Learning to get past your insecurities and love yourself is a long and difficult process, but the rewards when you succeed make it all worthwhile.
“I don’t understand why I suddenly had a crisis about fancying women,” I was telling my housemate Ollie about a particularly weird night out. “I mean, fancying women is one of my top five things about myself.”
This – admittedly slightly outlandish – statement was met with confusion. “Top five things? Is that normal?” he asked.
“Yeah,” my other housemate Hattie chipped in. “Mine are like, four personality quirks, and then either my butt or my boobs, depending on the time of the month.”
It wasn’t always like this. I’ve only recently had a list, and I’ve only had the capacity to make a list for a little longer than that.
I was constantly told that I was a beautiful child, but like all women in the UK, by the time I was older I had been raised in a society which simultaneously told me I was too unimportant to speak, and too boring if I didn’t.
By 13, my nose had grown quicker than the rest of me, and one of the cool kids told me that if I sat on the back seat of a bus, I could drive it with my face.
It’s stupid – of COURSE it’s stupid – it’s a story I love to tell after a lot of wine when I’m laughing about how far I’ve come since school. But when I was sitting at that table at that age, I felt hurt and humiliated and I couldn’t tell anyone about it later because I knew the only normal reaction to such a ridiculous statement was more ridicule.
Those experiences continued, and when you’re young it’s hard to separate the idea that you’re ugly from the idea that the rest of you is worth nothing as a result. Our appearance is so tied up with our self-worth, that being a good person can feel pointless if you’re not beautiful too. It took years to unlearn the lesson that I was ugly and uncool and I didn’t matter. I had to move to university; I had to have my heart broken and survive stronger than before; I had to buy a killer red lipstick.
Loving myself isn’t arrogance or self-importance – or at least not entirely – it’s the only way I know how to keep going, and it didn’t come easily. The first time you look in the mirror and tell yourself you look hot, it seems like a joke. But you have to keep kidding yourself until it starts to feel true. Most people can find something they like about themselves, even if it’s just their favourite outfit, so there’s always somewhere to start.
And once your confidence is built up, other areas of your life might start to make sense too. When your own insecurities begin to fade, it’s harder to let people treat you badly, because you know you deserve better. It’s also easier to forgive and have sympathy for the mistakes of others, which are so often caused by insecurities. After all, you’ve been there. Now that you’ve got some distance from that mindset, you can fully appreciate how toxic it can be. And of course there’s no need to explain the difference that a little extra confidence can make in a job interview or on a first date.
“I know” has become my standard reply to a colleague saying how great my outfit is. But after a while, it became more than just self-affirmation. It became a mantra. I don’t just love myself, I love the idea of loving myself, and so should every other woman who’s ever been made to feel small. When I snapchat my face with the words “look how hot I am!” I’m not just showing off, I’m trying to set an example. I can never get annoyed by girls taking selfies because I just want to give them a standing ovation.
Women, wear that cute dress if it makes you feel great. After all, Christina said it best – you ARE beautiful. And the sooner you know it, the better.