***Just a little side note before I yabber on. I have debated about posting this for days. Not everyone likes honesty, not everyone wants to hear my view point, and it is a touchy subject. A sensitive one. You don't want to say the wrong thing. And then I turned on the telly as I sat down to redraft and there was a debate going on on one of those morning shows... "Are you beautiful?" And I thought, ya know what, that's gotta be a sign right? SO I re named the post and held my breath and went forth...
Someone I know wrote a really honest post the other day that touched me. I related to it strongly and felt like I got to know her a little better...
This rung true... For the longest time
I wanted to be the girl with the great personality that people wanted to be around because I was funny and wise.
She also talked of how that changed somewhere along the way and therefore begun the high expectations she had on herself to look a certain way, be a certain weight. The pressure she felt to be beautiful and skinny and that this had topsy turvied with her way of thinking and self worth.
Whether it be the guy that needs to be seen as 'strong' or a woman that needs to be seen as 'beautiful' I know I have had these expectations of myself. Put upon myself. Ones that I will never reach, not permanently, or at all. As I have gotten older I get get the impression that there is an importance not to BE strong or beautiful, but perhaps to FEEL strong and beautiful, and to redefine those expectations as they are not the same thing.
My own journey and my relationship with my body, and image, with the way I look and the way I perceive myself along with the way people perceive me, has been tangled with a mix of emotion from as long as I can remember. Mentioned
From the moment I stood in Tammy girl changing rooms trying on a crop top and denim shorts and knowing that I dint quite look like the other girls... from the time that I over heard a so called friend tell a boy I fancied that I had no waist, thin lips and saggy boobs... or that time the chubby boy at school asked me out, and after saying yes, an hour later saying he was joking, From the time I over heard a boy that had seen my boobs, tell his mate that I had burger nipples... I didn't clock that these were defining moments in my thought processes. Not for so many years to come. I didn't realise the negative connotations that were associated with these incidents that all had a part to play in my perception of how I looked to the outside world and how I looked to the person standing looking back at me in the mirror.
The summer of ninety seven, whilst Alanis Morrisette's 'Jagged Little Pill' was playing, I stood in the mirror, naked. My half filled, pointy, boobs and over sized nipples staring at me in the face, obtrusively. I blushed, despite standing there alone. My fanny covered in what looked like a comb over, thin, soft, long (new) pubes. I looked odd. I had not noticed them properly until this particular day. I had sat in the bath and watched them as they had floated to the top, frizzy and coarse making their way through the bubbles. These pubes had offended me. Standing there in my full length mirror, my body no longer looked like my own. It was now unrecognisable. I no longer looked like the person I felt I was on the inside. I had started to shave my legs because the fit boy from the year below had pointed out that my legs were hairy. I'd begged my mum to let me shave,
'Pleaaasseee, I couldn't possibly be the hairy gross beast out of all my friends.'
I had started to use hair mouse and slick down my frizzy 'halo hair' that I had in every school picture until I was twelve. I suddenly had less and less eyebrows after getting pluck happy with the tweezers and then one evening going all out with the Immac that left me with about four eyebrow hairs. Honestly Cara Deleveign would be distraught.
Hairy fanny, bald legs, nearly bald forehead. Check!
I was now a teenager. Hairless (in most places), frizzyless and fatless and far more Self concious, insecure and uncomfortable in my own skin than I had ever been before and about to embark on a long journey of self obsession and comparison. Loosing weight had suddenly made me visible and judgemental. Of myself, and of others. I was now riddled with ugly thoughts.
It's like I went through puberty, got lost along the way and when I came out the other side I felt so unsure of who I really was that it took me a long time to find that ten year old 'honey monster' that caught myself in the mirror and said'You look pretty today Danielle'
Without judgement. Without comparison. That ten year old statement wasn't coming from a place of ego, as I was to later adopt, but more from a place of love. I had 'felt' pretty. And it would be a long time before I felt it acceptable to'feel'pretty again.
At around puberty, after not being invited to the popular boys birthday, after not being chased in kiss chase. Ever. After seeing the admiration people had for the new pretty girl with big boobs. After being told I was pretty since loosing weight.
It suddenly felt like a necessity to be pretty to keep it up. Looking pretty was the new best thing; right after the discovery of the
I wanted to be chased in kiss chase. I wanted the fit boy with a six pack and 'backstreet boys' style curtains, to ask me out. I did. I wanted the boys to think I was pretty too. It's hard to admit that I wanted this, out loud. I feel shame in that. I felt shame in that. The judgey part of me, as I got older, didn't want to be the girl that needed to be beautiful. But some how, I did.
(a talk from Brene Brown on shame)
I built up around the idea of being pretty grew the older I got. What pretty meant to people. There was guilt and resistance. I felt embarrassed if I looked pretty/felt pretty. It felt uncomfortable. It felt awkward. The realisation that all those years when I had felt it, or looked in the mirror with no judgement even. No one had let me in on the secret that frizzy hair, bushy eyebrows, roley bits, thin lips, saggy boobs, legs that touched, a waist that didn't go inwards, was not conventionally pretty... I suddenly felt lost, unidentifiable. I felt like a fraud. Someone decided that now, with only six weeks turn around, I was welcomed into a new way of life, a new group of people. People I thought I'd fitted in with before, only to discover I hadn't, not truly. 'uh uh ahh... you can't sit with us' Yet just like that, over one summer I now had the golden ticket. I was allowed at the back of the bus apparently. The fit boy did seem to fancy me. I think he did, I hoped he did. Did he? Or maybe he'd found out who I really was.
A fraud. And just just like that, I felt like I betrayed who I had once thought I was.
The ultimate dilemma I had discovered was... 'feeling' pretty, having a high self esteem, it came with a whole load of baggage and a truck load of judgement!!!
I had/have always been the girl that wanted to be fun, care free, free spirited, open, kind, intelligent and didn't take herself too seriously... Ya know the one, the 'cool' girl they portray in the films that doesn't have too many friends, but she doesn't care, she has a select few of really close ones, she reads a lot, she knows a lot about a lot, she isn't interested in boys because, well, she is just soo self assured that 'who needs a guy to interrupt her school work and her time she spends playing basketball with her dad out the front of her house.' You know, the girl that wears trainers on her wedding day and never does her hair because, mehhh, she doesn't care (and it just so happens that she always looks like she's just stepped from a Loreal advert). The girl that wore dungarees, but looked 'cute' instead of like a removal van driver.
(I may have watched way to many 90's american films)
I wanted to be pretty,(some days I thought I was/some days I didn't. It was irrelevant)but I didn't want people to think I thought I was, I always felt like that was an arrogant way of thinking. Do not think for one second that you are attractive, that, is ugly in itself.
Half of me wanting to go back to being unnoticed. Or to a world of no second guessing or worrying about what people thought. Not caring what people thought. And then the other half of me wanted to be beautiful, to be a member of a group of girls that wore Miss Selfridge boot cut jeans and looked really good in PE shorts with my T shirt twizzled and tucked under at the front to create a crop top. I wanted to be part of the club where the cool boys across the road would gather and whisper and then one of their friends would come over and whisper to another of our friends and she would squeal and clap and then whisper something back and he would return to his good looking moppy haired gang and watch as the bubbly, excited girl would come back to our group and look at all of us and point... and you would hold your breath and suck in and hope that you had your skirt rolled up right and that your smelly armpits weren't noticeable to anybody else and you would pretend to jauntily stand there, 'casj', uninterested until... 'YOU... He fancies you' and even if you were a part of this gang, this girl group, this members only swaray... you never really felt like you were. Even if the massive WWF finger had pointed at you, there was still this seed of doubt, worry, angst. Was he joking? Was this all a massive joke?
OK so this is bloody mental. At best, it's just plain exhausting.
So you grow up... you stand in the mirror, naked. a lot. Your small pointy boobs (no bigger than they had been in ninety seven, your waist the same proportion, your fanny, well, far better groomed, your forehead, there is far more eye brow and despite any of that, I see someone far more recognisable. Likeable. You have begun to accept that this is you. I do not see a troll doll (unless it is first thing in the morning and then you can bet my jewelled little belly button that my eyes are just as puffy and my hair just as big). I stand there and accept I am not Belle or Ariel or Jasmine either. I also, now I am older, have realised that these ideals don't really exist. Jasmines thick hair is achieved with hair extensions and those massive Disney eyes, you can buy a two quid set of lashes. Ariel's cute pert boobs... well some are blessed... those characters are somebodies ideals. That are achievable. Down at super drug perhaps more easily than deep in our thoughts. As yall know by now, I have a million and one insecurities. I play with the donut fat around my belly, I pose in the mirror to create a thigh gap, I draw on brows so they look better, I bleach the tash, bronze the face.'
I guess now, there is no time for so much horrendous scrutinising.
For standing in the mirror for hours on end, wishing that my bottom would be plumper, or my boobs would be a bit pertier, or that my waist would be a lot teenier.
I have met people, or see people that I would like to emanate more than J lo or a Disney princess. People that fascinate me. Conventionally 'beautiful' or not. People I am in awe of. The people I grew up wanting to be just like... Bette Midler, Julie Walters, Dawn French, The spice girls... Or now the people I would love to be best friends with, Lena Dunham, Mindy Kaling, Caitlin Moran, Emma Stone, Dawn O'Porter.
What's horrific is I've given pretty women a hard time. I had it in my head for a long time, that if you look good, your less likely to be funny. If you pull all the boys, you are hardly going to be interesting enough to write a book I might like.
If you watch what you eat, your as boring as David Cameron at a Dodgers game... I spent years wanting to make sure I was not as boring as a prime minister at a sports game. That I was open, approachable. Deep down, I felt that 'playing into looking good' was offensive. Arrogant. Obnoxious.
I spent years being so unsure of who I was and what I really thought, and I never wanting to give away the uncertainty, Which in turn made me way less honest, real or likeable. Always relying on other peoples perceptions of myself to feel good, rather than being the person who 'I' liked.
Unfortunately surrounded by a society that expects us look a certain way, to own our beauty inside and out, but berates us for putting up a #selfie... Own it... but not socially. I also feel pressure NOT to conform. Be funnier, be more opinionated, be more laid back, be a feminist. Say no to J los booty video, say no to lipstick, brushing your hair, wearing short shorts. Be the cool girl. Be the quirky girl. We are surrounded by a society that says, 'love yourself' but not too much. Embrace being YOU. But don't be TOO much. Be goofy, but if you look groomed, pretend you don't think you are.
... what if, just maybe... my biggest fear was that I wasn't able to tick any/all of these boxes. What if my biggest fear was that I was just mediocre. Boring. Not super pretty, not super funny, not super intelligent. Not super anything. What if I were ordinary? Normal? Was that enough?
There will be days when my tash is so dark It looks like a 40 year old mans bum fluff. Or my eyebrows are so unkempt I look like Bert from sesame street. What I hope I instil in my daughter, is the power as a girl/woman to feel OK with that. To worry not whether people think she is (any adjective) enough, and to be more concerned with how she feels, how she makes them feel. How she treats them. If I have a daughter I hope to tell her one day, when she is standing in the mirror wondering if she is pretty or not (as my mum did, yet other stuff got in the way), I want to tell her she is beautiful. With or without make up. But if she has a kind soul and a smiley face, If she is kind to herself the way she is to others, she will feel content and less concerned with the horrendous crap above that had been so crippling in allowing me to be the best me I could be, because I was having ugly thoughts, not lovely thoughts... I am still on this journey. The days when I don't say hello, or I seem quiet, or closed off, those are usually the days I feel insecure or not good enough.
... worth a watch
Ten year old me
I feel prettiest when I am not being mean and judgemental. To myself or others. I feel prettiest when I feel comfortable in my own skin. When I am true to myself. When I am honest with myself, with others. I feel prettiest when I smile at someone and they smile back. I feel prettiest when I share my fears and people say they 'get it'