Before I even get remotely close to the main point of this post, I think a bit of back story and history is necessary for the sake of understanding the bigger picture here…
I am almost certain that everyone (even those that consciously turn a blind eye to it) has at some stage bared witness or held discussion around the damaging demons that can lurk behind social media apps that so casually linger on our cell screens. We live in an age where beauty is pre-conceived and depicted through a 600px² box and validated by double-tapping a thumb, where the number of ‘likes’ is a direct reflection of your popularity, and of course your likability, and where your number of friends is more important than the number of hours you spent volunteering or doing something that actually mattered.
We compare ourselves, belittle ourselves and in a matter of seconds we can point out each and every one of our now falsely perceived ‘flaws’.
Admittedly, I fell victim to this too; and for the first time I am openly sharing this as my own mark of bravery, and as a helping hand or voice of reason to those who have, or are experiencing the same thing I did. I feel that not enough women (or men for that matter) are encouraged to embrace themselves for who they truly are, and I’m not referring to personality types, attitudes or moral tendencies, I am strictly focussing on your body type, your shape, pigmentation, acne, weight, breast size, hair length, lashes, thigh gaps, nails, and all the rest of the useless nonsense that society has deemed as important aspects in justifying who you are.
In school I was already self-conscious about my weight. Facebook had just become a hit and Instagram was in its blooming phases; naturally, girls followed and idolised models and aspired to the jaw-dropping beauty of celebrities. I wasn’t allowed on Facebook until I was about 16yrs old, so this came as massive shock to. I stayed away from pool-based sports such as swimming or water polo, because I would not be caught dead with my bloated tummy, pale chubby thighs and shaving rash waddling around the pool like the ugly duckling – puberty wasn’t kind and teenagers can be nasty creatures. I stuck to hockey and athletics; strictly running shorts.
As I got a bit older, things didn’t get any easier… I still struggled with my self-image, a lot. I found solitude in the mountains through my trail running and hiking expeditions, but returning to the toxic wastelands of social media only set me back each time. I began eating less, sometimes hardly eating at all. I began relying on water solely as my source of nutrition (yes, very dumb, but this is what happens and it is a very real delusion), and despite what my body actually needed I was very prepared to push myself damn near the edge of my limit of functionality.
When I found no change in my weight, I resorted to making myself sick after meals… if I even ate a meal to begin with. I was feeling faint almost everyday, but that was alright as long as I didn’t put on weight.
I based so much of my self-worth on what I looked like. Aside from my weight, I was obsessed with covering my face with all sorts of make-up – granted I wasn’t the best at even applying it, but I felt as if as long as there was something on it, I looked a little better. I never wore my hair the natural curly locked mess I was blessed with, but had a very good relationship with my hair straightener. The big one, and the most deadly interaction of all – the tweezers and the eyebrows… and then drawing them back on anyway. I always tried to dress as well as what my sister did, because in my eyes she was always prettier, more womanly, more everything… not me.
Needless to say, I sent myself into a downward spiral before hitting a rock-bottom depression.
Two years ago, still on my pursuit of perfection, I decided that bleaching my hair was an absolutely brilliant idea – blondes are gorgeous, the girls on Pinterest colour their hair in all sorts of shades, balayage styles and I didn’t care for the difference between highlights or lowlights, just give me what you got! Now the problem with having such thick, coarse hair that has been victim to box-dye and bleach far more than once over the years is that you never quite know what is going to happen… I spent 4hrs at a HAIRDRESSER and walked out in tears looking like a bleached tangerine and hue of orange all the way through from root to tip. It was beyond rescue or reversal, and I resorted to the only solution and saving grace I had left for any chance of a healthy head of hair; I shaved it.
I spent the first few days in love with my new tennis ball fuzz, it was liberating! I saved a fortune on shampoo and drying my hair was as good as a shake-off and a brush of the towel. Then I slowly started depreciating again… I started wearing beanies, caps, scarves, pretty much anything to cover it. I started feeling as if I looked like a boy, like I wasn’t feminine enough. I wasn’t able to recognise an ounce of prettiness in the mirror and I hated looking at my reflection.
Then one morning something changed. As if something inside of me just decided it was enough torture to myself. I looked in the mirror – and I beg you, if you are someone, or know someone currently struggling with your self-image or fighting for self-love, try this – I washed off all my make-up and I stood in-front of the mirror in nothing more than a shirt and my pyjama shorts. I looked myself dead in the eyes and told myself I was beautiful. I was difficult, it actually took me a couple tries to get the words out, and truth be told I burst into tears when I did manage to say it.
I told myself that it actually didn’t make what I looked like on the outside, because there was not a single other person alive who looked like me or that is me, and that itself is worth more than anything else on this earth. It doesn’t make any difference what you look like on the outside, if you have a good heart and live your truth as raw and authentically as you can, you have guaranteed yourself happiness instantly. And I’d rather have a kind heart and be as good a human as I can than try pretend to be something I’m not trying to live up to the expectations of people that will never notice, nor ever matter anyway.
I felt like a goddess and I fell in love with myself on the spot.
Fast forward to last year November when my dumb ass decided to walk into a hair dresser, shave only half my head and dye the rest because it was time for a change and hell, I was ready. What I didn’t think to process was that my thick coarse didn’t like bleach the first time, so why would it be any different another time… it wasn’t. I damaged my hair yet again and I could feel strands snapping off every time I came close to it with a brush. So let’s jump ahead a little more recently to what is now January 2020, and I decided to shave it all off once more and start fresh.
Quite frankly I regret nothing and I think this was just the reality check I needed to remind myself that aesthetics and modification to your existing natural beauty is nothing more than a sin and slap in the face to the marvels that moulded you how you were intended to be… Just. Plain. You.
Know who you are, at your core. Know your truth and own it, hard. Share who you are from your heart and live as if you are celebrating every little perfect imperfection that is totally unique and unlike any other on the face of the globe. And after all, it’s just hair… it grows back.
What I would love to see, and aspire to, are more accounts promoting and encouraging the authenticity of being human to younger generations. Influencers who use their power to inspire and engrave the concept of ‘perfect normality’ and ensure their youthful years aren’t stolen from them with wasted hours in-front of a mirror wishing they looked any different. Let’s inspire kids to embrace who they are from a young age so they can worry about the more important things later in life; environmental conservation, global education, world health concerns, equality amongst all ethnicities and genders, world peace… not what they look like.
Let’s teach them they’re enough. And let me remind you that you are enough. You always been enough. You always will be enough. The sooner you realise that, the sooner you grant yourself the opportunity to take your next step with a brighter, truer and cheek-busting smile that you deserve to have on your face each and every day. That is the main point.