Body confidence is something I’ve struggled with all my life, I’ve struggled with confidence and low self esteem ever since I was aware that looking in a mirror was a way for me to pick myself apart and list everything I hated about myself.
When I was a child, I’d look in the mirror because I wanted to see me – Maybe because I’d just had spaghetti and it had smeared all around my face and I needed to wipe it off, maybe because I’d been playing in the garden and the sun had caught my face and I wanted to see how many extra freckles I’d gained. I used to look in the mirror when I was 7 because I wanted to see what my face looked like , because I was intrigued that this little person staring back at me, was me. I had brown hair, green eyes and little brown freckles scattered across my nose and I never thought anything more of it than that, because I was a child. Society and the rest of the world hadn’t poisoned my idea of self image yet.
When I was 12, I started to care. It started to matter what other people thought of me because I knew I wasn’t as pretty as her, I didn’t have a flat stomach like she did, my hair wasn’t as long as the girl’s sitting next to me in math class and I didn’t attract all the boys like the most popular girls in my year group did. I was never an ‘outcast’, I wasn’t a ‘loner’ and I was never bullied, but I still cared. I didn’t cake my face in makeup and wear short skirts because that wasn’t me and I would’ve felt ridiculous, I was young but I wasn’t stupid. Surprisingly, I don’t remember all that much about my younger years, it’s a bit of a blur. All I remember is that I changed my hair colour and style a lot because I thought it would make me prettier, and I was never happy with my weight because I was never skinny enough to accept myself.
I had every hair colour going, I was red, ginger, jet black, deep blue, crimson, purple. I had short hair, long hair, bobbed hair, full fringes, side fringes and middle partings. You name it, I’d had it. I never had extreme crazy hair colours but I was always changing, I was never satisfied with the outcome, I was constantly looking for how I could change next. How much weight could I lose by next week? How could I draw my eyebrows on differently tomorrow? Which hairstyle would cover my face up more and make me look thinner? The list was endless. I never voiced these opinions, they were only ever on the inside – no one had any idea what I was really doing. I don’t even think anybody really noticed.
When I was 14, I’d had enough. I was tired of being me, I was tired of being what I thought was fat, tired of being ugly, tired of being the girl guys never really seemed to be interested in, tired of being the girl that couldn’t get drunk on weekends because she wasn’t pretty or cool enough to be friends with the populars. I’d had enough and I wanted out, so that’s exactly what I did.
I’d had the opportunity to move to a new school and I grabbed it with both hands, I didn’t tell a single person. The leaflet came through my door on Monday and that night I’d filled in the application form ready to send off the next day. I wanted to disappear, to run away from the person that everybody knew me as even though my high school experience was never as bad as it seemed. I wanted to be better, to be more, to be skinnier, prettier – I’d always worn makeup but only mascara and the odd bit of foundation. I wanted to look better, to start making my face look more perfect, the trend at the time was skinny drawn on eyebrows and so I shaved mine off and started drawing them on – big mistake. I did this because it was what everyone else was doing – and didn’t I want to be just like them? I changed myself because I thought it would make me a better person in the eyes of people who didn’t even matter, they didn’t care about me and I didn’t care about them, I just wanted their approval, their validation that maybe I was actually worth something. My whole worth was based off of whether they thought I was pretty or not, whether they thought I was ‘fit’ or skinny or looked good in short skirts. Looking back on it now it hurts me that I wasted so many years basing my worth off of materialistic and physical things, I never once thought about what was on the inside – about what type of person I was. I was kind, funny, a good friend, a good listener and everything in between yet none of this ever mattered, my mind never focused on this for a second.
When I started my new school I was different, not completely different but I didn’t half try. For the first year I was getting my bearings, figuring out who was popular and who the guys liked the most, figuring out who I liked and who I wanted to stay away from – going there was one of the best decisions I’d ever made but I was still trying to leave the old me behind and I guess you could say I did – I had new friends, I was in a new area, everything about my life was now different and I enjoyed it that way.
Growing up I was always running from myself and using the future to escape the present – “When I’m 16 I’ll be skinny so that guy will like me and my life will be better.” , “when I’m 18 my braces will be off and I’ll have stopped eating so the popular girls will like me and I’ll be out clubbing all the time” – it’s a little exaggeration but nonetheless, that was my thought process as I was growing up and changing into who I’d eventually be. I really want to focus on the fact that I based my worth off of my physical appearance. That’s all I ever did – that’s all I ever cared about. Once again this was only ever on the inside so nobody knew how I was feeling or what I was thinking, but I wanted to be different every day.
Each day I wanted to wake up and be skinnier than the last and if I wasn’t it would ruin my whole day, all I could think about was my weight and I was never ‘fat’ but by now, society had taught me that if I didn’t have a flat stomach, bony hips and a thigh gap then I wasn’t good enough, I wasn’t worth anything, nobody could ever love me.
Once I left school, my life changed again. I was sad to be leaving a place that I really loved but at the same time I couldn’t wait to get away, I spent the summer frustrated and fretting because I didn’t know where I wanted to go or who I wanted to be, I ended up wasting a year in college that turned out to be the crappiest year of my life but I woke up one day and decided to do something about it, I got away from petty drama, bitchy ‘friends’ and having to wake up every morning wondering how much makeup I was going to wear based on how many people I needed to impress.
I’m 18 now, my perception on life is completely different and it was never deliberate, it almost came naturally. I changed my outlook to a positive one, the feminist movement that’s happening right now has helped me a ridiculous amount to realise that I am more than just my body, I don’t owe anybody anything, I can say ‘no’ to someone and I don’t need to explain myself, this is my body and it’s my choice, I can have stretch marks and curves and tummy rolls and jiggly thighs and I am still worth as much as the next person. I am worth so much more than my body, than my external appearance and the materialistic things that give off a fake image to those who view me. Was I buying that jacket because I liked it, or because I knew other people would? Why was I wearing short skirts when I knew I felt much more comfortable and prettier when they were knee length? Why did I try so hard to cover up my freckles when they were my favourite thing about me as a child? My skin was always clear, so why did I try so hard to put foundation over it to cover up things that were never even there? Why did I endlessly try to be perfect, when perfect doesn’t exist?
I was young; society had taught me that I wasn’t good enough. My physical appearance had taken over my life and at points I wouldn’t eat for so long I’d make myself ill. I was pale, constantly tired, the dark rings around my eyes had made them look empty, I can’t remember a time where I didn’t have a banging headache and on top of this I had to wake up every day and pretend that I was fine. I thought that by making less of me, I would become more. And you know what? None of this ever benefitted me – that guy that I liked? He already liked me and didn’t even notice when I’d lost 5 pounds. Those popular girls I wanted to be friends with? They were the bitchiest, rudest people I’d ever come across. I wasn’t like them in the slightest and I never wanted to be, I just thought that’s what I wanted because that’s what I’d learned from becoming a teenager. All of this was worthless, beating yourself down, mentally and physically torturing yourself because you think others won’t like what they see is worthless.
Your body is a temple, you are you and that is your power – nobody can ever be the same, so why would you waste so much time wishing and pretending that you were somebody else? Be free. Let yourself go. Wake up at 6am and watch the sunrise, let yourself eat breakfast in front of the TV watching your favourite show, wear what you want to wear. Eat that slice of cake sitting in the fridge that your Mum bought especially. Which outfit is in your wardrobe that you’ve never worn because you think it’s not cool enough and doesn’t fit society’s trends? Throw it on, if that outfit screams your name then throw it on and work it, be confident and comfortable. Wear no makeup because you love your natural eyebrows and want to feel the sun shining down on your bare face, throw your hair up in a bun even though you don’t like your chubby cheeks and would rather hide them – it looks cute on you, someday someone is gonna grab those cheeks and kiss you like you put all the stars in the sky. Let your hair down because the breeze dancing through it has never made you feel so free, or completely chop it off and opt for a new-do. This is your life; this is your world – live and create it the way you want to. You don’t have to explain yourself to anybody, whether you’re 90 pounds or 900 pounds you’re still the same on the inside, your worth isn’t determined by whether that guy likes you or not, you were beautiful before he told you that you were and you’ll continue to be long after he’s gone. Remember this. You are beautiful in every single way; you are a creation of the Earth – nature. Nature is the purest and most beautiful form that there ever was, aren’t you lucky that you can call yourself a part of it? Look in the mirror, point to the things that you like, point to the things that you don’t like and say that you love them out loud. Stop comparing yourself to others – “don’t try and be pretty like her, be pretty like you.”
This is a body confidence post that I want to share with all of you, but most of all it’s a letter to myself and the things I wish someone had told me when I was 16. You are perfect the way you are and you don’t need to change yourself for anyone or anything, change because you want to better yourself – look after your body and your mind and remember that it’s what’s on the inside that counts. The people that truly love you won’t care whether you’ve put on 20 pounds since last summer or whether you were known for your beautifully long hair and have now decided to cut it off. The people who don’t like what they see? Be glad that you’ve already weeded them out and can get rid of them before their negative energy fills your life. Surround yourself with positivity, you are everything you need to be and right now you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be. Stop questioning everything, breathe. Go and explore, make memories and remember that you don’t have to explain the choices you make to anybody. Live your life, get out there, go!
All my love,
– Chloe .xx