I'm As Strong As The Woman Next To Me

by Allison LaCombe
A side-by-side photo of Allison LaCombe from childhood and now
Courtesy of Allison LaCombe

I was never the “pretty” one growing up. I knew that early on. I was always far from perfect. I had a huge gap between my teeth, was either incredibly skinny or too curvy. My hair was always flat and fine. My feet were big. I was too tall. The list goes on and on. But I found my niche early on. Ask anyone I grew up with. I was, and still am, pretty funny.

I spent years making fun of myself, being the butt of all of my own jokes, and even hurting others in the process. Anything to keep the spotlight off of my face and my body.

Courtesy of Allison LaCombe

“I will never be pretty or have a nice body and that’s just how things are. I’ll have to focus on sports and being funny so I can continue to be accepted.” This is a thought I had for probably 12 years.

This thought started in seventh grade. I’ll never forget that day in class. My teacher was reading some literature and the phrase “get wooed” was used. I asked what it meant, even though I thought I knew the answer, to which he responded, “Let’s just say it’s something that probably won’t happen to you.” And the entire classroom erupted with laughter. 12. I was 12 years old when a man who was supposed to be enlightening and leading me paved the way for my thoughts for the next decade of my life.

Courtesy of Allison LaCombe

I made my way through junior high and high school and even college comparing myself to every female I came in contact with.

She’s so much thinner than I am.

She’s got such thick hair.

Her shoulders are so narrow and feminine. Mine are wide and manly.

Look at her small, dainty feet.

I wish I could wear heels and not be taller than the boys.

I wish, I wish, I wish….

Thoughts that have always run through my head, causing me to stare in the mirror, dreaming of the day I could afford all of the plastic surgery that would make me so happy.

Courtesy of Allison LaCombe

Until the day I decided to change.

I have been working for the past couple of years on how I view myself, and how I view others, especially women. It took a lot of reading, self reflection, self apologizing, understanding, and hard work to get here.

I have come to realize that I don’t need to use humor to deflect the focus from me. I don’t need to compare myself to anyone, in any room. I need to lift other women up, and support them. I need to use my positive disposition to encourage them, for they may be struggling just as I have. When I walk into rooms now, I take notice of all of the positive attributes that other women have, and I make sure to tell them. They deserve to hear this. The thoughts don’t cross my mind of what may be different about me in a negative manner, for I have so many things that make me perfectly imperfect in who I am .

I am pretty, in my own, specific way.

Courtesy of Allison LaCombe

My teeth have come together, and they are what makes my smile so big and beautiful.

I am no longer too thin or too curvy. My body is healthy. My body has given me a child. My body does so much for me. I am strong.

My hair is the perfect thickness for my new short look that I rock so proudly.

I am almost six feet tall, which gives me long legs to run with, and long arms to wrap around those that I love.

My distinctly strong shoulders have given me an amazing athletic ability like no other.

My perfectly proportioned feet allow me to walk, jog, run, bike, enjoy life with my baby boy.

I wear all the heels with pride and walk with confidence because I don’t need anyone’s approval to be slightly taller than my partner.

And I don’t need and won’t get that plastic surgery. Look at the journey my body, face, shoulders, feet have all taken me on. I wouldn’t be here without them.

And to the women around me who I have internally compared myself to, I apologize. You are so perfect in your own ways just as I am. And together we make a beautiful, strong community of women who are constantly changing the world. And no matter who I am standing next to, I will always be as strong as the woman next to me.