crack jokes thinking they were harmless or meaningless because I always hid behind my strength and my attitude. But they hurt. My mother did her best to deal with raising a chunky girl and her version of trying to help me lose weight. We would go out to eat somewhere and she’s say, you can’t have this or that; you don’t need it. It would make me really angry and I would overeat on purpose because it my way to rebel against her.

My dad never said a word about my weight. On his side of the family, I was one of the smallest girls. Maybe he dealt with it differently because so many other women in our family were big. But my dad’s side of the family is where I felt the most at ease and felt I was pretty.

I remember how much I used to hate shopping. I don’t think my mother really knew where to shop for a plus size girl, so it we stuck to stores like Old Navy, JC Pennys and Fashion Bug. I hated shopping because I would have to try the clothes on and when something was too small, I would start crying. There are so many fitting rooms all over New York that I cried in because I so wanted to be like my friends who were skinny and could shop anywhere with no problems.

As a teenager and going to high school, I developed a tough attitude. It was a way to protect myself from people who I thought would make fun of me because I was fat. I said to myself, ok, if they don’t like me, they will respect me. They will fear me and will never know that they can hurt me. I became one of the boys because I didn’t think any guys would ever want to date me because I was fat. So, I befriended them in hopes that I would never be the subject of the “fat girl” jokes. And it worked. It was easier because I didn’t have to face their possible rejection. My friends never cracked any jokes or were sarcastic about my weight and I always appreciated it.

I’ve had a guard up most of my life and even now sometimes I still feel that guard. I began the process of learning to love myself in college. I left New York and moved to the south for college because I wanted to start fresh and I knew I could become whoever I wanted to be. I started small. Learning how to shop for my body and where to do it. Following plus size models, magazines and fashion. Reading blogs and articles of self-love and acceptance. Telling myself encouraging words like, you’re beautiful. One thing I still do is take lots of pictures. For some reason, it helps.

Learning to love yourself is a never-ending process.  But it’s a process that you should be committed to for your mind, body and overall health. Nothing comes from doubting your self-worth and your beauty except toxic thoughts, toxic people and toxic relationships. No one has the right to decide what and who defines true beauty. You are beautiful no matter who you are and what you look like. Change the inside and that will reflect on the outside. A good personality is the most beautiful thing anyone can have. Pretty is in the eye of the beholder. True beauty comes from the soul.