I will never have a thigh gap. Nobody has ever worried the wind might “wooooosh” a little bit too hard and knock me down. At 25, I’m a brick house adorned with battle scars and cellulite, curves and confidence. Some days I have abs, sometimes mehhh… I don’t know where they go. And you know what? It’s all good.
The road to accepting yourself is paved with reasons why you shouldn’t. It can be a real roller coaster ride processing and compartmentalizing all the images and opinions we are confronted with every day:
“How do I compare to ‘those girls?'”
“Am I skinny/pretty/feminine enough?”
“Can I fit into this sample size?”
“Won’t it make my life easier if I’m a size 0?”
These are all questions I’ve asked myself, as a result of not only of being in the entertainment industry, but just being a woman in society, period.
People in the public eye are judged constantly—by media, by fans, even by the companies that they work for and with. Because of this scrutiny over every detail of my appearance, I’ve spent an indecent amount of time pinching parts of my body in shame, imagining how much better it’d look if certain areas would just shrink, dissolve or stop making me feel so ‘less-than’.
In my early career, I felt like a product. When I was 19, that feeling was confirmed. I was told that I didn’t look good enough to sell the music I was making. Other female artists were brought up and my image was compared to theirs. The president of my former label sat me down and told me that losing weight was “about my health.” But we both knew it wasn’t. I was a a curvy size 2/4. I lived an active and balanced life. It hurt and affected me deeply, but I didn’t want anything to hold me back from moving forward with my career. And instead of rebelling or saying “Go f-ck yourself,” I wanted to make myself into a better product. So I restricted calories and took supplements and even injections to lose weight I didn’t need to lose. It was the unhealthiest thing I’ve ever done.
Today, the comparison game is one I will not play. I refuse. Trying to measure up to what anyone else seems “perfect” does nothing for my health mentally or physically, nor does it get me any further in my growth as an artist. When I think of all the time I’ve spent uncomfortable in my own skin, wishing I could just hibernate for the winter and come back skinny, I realize I could have channeled that energy and obsession into something much more productive.
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The possibilities are endless, really, when you accept how you were made and are able to celebrate your unique beauty, and find it in everyone you meet. When we focus mostly on our outward appearance, we neglect the important inner-work that must be done and the beautiful life-changing connections we can build with people. Ask yourself: What’s really important at the end of the day? Would being skinny (or curvy or whatever ideal you want to look like) really make you happy? Or is being a good person, doing good work, being a person of your word and making a difference actually what satisfies you?
You do not need to conform. You can be your best self, and it may not look like what others expect of you. Give yourself a break. Breathe. You don’t need to make excuses or apologizes for taking up space, taking your time and being true to you. Whether that’s skinny, thick, athletic, chubby, or however you describe yourself… It’s all good. When you accept who you are, it’s only a matter of time before others have no choice but to follow suit.
JoJo is a singer. Her new album, Mad Love., will be released on October 14.