For a teenage girl, this wasn't unusual. An awful lot of my friends were doing the same thing.
In my mid-teens I discovered Goth and alternative fashion. This gave me a new focus, and it took me a few more years to realise that covering your issues with make-up is not the same as confronting them. There was a stage in my life when I wouldn't go outside without make-up on. I was happy to spend an hour just on my hair and make-up in the mornings, because I didn't feel 'acceptable' without it. Oh, the irony, when I was relating to subcultures that were spawned from punk, the original fuck-you to standards of appearance laid out by society and the media.
At the time, I didn't realise that my obsession with my clothes, hair and make-up was, for me, a different symptom of the same problem. I was still spending an enormous chunk of my time - and money - fussing over my appearance. I thought that because I was eating three square meals a day, and had the confidence to wear weird clothes in public, that I was OK. The fact that I still hated the person I was underneath, the face I was born with, somehow didn't even register with me.
At around the time I drifted out of the Goth scene, I discovered body positivity. I had always considered myself a feminist - of course I believed in equal rights for women - but I had never stopped to think what it really meant. Not just to me, personally, but in general. If feminists were fighting for equal rights, what were they fighting against?
One of the issues raised by feminism, I learned, was one that had taken up a large portion of my teen years - beauty standards. The more I read up, the more I became horrified that it had just genuinely never occurred to me that there was more to my life than what I looked like. I was so inwardly-focused that all my interests revolved around how I looked, down to reading, almost exclusively, books with characters who dressed the same way as me.
|A wild dork appears|
It's 2015. I can be a mess if I want to.
With this in mind, I have created some goals for myself, for the coming year.
- Stop buying clothes that I don't need. My wardrobe is spilling over and I don't wear half of it. Thanks to several years' worth of ruthless clear-outs, most it now is practical, useful stuff that I actually like, so I'd rather start making the most of what I've got than keep trying to 'retail therapy' my way to happiness. If retail therapy actually worked I'd be a lot more well-adjusted by now.
- Try to occasionally eat a vegetable. (I don't count calories any more but I do predominantly eat crappy beige food out of microwaveable packets.)
- No body shame. No bad self-talk.
- Try to stop comparing myself to other people. I am really bad with this. Other women being amazing can make me feel quite insecure. But we all have our own strengths and weaknesses.
- If any of my friends put themselves down, give them a dead arm. (Not literally. Assaulting your buddies is bad. But I do get cross when my fantastic friends keep calling themselves ugly or stupid and I refuse to join in with the self-hate or act like it's OK.)
- Stop staring in the mirror looking for new faults. Go and read a comic book instead. Limit mirror time, because I get obsessive and weird about it. (When I do find myself staring into the mirror, I like to break the tension by winking at myself and then start doing pirate impressions. Makes me feel good. Don't know why.)
- Don't be afraid of goofy selfies. Try to be authentic, not perfect.
- Moar journalling. Moar art. Moar yoga. Moar DIY.
Please feel free to join me in my quest for epic body positive riot grrrl woman-ness, or share your own advice/thoughts/ideas/experiences.