The beauty of lifting others through self-love

“I’m guilty about everything that I eat” – the voice of Demi Lovato blasted in my ears as I gasped to catch my breath during the last lap of my uphill sprint.

The empowering track “I Love Me” by the recovering bulimic was the source of my inspiration for this article.

Women have come a long way since those silent days in history, confined by stereotypical gender roles modelled by society.

As we continue to fight for our voice and the rights to education, we have gradually transcended various barriers by making our waves and paving our paths of success.

However, one can’t deny that there are still some women, even the likes of superstars such as Lovato, who are still plagued with self-doubt and insecurities, especially when it comes to image.

Some of these are caused by other women and the perceived beauty images laid out, perhaps even literally, by society on covers of beauty magazines, billboard advertisements and all forms of visual materials.

Surrounded by these edited images, we are brainwashed to believe that we need “enhancements”, that photoshop or beauty filters on Instagram make us better, more perfect.

Vanity makes us forget that beauty is more than just superficial qualities.

Once, in my profession as a publicist for athletes, our team pitched a woman athlete to a renowned international female magazine. We were appalled to receive a reply stating that the athlete was “too fat”.

If I spoke Vietnamese, I would have gladly reminded her to not shame another woman’s body by inflicting her judgment onto others.

The most unfortunate thing in my opinion is that this editor did not use her position to educate that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes but instead, she decided to condemn and conform to societal norms.

Think of all the girls in the country who continue to feel the burden of having to fit the mould to be perceived as beautiful, to be “accepted” and to feel worthy.

Besides, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder because the same athlete that was deemed “fat” is seen as beautiful and in shape in other countries.

So, who are we to decide what is beauty when we are all God’s great creation?

Lovato’s “I Love Me” is a vocal confession of someone struggling to accept her own body and being her own worst critic.

Some of us fight our entire lives to overcome insecurities, little jokes and comments about our sizes or our looks that shaped our self-image through time.

Growing up, I have had my fair share of critics since high school where my friends called me fat because I enjoyed the chicken nuggets my mom prepared for me.

When I was in Cambodia, some male journalists called me fat although the last I checked, there was no weight or size requirement necessary to do my job well.

I have been surrounded by friends who take pride in the weight they lost as if our worth is measured by the body mass update indicated on that flat device.

Think about the many times we take it as a compliment when someone tells us that we’ve lost weight. I’m not sure who decided that it is a good thing when people say that there are less of us. Wouldn’t a better compliment be, you look happy and healthy?

Let’s be clear. I’m not condoning obesity or unhealthy living, or to look like slobs who don’t care about our appearance. Not all of us are born to live the life of a Victoria Secret model.

Of course, we can set resolutions to lose a few kilogrammes through healthy living but a stick-thin Barbie doll who is gaunt and miserable is definitely not better than a bass-size Meghan Trainor.

By all means, please exercise and eat healthily but there will be times we enjoy an extra glass of wine and two extra slices of pizzas.

Too much restraint just because you want to live by other people’s standard is enslaving – mentally and physically.

As long as you take care of yourself and live in moderation in everything you do, you don’t need to beat yourself up if you don’t look like Heidi Klum.

Be kind to yourself, that is self-love. There is such a thing as off-scale victories too – and that is being a happier, more contented self, radiating joy and natural beauty.

We can’t control what other people say or think, so let us take it upon ourselves today and control how we think.

As I wrap up my walk in the park (literally), there is an immense feeling of gratitude as I look at my thighs.

Although deemed thick by people my entire life, they are attached to a pair of legs. My eyes, which people said are too small, give me sight and vision that some might not have.

My flat nose facilitates the oxygen that I breathe. All these “flaws” that people implied are all blessings.

This Women’s Day, as a reminder to myself, I encourage all of us to love ourselves – not just how we look on the outside, but also to accept our flaws on the inside.

I truly believe that by loving ourselves, not only will we be able to grow and improve, but we will also have the capacity to love and lift others, especially during these unprecedented times when the world is radiating all sorts of negativity.

By accepting oneself, one is better positioned at accepting others too.

So, let’s be confident in our skin (but maybe keep that birthday suit at home) because that is the best way for us women to celebrate who we are and how far we’ve come!

Happy International Women’s Day.

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.