My entire life, I’d never cared about how I looked and that worked just fine for me. Through most of high school, I barely brushed my hair. Make up was a no go (apart from eye liner, big up the teen goths out there), and I never knew anything otherwise. I’d wear jeans well past their use date, I didn’t colour match, I didn’t know what contouring was and I didn’t care. I was sticking my finger up to conformity and I didn’t even know it.
But over time I was asked things I’d never even considered. Why don’t you paint your nails? Why don’t you contour? What primer do you use? Why don’t you try and lose some weight on your thighs? I was baffled. Huh? What? Sorry? Does this stuff matter? Of course it does – don’t you know that?
Like Alice, I fell into a rabbit hole – but instead of Mad Hatters and tea parties, it was make up, fashion and image. I was amazed. I can make my face look thinner? These kind of tops flatter my figure? This pencil makes my eyes look pretty? Cool! Give me a try. And that would’ve been fine, if I was doing it for me. But I was doing it for my gradually declining self confidence. Self confidence that had dwindled away with a pressure to look “better” than I did, to look more like that photoshopped picture. Media pressure suddenly became my backseat passenger. It’s real and it’s dangerous.
I gladly scroll through Instagram and look for perfection, strive for it, and it’s knocked me further and further down until I started to hate myself. Why don’t you look like her? Why doesn’t your hair fall like that? Why can’t you go the gym every day? Why aren’t you prettier? My already painful anxiety was suddenly in full bloom, feeding off this new dislike that I had never even knew could exist. My confidence was gone. I was shattered. A broken girl, who no longer saw a confident reflection, but someone she hated for reasons other people had.
Now please don’t think I’m blaming everyone but myself, I take responsibility for the fact that I could have said that I was happy being me. I liked my old jeans. My face looked fine without contour. I chose to believe that there was a “right” way to look. But there comes a certain point where, despite our stronger selves, we may question our self-worth and judge others. And to someone who was already unsure of herself, this made me buckle quickly, and drastically, into distorted self-image.
I am so grateful to the people who shout positive self image from the roof tops – through posts, blogging, tweets and more. The more we acknowledge that perfection does not exist, the quicker we pass on the mindset of be yourself, you’re truly beautiful, no matter what anyone else says.
And isn’t that a wonderful thing to pass on? Now, when I shop or put make up on or change my hair I do it for me. And sometimes I slip, and I desperately wonder if I look attractive to everyone else. When away on holiday last week I found the claws of uncertainty creeping from the dark and squeezing at my heart again – people were noticeably mocking me, staring at me and it was my fear brought to life. I immediately regretted my drastic hair change, I should’ve gone for a normal style, I shouldn’t dress this way, I should dress the way everyone else is.
Until I realised – fuck them. I love my hair. I love my style. I am happy. They can project whatever bullshit they’re feeling onto me all they like, but I’m gonna keep being me.