Let me start off by saying that I share a pretty undramatic story when it comes to accepting and loving myself – no plot twist, crazy fad diets, or anything of that sort.
It was at the end of middle school when I began to notice how a certain kind of beautiful was admired. And by admired I mean in terms of social media likes (because it was as good as currency back then), and real-world attraction. All this was captured in the group I was surrounded by, and discussed in the conversations we’d have over break time.
It was always a curiosity – what was it about those others? What did they carry? Is it their posture, their hair, their beginnings with kajal? Or was it their body type?
And as any 14 year old would, I began to compare myself. In retrospect, I also subtly distanced myself because I didn’t think that my personality then would really fit in with what was “popular”. (Ugh, I cringe at this, and I’m just wondering how most of us let our lives surround this notion of “popularity”)
Don’t get me wrong, I continued to do things I was good at – back then, it was the start of my debating stints, I got comfortable with public speaking, improved my fashion illustration, went to class events, and maintained my friendships. But it was a strange time because I was still getting used to all these ideas of popularity, and it wasn’t something people spoke about in an honest manner. And around me, there were rumours of diets, relationships, and “likes”.
So it was a series of weird months later that I found myself in 11th grade, pretty frustrated with everything around me that I dove headfirst into work as a distraction.
I think that was the start of everything. When I began doing good work for school, my confidence in myself increased. I became involved in so many activities, and that began to act as an affirmation that I could do good things. I began dressing in ways that reflected my newfound confidence – coloured blazers, experimenting with bold lipstick, and what not.
“All this is well and good but how do you make peace with your appearance?”
I think at one point I realised/accepted in school that I wasn’t gonna be the Facebook pretty, and said “whatever”.
My capability/skills made me a different kind of pretty. The kind that’s outspoken, owns her personality, takes up responsibility, and delivers. And when I got to that kind of pretty, I realised why not just love how I look too? It was an easy evolution because I already had confidence in myself. The things I were proud of were not a result of my looks, rather, they existed anyway, so I decided I’d embrace my full self, looks included.
So how do you make peace with your appearance? Find something you’re passionate about and don’t let others stop you from doing it if it gives you joy. It doesn’t matter if that’s dancing, music, drawing, whether you’re good at it or not – just do it because you like it. When you get better at it (which you will, because you will spend hours on it), be proud of it, and confident.
And then you’ll pretty much realise that you can be confident about your appearance too, because you are already confident about the things that define you (which is not inclusive of your appearance).
There is no linear path to self love, neither is it a switch that flips on one day and stays on.
Even now I compare my life to others sometimes, or their bodies, and wonder what it would be like. But the key difference is that I don’t give it thought beyond that. Imagine the things you’d be capable of if you spent less time comparing and more time building on things important to you.
To borrow from one of my favourite authors’ books:
The Twits, by Roald Dahl
I’d like to conclude this post with a story: I once put up a picture of me wearing red lipstick for the first time when I was in high school. Most of the comments were variants of this then-popular meme:
Loosely translates into: Gah! Who’s this girl? She’s wearing makeup like a ghost.
Yeah sure it was off-putting and it bothered me but at that point, I realised I liked wearing red lipstick, and it made me feel good. I didn’t take that photo down either, even if the comments were embarrassing. That’s when I realised, “What’s the big deal with others’ opinions on how you look? Why does it even matter?”
At the end of the day, my capability was unaffected by whether I could rock a red lip or not (I later on learned that I could, along with rocking hot pink, and even orange). I embraced who I was, bright lipstick and all. And I’ve tried not to look back ever since.
Remember that the pressure to be Instagram pretty only matters as much as you deem it to matter. I’d recommend not letting it matter at all.
IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE:
Please do not belittle your friends or internet strangers (even if it’s just a joke) for their looks, or when they try new things out. Please don’t shame people for wearing makeup. Please. Give people genuine compliments, of course, but do not belittle others for a joke, it wrecks their self-esteem. Just think of whether it’s a nice thing to say, or not, before you say it. The world has enough haters. Be encouraging and supportive instead.
• From one of my favourite blogs, Man Repeller:
“After all, a scented candle is just a scented candle. Its wick will burn down eventually. A naked selfie is just a naked selfie; at some point people are going to stop hitting the ‘like’ button and move on to something else. What will care for and cradle you far longer than a matcha latte or a yoga session is feeling you’re being true to who you are; that you are comfortable with how you behave whether there is someone there to witness it or not.”
— You Can’t Have Self Love without Self Respect, by Dolly Alderton (link)
• One of the first blogs that I began to follow, Gala Darling has tons of articles on Self Love. This Self Love Manifesto is a lovely place to start, and I love her lists that combine self love & self care.
• “There’s almost no one whom we treat as badly as ourselves,” — from a New York Times article on Self Compassion.
• Again a popular favourite, Sonam Kapoor’s article, ‘I Didn’t Wake Up Like This’, which talks about how just how unrealistic the beauty standards we set for ourselves are. I would recommend this to everyone.
And that’s my story. What are your thoughts on self love? Do you have a journey with self love you’d like to share? Tell me in the comments!