drawing of many people with different skin tones and hair colours

Think differently.........   Be uniquely you!   

These words scared me when I was younger.  I didn’t want to be “different” - I wanted to blend in with everyone.  If someone was wearing the newest fashion trend, I wanted it.  If one of my schoolmates had the latest hair style – I wanted that too.  I tried my hardest to “fit in” by molding myself to look like everyone else.  However, it never made me feel better.  I thought it was because I did a poor job of looking like them.  The real answer was so much more.  A combination of low self-esteem caused by people saying I was “ugly” or “fat” or something similar – anything that would make them feel better about themselves by making me feel like I was not worth anything.  I was the type of kid that accepted what people said and never challenged it – a trait that led to many years of struggling.   

Many years later I met someone who encouraged me to embrace who I was and what made me unique.  What I thought of as a negative attribute, my friend wanted me to embrace as something that made me uniquely me.  For instance, I really disliked growing up with crooked teeth and had always dreamt of perfect, straight white teeth, but my parents could not afford to get me braces.  I honestly thought my teeth made me look “ugly” - but I was taught to look at this and question by whose standard did this make me “ugly”.  On the other hand, my friend totally embraced her front tooth gap and other physical differences, and never let anyone define who she was or was not. 

This made me wonder – who is setting these so-called standards of what beauty is?  The standards that lead people to surgically change their looks – the standards that make people treat others badly because they look differently?  Why do people want straight hair or curly hair – curves or no curves, super white teeth or natural looking.   Why are we allowing any individual or any group to dictate to us what beauty is?  Truth is, they can only do it because we allow them to.  The people who I truly admire are those who are unabashedly themselves and do not care what anyone else thinks.  

 If we take a look at what was considered beautiful from decade to decade, we will see that “beauty” has had many different definitions.   

Some examples of what was considered the “in” looks throughout the years are: 

Renaissance (1400 – 1700) - hourglass shape – full bosom and hips, rounded stomach, fair skin 

Victorian England (1837 – 1901) - full figured with a cinched waist 

Roaring 20’s (1920’s) - boyish figure, no curves, short hair, clothes downplayed their waist  

Golden Hollywood Age (1930’s - 1950’s) - curves, hourglass figure, slim waistline  

1960’s - thin figure, slim legs, adolescent physique 

1980’s - svelte but curvy, athletic 

2000’s - flat stomach, curvy butt, physically fit  

*from https://www.scienceofpeople.com/beauty-standards/ * 

It’s interesting how the trend has moved back and forth between full figured and thinner.   

My hope is that moving forward, the world can learn to embrace everyone no matter what they look like - that beauty will not be defined by what a person looks like, but rather by how they behave and treat others, and that individuals can truly embrace the reality that they ARE beautiful in many ways, shapes and forms, inside and out. 


Leanne Henwood-Adam, Fitness Coordinator, Humber College - North Campus