Beauty Standards Bulgaria
photographer @ivana.rgb

The Absolute Madness of Loving Yourself

A Personal Take on Beauty Standards in Bulgaria

For quite some time now the beauty standards in Bulgaria have been quite…well, plastic. Girls are expected to look like Barbie dolls 24/7! And those looks are hardly ever achieved without extreme diets and a visit to a plastic surgeon. But what about the rest of us? Here’s a little personal story about the hardships of being confident in your own skin in a society that praises extreme beauty measures.

Beauty standards in Bulgaria: Fitting in

Let me start off with this – Bulgarian girls are naturally beautiful. As someone who has lived abroad for most of their life, whenever I share my origin with someone a lot of them outright state that Bulgarian girls are beautiful. And it is true! But unfortunately, over the last decade, these naturally beautiful Bulgarian girls are now mutilating their faces in our country’s plastic surgery clinics. I call it the “Angelina Jolie effect”. Every girl now has huge lips, defined cheekbones and small noses. While all of these features make Angelina Jolie look absolutely stunning, the same cannot be said when these defining features have been obtained artificially. Now don’t get me wrong! I am absolutely pro plastic surgery if the changes are small and help you build up your confidence. However, there is something inherently sad about naturally beautiful women changing their very essence, just to fit in with the current plastic beauty standards in Bulgaria.


Yoghurt Magic Doesn’t Work on Everyone

The majority of Bulgarian women are very slim and have beautiful legs. Thank the Lord for Bulgarian yoghurt, am I right? Well, kinda yes. There is still a big portion of Bulgarian girls and women who feel insecure because “yoghurt magic” doesn’t work on them. Therefore they are forced to turn to extreme dieting, just to fit in. And while a skinny bod’ is not a problem for most women in Bulgaria, it should definitely be accompanied by a nice set of big breasts. And this is the moment where (most of the time) the math just doesn’t add up. But nothing that another quick visit to the plastic surgeon can’t fix, right?

So now you have the face of Angelina Jolie and a skinny body with a big bust. Congratulations! If this is really what you wanted and you feel like the shit, then I’m truly happy for you! But what about the minority of Bulgarian women who are not “naturally” skinny or have a Kardashian’s face? Well…

Beauty standards in Bulgaria: Not fitting in

Here’s a little personal story that I’ve never shared with anyone. As I already mentioned, I’ve been living abroad for a big chunk of my life and I visit Bulgaria only once or twice a year. And whenever I have to return to the Mother Land once again, I become a radioactive ball of anxiety and insecurity. Why? Well in my case it’s because of my body, but let me give you a little context.

I left Bulgaria for good when I was 18.

A skinny girl, fresh out of high school that was extremely active and barely ate anything. I was exceptionally proud of the fact that I weighed 48 kg and got on the scale every week to make sure it stays that way. Now I am 27, love to eat food and on most days I feel exhausted after my 9 to 5. My body has changed as well. You see, I got the body from my mom’s side of the family. That means hips, butt, boobs and a whole lot of curves. My weight fluctuates between 53 and 57 kg, so I’ve stopped getting on the scale for my own sanity. And while I do feel comfortable in my own skin most of the time, this drastically changes whenever I head back to Bulgaria.

Why you may ask? Well, in Bulgaria It’s the norm to comment on someone’s weight as soon as you meet up with them. Telling someone they’ve gained or lost weight is as normal as asking “How are you?”. If you’re lucky, you’ll get the “lost weight” compliment. If you’re unlucky, you’ll get the “gained weight” concerned or cocky remark. And for the almost 10 years that I’ve been away, I’ve had my fair share of body-shaming comments.

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the innocence will soon be gone ~

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“You’ve gained quite a few kilograms!”

“I can tell that you’ve been enjoying food lately!”

“You have nice boobs, but your legs not so much.”

“Someone cursed our family  with pig legs.”

That last one is actually from my mom, which I find sad. I do understand that all of these people are comparing my current self to what they knew 10 years ago, but the comments still hurt. And while the rest of the world is praising body acceptance, bootylicious girls with Coca Cola shaped curves, in Bulgaria, we still only admire women with slim figures.

The power of accepting yourself: a tough battle

To be honest, I still don’t have an answer to that. But I sure as hell am doing my best to find one.

As for my natural face, of course, there are a few things I’d like to change. But what girl doesn’t? I am absolutely guilty of putting on a Snapchat filter and wondering if I should try making my lips bigger, my nose smaller, my jawline slimmer and my eyes bigger. And while I cannot promise that in the future I won’t make a visit to a plastic surgeon, I know that if I end up doing something, it will be subtle and it will still look a whole lot like me.

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My Body Will Continue to Change

I am also still learning to accept that with age, my body will continue to change. I am no longer that skinny teenage girl. Instead, I have grown into my body as it needs to be at the age of 27. And while my new year’s resolution is to work out and have a healthy mind and body, I refuse to be skinny. Instead, I want to embrace my curves and strut them as a badge of honour. After all, change never comes if you’re only following the crowd. I want to believe that by accepting my body the way it is, I will also help other girls accept their bodies as normal, skinny or not. Because at the end of the day, we are the ones who shape the beauty standards in Bulgaria. So even if it’s madness to love yourself just the way you are, embrace that insanity and watch the world around you deal with it.

  1. Thanks for sharing your story! I had similar situation when visiting my high school a few years ago. I gained weight and a teacher of mine (female) came to say Hi and her second sentence was – Oh, I see that you like eating hamburgers in University. – Just out of nowhere commenting my body and my new weight I wasn’t even used to. I was surprised and a bit of a heart-broken. Is it that obvious? Is this the only thing she sees in me now?

    Actually in the past my relatives (most of them women) used to comment my body changes (esp. weight), but currently I managed to educate my mom not to talk about it. It took me some time of convincing her that I have a mirror, I see how I look and there is no need of her to remind me what’s happening.

    Giving unasked opinion about the others body and weight is awful and stressful and happens all the time in my office too. But the last thing people expect from you is to have confidence. That’s why I managed to have it or at least look like I have it so they don’t bother me with expectations, opinions etc.

    A few months ago while my colleagues were commenting the under-weight male colleague of ours (saying to him – you have to eat, look how skinny you are), I couldn’t resist and interrupted the conversation saying something like – it’s his job, leave him alone. Since then they stopped doing it (or at least in front of me) so I am happy I was brave in this situations.

    I am not sure why I am sharing all this here in the comment section but I did it anyway. Thanks!

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your story and your advice. I agree that responding with confidence is the best solution, although in my case this has left people with the impression that I don’t mind those comments so they keep on giving them 😀 Oh well, each to their own I guess. What’s most important is to remain physically and mentally healthy, regardless of the beauty standards around us 🙂

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