I can’t remember the last time I felt beautiful. I can’t remember the last time someone told me I look beautiful. But I can remember the last time I felt ugly (about two minutes ago standing in front of the bathroom mirror naked). And I can remember the last time someone told me there was something wrong with my body.
In fact when I think back over my life so far, there are very, very few times in my life when I’ve felt beautiful. Even as a teenager I felt ugly and disgusting compared to everyone around me. I vividly remember having to try and find a dress for our sixth form leaver’s ball… It was a chance for all the girls to dress up in floating gowns and for the boys to don a suit. However the dress searching resulted in me cowering in the corner of my then boyfriend’s bedroom, hiding from the mirror in a flood of tears, crying out that I felt ugly and that I’d look so awful compared to everyone else there. Luckily he was gentlemanly enough to hug me and tell me that I was beautiful but even on the night of the ball itself I felt ashamed and just wanted to cover myself in a huge blanket so no one could see me. I had honestly never felt so ashamed of how I looked in my life.
I guess my body loathing started at secondary school where I imagine it probably starts for most people. I was called ugly; I was teased about my bushy, frizzy hair and thick eyebrows. I felt incredibly self-aware when I was getting changed for P.E that I didn’t have big boobs encased in lacy bras and I certainly didn’t have a thong on (it was cotton knickers all the way for me.) I felt ashamed that I had a thin trail of hair down my stomach because everyone else had such smooth, hairless tummies. I was made to feel bad by ‘friends’ for not wearing make-up. And, one of these ‘friends’ once said, particularly loudly in front of my crush at the time, ‘don’t you think it’s gross when girls have hair on their tummies?’ To which I flamed like a tomato and as soon as I got home that evening shaved it all off. And don’t get me started on that time I realised I was supposed to shave my pubic hair. For some bizarre reason I thought it was natural and was supposed to be there but duhhhhh you have to shave it all off because…you just do?
So, really, I was sort of handed a whole barrage of insults on a plate that my mind quickly digested and started shouting at me every time I looked in the mirror.
‘You’ll never be beautiful’
‘You’re too hairy for a woman’
‘No one will ever look at your body and think they’ve got lucky’
And for the last ten years I’ve been in a vicious cycle of self-loathing. Even now when I look in the mirror I feel my heart sink and my stomach turn over uncomfortably. Why do I look so vile? Why have I got such large thighs? Why do I have stretch marks and cellulite on my legs and hips? WHY AM I SO HAIRY? Why do my boobs look so bored of life? Why have I got a tummy that sticks out and rolls over when I sit down?
The simple answer is because I do. Because this is the body I have; the body I will always have.
Yes, my unhealthy relationship with food has certainly contributed to the fact I’m bigger than I want to be and weigh more than I want to (but that’s an entirely different topic.) And yes my lack of physical exercise every day definitely contributes to the flab and dullness of my body. But I just wish I could stop hating it.
In the past when I’ve come up with epic plans to lose weight, eat healthier and get back to a more comfortable and ‘happy’ size I’ve always ended up thinking ‘what’s the point?’ I’ll still have the same face, the same hairiness, the same stretch marks, the same everything… it might all just look a little bit smaller that’s all. I still won’t be beautiful.
For a long time my fear and hatred of myself was due to my perception of how other people would see my body, namely men. I felt that no man would like my body because it looks nothing like a woman apparently should look like. It’s not tanned, my boobs don’t touch my chin, it all wobbles, it’s hairy etc. And so many times I tried to drill it into my head that any man who didn’t appreciate my body wasn’t worthy of my time. Beauty is more than just looks…right? But why do I still feel compelled to see my body through other people’s eyes? Why is it when I look at photographs of myself I just see a dumpy potato and criticise everything I hate about it instead of looking at what I like about it? I used to take selfies quite often; it was a thing that made me feel better if I could just get the right filter and lighting. I haven’t dared take a photo of myself in at least half a year…I don’t even like looking at my face in the mirror. Let alone on a camera. All the photos I use for social media are old; some even from 2014…
I keep trying to ask myself WHY I feel such hatred towards my own body. Is it because I genuinely hate it? No, I don’t think so. Is it because society and those around me tell me I should hate it? Yes. My family tell me I’m a bit on the ‘big side’ and my mum loves to make a joke about the size of my thighs or bum. Society tells me I should look a certain way and be a certain size; because that’s what’s attractive and what men want.
I hate that I hate myself. I wish I could look in the mirror and think damnnnn gurl, you looking fine. But I don’t. Instead I say fuck. Look at my double chin, my spots, my horrible hair, my bushy eyebrows, oh god, you can see a fat roll under my jumper etc. etc. I verbally abuse myself on a daily basis. I tell myself I’m not beautiful. I stand in front of the mirror, sigh and say, you so ugly. And then walk away. That’s not normal or healthy.
I don’t have people constantly telling me I’m beautiful or gorgeous or they think I look lovely. And to be honest, even if they did tell me that I’d probably just think they were saying it to make me feel better rather than actually meaning it. See? Vicious. Circle.
I fear so much for the younger generations of women. If I ever have a daughter I will do all I can to make her feel like she’s beautiful every day of her life. That’s she’s perfect just the way she is and she doesn’t need to rely on anyone else to love herself. I wish every woman felt that way. I wish every young girl felt that way. I wish there wasn’t such a divide between what people think is normal and what is actually normal. Women come in all shapes and sizes. Some thin, some fat, some short, some tall and that’s OK. It’s OK to be the way you are. It’s OK to look in the mirror and like what you see. It’s OK to think you’re looking hawwwwt.
It’s OK to love yourself.
I wish I could go back in time and hug that sixteen year old me as she sat crying on her boyfriend’s bedroom floor. I wish I could tell her to wear whatever damn dress made her feel beautiful and screw what anyone else thought. I wish I could go back and speak to thirteen year old me and tell her that she doesn’t need to shave anything off and that cotton knickers kick ass and, most importantly, that real friends aren’t critical of your body. I wish I could go back to all the nights that I’ve cried in front of the mirror and just give myself a big hug.
I hope as I grow older I can learn to love my body…I want to look in the mirror one day and think ‘you are so beautiful.’
And I want that for every woman. I want every woman to look in the mirror every single day and realise just how gorgeous they are. We are all beautiful. Whatever our shape, whatever our size, whatever our height, our skin colour, our ethnicity, our religion, our age: We. Are. Beautiful.