This was me when I was ten years old.
Some might be bold enough to call me an “ugly duckling” (my sister being one) and I would wholeheartedly agree.
I’ve never thought of myself as the pretty girl, because growing up, I wasn’t — at least not by society’s standards. I had thicker legs, a round tummy, squinty eyes, and crooked teeth that didn’t quite fill my too wide of a smile. I was rarely noticed or praised for my looks.
It was sometime during high school that I recall first being appreciated for my outward beauty, and to be completely honest, nearly a decade later of this being “normal”, I still am not used to it. That’s not to say that I haven’t minded — I don’t think there’s a woman (or person of any gender!) alive who can’t say that they don’t mind being admired by others for their beauty.
And yet, there’s a sense of strangeness to it all. Outward beauty is completely subjective, and yet, there are certain beauty ideals that every culture on earth claims — standards that are constantly evolving with time. So, if we’re given one body and yet told by society every few years that we must change our looks to keep up with the trends in order to be deemed beautiful, it becomes exhausting.
And yet, boy, we sure try.
Perhaps we should stop trying to keep up — some people choose this and I admire them for it. They choose to embrace the parts of themselves that make them unique and to own these aspects that define who they are. They are seemingly free.
I’m slowly learning to embrace such a freedom — that I too can be who I was intended to be. It’s a simple concept, and yet, I have struggled to own the way I look my entire life.
I think that’s one arena where becoming involved with the Miss America Organization has helped me. I’ve learned to embrace this side of who I am, and that it is indeed okay to feel outwardly gorgeous, even stunning at times. But also, that it’s alright to not always feel outwardly radiant. I’m realizing that we shouldn’t feel an obligation to prove to the world that we’re their current definition of beauty, but that we should feel confident, proud, and unashamed of the unique way we were designed. And even without all the makeup and glam, we are just as beautiful when we’re living it up in our pajamas with damp hair fresh out of the shower.
Quite honestly, in my mind the most beautiful people are those who carry themselves with humble confidence, who radiate joy and kindness, and are completely true to their authentic selves. That’s what I strive for — to be true to myself and not desperate for the approval of others.
I desire to be free.
And while displaying qualities of freedom, joy, and confidence, I believe that true beauty can be achieved — regardless of any culture, circumstances, or time period.
currently lives in Fargo, North Dakota where she works remotely as a Policy and Communication Manager for the First Lady of North Dakota. Photography and writing are a passion that help her better appreciate the details of the world.