(And by you, I mean me, of course.)
One of the side effects of discovering a deeper sense of myself has been the frightening reality that I enjoy dressing up and feeling pretty. It has meant allowing myself the luxury of indulging in small things I never thought I could possibly want or love. Things I didn’t even know I could love, simply because I hadn’t considered the possibility long enough to try it. All because of a fixed sense of self that didn’t fully align with things like pink lipstick, red hair, the occasional selfie on a day when I feel good, or even just looking in the mirror and acknowledging that I look and feel really good. All because of a woefully inaccurate and incomplete sense of who I am, and certain other ideologies that I had hastily picked up and imbibed, for no other reason other than that some parts of them sounded nice and aspirational.
I am now having to slowly deconstruct my false beliefs, examine how distorted my sense of self has been so far, and put it all back together in a way that is most authentic to who I am right now. So much of this has meant letting go of beliefs about being a woman I have staunchly held so far. Beliefs that I have partly because of how I was raised, some because of living through my teens and 20s believing I wasn’t cool/pretty/popular enough to every be worthy of the self-indulgence of prettiness and moments of self-assured confidence and vanity, but mostly based on the ideas of feminism that I have exposed myself to.
And so it’s been a fun time of smashing my own shaky foundations, and rebuilding what feels like and is a more wholistic self.
First and foremost, I’ve realised once again (and had it reaffirmed so many times in so many different ways recently) that the very idea of beauty is a social construct. Mostly one created to pander to the tastes and likes of the gender that sits in viewing, in judgement of the other. For far too long, one half of our kind have decided what is deemed pretty, desirable, sexy and so much of that has come at the cost of our comfort and sanity. To be constantly craving being something one is inherently not, and therefore the constant need to reach an (unhealthy) standard of what is beautiful, is taxing as fuck. And yet we wholly owned that fight and make it a large part of what we do day after day after day.
Personally, I have realised that even with a moderate-to-healthy level of self-awareness and self-assuredness, the constant exposure to a range of media and pop culture that screams messages of what is “right” and desirable, has further reinforced a lot of those shaky beliefs. I may have escaped the desire for fair skin wholeheartedly, but I fell hook line and sinker for the strong-is-the-new-skinny aspiration. And it was so easy to believe that was a healthy, even empowering aspiration to have. For over a decade this has shaped the way I viewed everything about myself — my body, my attitude to health and fitness that was ironically downright unhealthy/obsessive, the way I dress, the way I carried myself, my body language and even my sexuality.
I’ve realised how something so seemingly harmless, couched in good intentions, the right messaging has therefore shaped my notion of beauty, my self-worth, ad my notions of my self. But it was only when I realised how may choices I was making/have made are not quite my own but rather a reflection of what I have internalised as attractive, aspirational, that the cracks have become visible.
This year will go down as the year with the least amount of exercise or attention to fitness. In another time, this would have sent me down a spiral. But I wasn’t prepared for how freeing and powerful it has been to let that shit to, and instead watch myself grow. To feel my hips widen, to enjoy watch the cuts and curves of my once muscular body give way to a more curvy body, to experience with fascination, how my body is changing. And to therefore allow for changes in my wardrobe and the choices in the clothes I want to wear. Suddenly, I have found comfort in clothes that fit me, rather than the other way around. There are small joys in pink lipstick and red hair, in bright prints as much as muted staples, in shopping itself (a luxury I eschewed for a minimalism that I now know is not entirely mine).
What an absolutely liberating joy it has been to rediscover a new sense of self that is beautiful. In filling myself up with the solidity of an inner knowing, rather than the wobbly and slippery slope that is external validation. I think I am only now discovering what it means to know a self worth that is rooted in a belief system that is entirely mine, aligned with notions and attitudes that work for (rather than against) me and the person I am growing into. The most beautiful discovery is how this translates into a confidence, a positive body language, a freeing energy about myself. And this has come from building myself ground-up, rooted in a deep knowing what fills me deep in my core.
It has been like meeting myself for the very first time. And what a beautiful meeting it has been.
Two years ago: Day 229: Into the blue