When I was in high school, the most prominent comment was one that has stayed with me all of my life (for a few years, it really affected my self esteem, causing me to have a lot of problems with my mental health). I was on the bus home from a long day at school, touching my makeup up (as kids do, because you’re totally going to be seen in your bedroom at night after school, right?), and one of the boys in my year (who, by the way, had the world’s worst acne, and I get the feeling he was merely projecting) yelled at me across the bus, “No amount of makeup will ever make you look good.”
Safe to say, it hurt. For a very long time. I felt unable to really explore myself in terms of my appearance, because I was under the impression that no matter what I did, it would never be enough. I was called fat in school (despite being a UK size 8), and again, that stuck with me. I remember, I was leaning forward in French class over my work once, and my shirt had ridden slightly up my back. A boy behind me yelled to put my “fat packs” away. Again, it hurt. I felt embarrassed.
It was comments such as these that led me to develop an eating disorder, determined to lose weight and prove them wrong (even though they were wrong in the first place, but try telling thirteen year old me that). Puberty is such an awkward time for teenagers, and I have a lot of experiences with just how bad the bullying can get. Puberty is a time when teenagers look super awkward, spotty and lumpy, with strange breast shapes as they grow into themselves, lanky legs, too short torsos… the list goes on. What we don’t seem to understand, however, is that this is perfectly normal. The reason we don’t understand is because most of the time in film media, teenagers are portrayed by adults, therefore skipping the awkward teenage stage entirely.
Because of those boys’ comments (and many others, too numerous to add), I nearly killed myself. Because of my plummeting weight, I developed gallstones, then acute pancreatitis, and then I nearly died. Because of what somebody said to me, I put myself in such a bad position that I nearly killed myself to adhere to somebody else’s ideals.
Every time I open a magazine, look online, watch television, I see people being pressured to look a certain way; not too skinny, but not too fat. Tanned, but not black – because, don’t forget, internalised racism is great (please read: sarcasm). Blue eyed, white teethed, long legged, large breasts. A more or less unattainable appearance that hardly anybody truly has, and yet, it is seen as the norm. Forget acne, forget fine hair, forget cellulite, or large hands, or hairy arms. Forget big bums, uneven breasts, or short legs. Forget any of these things, because according to pressure from predominantly the media (and an ultimately patriarchal society, but let’s not get into that), we’re not allowed to have the very things that set us apart as unique from everybody else.
Nobody else has your cellulite, or that scar on your arm from where you cycled into a fence as a kid, or those stretch marks from when you bore your child. Nobody else has your not so great eyesight, or your slightly off hearing, or your knock knees. We denounce these traits as imperfect, but realistically, who would we be without them? Boring, unblemished, and a blank canvas. Our imperfections tell our stories, and I find it very sad that we are told to hide our stories, and pretend to be bare.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m aware I’m a fashion and beauty blog. I’m well aware that I post reviews of makeup that covers my scars, aware that I wear clothes that hide the bits about myself that I don’t like. I don’t feel that being a fashion blogger lessens my views on these pressures at all, however. If anything, I feel that it makes my point stronger; I now can enjoy makeup, despite the boy on the bus. I can wear clothes that show of my stomach and back, despite the boy in French class. No matter what my past, I have grown and developed to a point where I can now enjoy clothing and makeup for myself, as opposed to anything else. I used to wear makeup as a mask, to hide who I was, but now I wear it because I enjoy the way it looks on, as well as my face when I wear none. I think that’s one of the key differences; before, I hated myself without the mask, yet now, I don’t mind. I’m growing to love myself without makeup, and without push up bras, or clothes that hide my tummy, or my bum.
It takes time, but I believe that everybody can overcome to pressure from society to conform to their beauty ideals; you are you, and nothing will ever change that. Self love is an important step to truly accepting yourself. Yes, it may take a while, and a lot of effort, but over time, I think it does get easy. Our experiences define who we are; as awful as high school was for me, and as horrible as my mental health got, I wouldn’t change any of it (except perhaps the dodgy heart palpitations, I could really do without those). Without my experiences to shape who I am, I wouldn’t be who I am today, which would be pretty sad, because, to be honest, I quite like who I am. I’m funny, empathetic, and passionate. I have great taste in dresses, and love interior decoration. I want to help make a difference in the world, no matter how big or small, and I think that’s pretty special.