Being beautiful: a how to guide.

Take a deep breath and relax… because you’re already doing it.

If you woke up this morning, took a look in the mirror and focused in on the part of yourself that you loathe, you’re not alone. We are force-fed images of beauty from such a young age and then create unrealistic expectations of our bodies; the way we should look in order to be desired by someone, anyone, everyone. We spend so much time pinching, prodding, and pulling in front of the mirror that it becomes an unhealthy, un-natural obsession with the shell we’ve been given to journey through this life.

I’ve struggled over the years with my own body image, I’ve felt undesirable and much less than beautiful. I’ve detoxed, dieted and doubted every bite I’ve ever taken. In highschool, being the chubby queer kid earned me a horrible nickname that I’m sure would still stick if I was to see any of the assholes who created it. For as long as I can remember I have compared my body to those of strangers, celebrities and even friends. Sometimes, even today, no matter how great I start out, I find myself thinking; if only I had her abs/arms/thighs/ass/breasts/cheekbones. How did we get to a place where how we feel about ourselves is a direct link to how other people see us?

Women who carry any extra weight are obese or unhealthy while those who can’t keep weight on are seen to have eating disorders. Small thighs are ideal because, duh… ‘thigh-gaps’ but thick thighs are desirable too; as long as you’ve got a synched waist. Let’s not forget that those Anacondas don’t want none unless you’ve got buns hun. The amount of pressure we put on ourselves and each other to have the ‘ideal body type’ is exhausting. Magazines are advertising ways to achieve a bikini body, as if having a body and wearing a bikini is somehow not enough. Movies and television work their magic reinforcing beauty standards by reminding us, that most leading ladies are of a particular height/weight and ethnicity, while the chubby girl gets cast (yet again) as the best friend or the butt of every joke. Although this isn’t surprising and it isn’t exactly news, what is shocking is that we are still here, eating that shit up with a spoon as if it’s being fed to us by Mary Poppins herself.

We’ve been taught that being ‘beautiful’ is only achievable if we follow a certain set of rules. While we’re searching, editing and creating an aesthetic that will make us ‘perfect’ based on current trends, what they are really saying is that who we are is not enough. Social media nurtures the asshole in everyone by giving us an easy to use platform to comment on any picture, person or situation, from behind the screen – without consequence.

Apps like Tinder are the perfect example of just how image obsessed we are as a society. We take one look at the carefully selected profile picture of person X and decide whether we would like to swipe left or right based on how much of a lady boner we get. How can we possibly tell anything about them other than whether or not they can take a good selfie? If my experience is anything to go by, the more attractive they are to me on first glance, the more likely they are to be a serial pest/killer.

Speaking of selfies, my friends often make fun of the ridiculous amount that I take/post. The truth is it has taken me a really long time (and I’m still learning) to love the skin that I am in. My own journey of self love is sometimes a daily struggle and it certainly doesn’t help that I’ve dated people who have been so obsessed with image, that I have tried to edit the parts of myself that they found less desirable. If you choose to share your body with a lover, that is just one way of connecting and should be celebrated but it is nowhere near as intimate as opening up the darkest parts of ourselves and letting someone take a look around.

I don’t post pictures online to get justification or ‘likes’. I do it because for years I was so far from being comfortable in the body I’ve been given that I was ashamed to share it with anyone, let alone the internet. It was as if I felt like I needed to apologise for not being skinny/pretty/tanned/synched or toned enough so I hid beneath clothes, humour and my apparent ‘sassy’ personality. So you can bet your ass that when I am feeling myself, I will continue to take pictures and publish them online and I encourage you to do the same. Even though I enjoy sharing them, realising that I am more than what you see is one of the greatest gifts I have ever discovered for myself.

So, if you ever need reminding that you are it and a bit, I can be the Aibileen in your life and record “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”. You can play it on repeat all day if you need to, whatever it takes. Every single part of us is made up of memories, love, light and beauty. It is such a great disservice to yourself and to the world every time you forget how glorious and magical you are, so cut that shit out! Every woman is beautiful. We have a responsibility to hold each other tightly and celebrate all of the ways we encapsulate that beauty; our minds, our vulnerability, our power, our spirit, our strength and our creativity. The sooner we start to believe that our value isn’t in ‘likes’ but in the connections that we form with other people, to the world and within ourselves, the happier and more fulfilling our lives will be.

It is up to all of us to hold the media to a higher standard. It is up to you, every day, to discover the real reasons behind why we see and compare ourselves to people who are doing exactly the same thing when they look at someone else. It is up to us to remove ourselves from relationships, friendships and situations that don’t serve any purpose other than to tear us down. Stop making excuses for shitty and hurtful behaviour, even if it is you who is torturing yourself and start to surround yourself with people who appreciate every single bit of who you are; beyond the exterior and deep within. We can’t continue to put our value in the hands of anyone who isn’t brave enough to truly see it.

Feeling beautiful isn’t about perfection… it’s about being kind, generous, loving, warm, compassionate and proud of who you are. Real beauty is the way that we feel about ourselves and not the way people look at us.  I know it’s easy to forget and we’re all guilty of it but imagine for a moment that we made a pact to show more kindness to ourselves. and spend more time exploring the things that make us feel most beautiful. Tomorrow when you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror,  promise me you’ll take a second to appreciate everything you’ve been through. Every moment of discovery, heartache, happiness and loss that has made you the incredible woman that you see staring back at you.

We’ve got this, because we’re perfect. Just the way we are.

Love, P.

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