All of us have experienced shame and even anger about our physical appearance. We never fail to see its flaws, even if we’re the only ones who could see them. We always think that our hair is too frizzy. Our legs are too short and pudgy. Our freckles are too many. These negative outlooks about ourselves always riddle us. And that’s not good because no one should hate themselves for their physical appearance.

There are many ways to remind ourselves to embrace our bodies and always view them positively. Stories are one of such ways. They can engage and inspire us to develop a sense of body positivity.

What Fuels Our Body Insecurity

It doesn’t help that social media fuels this deep-seated insecurity. We see on Instagram men and women living their best lives. They’re well-traveled, having visited places ranging from Bali’s beaches to the mountain ranges in Iceland. They have an impressive educational background. They’re successful in their careers. And, most importantly, they’re tall, slim, and flawless.

We want to be like these people. And we feel that we have to start with improving our physical appearances. But there’s a fine line between caring for our bodies and forcing them to achieve unbelievable standards of beauty.

Picture this: we want to have perfect teeth–straight and white. Some of us would opt to use tooth-whitening gel kits to feel confident when we smile. But others would choose to have dental veneers for the same purpose. One of the options a simple solution that improves our daily dental care. The other involves a dental procedure that can cost us up to $4,000 per tooth.

The ultimate goal is caring for our bodies and embracing them for what they are. No one should have to spend thousands of dollars for procedures that they don’t need to adhere to society’s beauty standards. Here are some novels that we can turn to whenever we need a reminder to feel good about ourselves.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares

This coming-of-age book series explores the lives of four best friends. They’re named Lena, Tabitha “Tibby,” Bridget “Bee,” and Carmen. They encounter a pair of pants in a random thrift store. What’s unusual about these pants is that they seem to fit all four young women.

What makes the pants magical, though, is that all four friends have different body shapes. Some of them are tall and slender. Some are short and a bit chubby. But the pants remind the young women that they’re not different. They might seem to have different body types. But their bond and love for one another don’t hinge on such physical differences.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

This book tells the story of August Pullman, a young boy with facial differences. We don’t know what he looks likes; he refuses to share it with us as the readers. He even says, “I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.”

And he’s right. Instead of giving us knowing what he looks like, we see its effects on his everyday life. He wants to be treated normally, like every kid around him. But he doesn’t get to experience that. Not right away, at least.

But his outlook on life inspires other people to see past his physical appearance. He reminds the people around him and us, the readers, that self-love entails loving every part of ourselves, especially the physical imperfections.

Look at Me by Jennifer Egan

The thing about physical beauty is that it’s not permanent. It will always change as we grow older and gain new experiences. This is exactly what happened to Charlotte Swenson, the protagonist of this book. At the beginning of the story, she’s a successful fashion model. But then she gets into a car accident.

As a result, her face is shattered beyond recognition. It’s so bad that her doctors have to reassemble it with eighty titanium screws. She’s devastated because her physical appearance is everything to her. It pays her bills. It helps her make friends. It gives her the confidence she needs to face life.

But she has to face the truth that her perception of beauty is not healthy. It’s not the root of self-love and identity. She has to understand that there’s more to life than achieving our impossible standards of beauty.

With these books, we can gain insights on the value of embracing our bodies for what it is. Caring for them is an expression of self-love. But obsessively changing them to be more aesthetically pleasing is a whole other thing. These three novels will remind us that loving our bodies is how we can live our best lives.