As much as the world tries to make us accept our own image, I fear it is a lost cause. I came to adulthood in the dawn of social media taking over the world. Images of body perfection have been thrown at me from all directions since I was in my teens, probably the worst time of life to be influenced by such things. When I look back at photos of my sixteen-year-old self I see a curvy size 10/12, the kind of body I would kill for now, so why did I think I was fat then? No matter how many times my then-boyfriend, Mum or friends told me otherwise, I felt and looked fat in my eyes. I was the fat friend. Guys always fancied my friends over me.
I had so many insecurities… I developed a hatred of wearing denim, fearing that jeans would make me look disgusting and fat. As a result, I vowed to never, ever wear jeans. For a long time I wore black trousers as black was good at disguising fat. I hated wearing my hair up as I felt it made my teeth stand out which are slightly crooked. I hated my teeth, not only for the one tooth that partially covers the one next to it, but for the colour. ‘They are disgusting!’ I would say to myself in the mirror during one of my many brushing routines. I developed a bit of an OCD with caring for my teeth. I HAD to brush them twice in the morning, before and after any breakfast, and then once at night before bed and I would not allow myself to eat or drink anything else once finished. I had to wash my hair every day, because that was the only way to make it look nice enough to leave the house. Hair that had been slept on did not look or feel as fresh in the morning and it did not feel right to go out to work or in public without washing it first.
It has taken me until the age of twenty-nine to stop giving a shit.
Eleven weeks ago, I had a baby. A beautiful, perfect baby girl. Since then, my whole routine has changed. I wear my jeggings almost everyday because they’re comfy, not caring that they are denim and showing the shape of my chunky legs or big bum. I very rarely get an opportunity to brush my teeth a second time on a morning. And as for my hair… I now manage to go three days between washes. Three days! And you know what? The world has not ended. My hair still grows and even looks healthier.
I now accept that this is me. This is my image. I need to stop caring what other people think about me because what does it matter really? I don’t aspire to be a Victoria’s Secret model… so, what if I don’t lose the last of the baby weight? What if my hair isn’t perfect? What if I don’t have picture perfect teeth? I wish I could tell my sixteen-year-old self that image isn’t everything.
Now, here comes the fun part. I just gave birth to a little girl. A little girl who is perfect and beautiful. A little girl who is going to grow up feeling self-conscious about her body and hair and teeth. I will do my best to make her feel good about herself but I know deep down that she will not accept my word for it, because I never accepted it from anyone. I vow to try early on in her life to help her, even if it means I make her recite “You is kind, you is smart, you is important” every damn day, I will do it.
The world will not change with regards to the perfect image. It doesn’t matter how many campaigns there are about acceptance, there will always be a new generation of young people affected by their image. Once they accept themselves… along comes the next generation. And then the next generation. And so, we are all connected, in the great circle of life’s insecurities.