Tag Archives: Self-Confidence

Chapter Eight: Body Confidence and Me

Growing up, I had absolutely no issues with my image whatsoever; when my dad told me that Prince had written Most Beautiful Girl in the World about me, it was simply a given that he was absolutely and unwaveringly correct, so my incessant swaying whenever the song came on, purely made sense. I was thanking Prince through the method of sway-dance for writing a pretty accurate song about me. Every day, my parents would grab me in their arms, hug me and tell me that I was beautiful, something I accepted willingly – I guess I was really beautiful! I had no other means of comparing myself to anyone and I didn’t think of ever doing so and I don’t think that anyone ever compared themselves to me, it was just something that wasn’t done in the nineties, I guess; we spent more time playing games and deciding which Spice Girl we were, rather than worrying about who’s body was better than the rest. Truthfully, it took me a very, very long time to develop any form of body issues and think that it was my later teens that triggered the insecurities I cling onto now.

I was a teenager in the early 2000s and I’m not sure if something happened during this time that resulted in an entire generation of young girls suddenly loathing themselves, or if body confidence issues have been a popular bone of contention for every girl of every generation since the beginning and we were simply receiving the baton from those before us, but to me, it just feels like body confidence is a very modern issue affecting women these days and that my generation were truly the first to feel the bitter sting of self-doubt and loathing. I’m not sure about anyone else, but to me it felt like almost an immediate thing; one day I was simply me: a girl who wore clothes and did things with her time, wore shoes and sometimes wore a ponytail in her hair, and then all of a sudden, I felt that I was too tall, that my breasts were deformed; I felt dorky and plump, dreadfully awkward in my own too pale skin. I’m not sure where this idea came from, because I had gotten through the early part of my teenaged years quite easily and back then I had been covered in spots and my skin was greasier than a takeaway pizza, my limbs growing longer than the rest of me… I had no issues then. I still thought that I was simply a human, existing in society, maybe not the most beautiful girl in the world, because I found out that my dad liked to extend the truth a lot (like, who knew that dads didn’t give birth to boys?!), but I didn’t feel monumentally grotesque or anything else of the sort.

Growing up, role models were never really my thing and I never felt that I wanted to model my appearance on anyone in particular. There aren’t really many women from my childhood that I remember being obsessed with, other than potentially The Spice Girls as a collective and Ethel from The Worst Witch, who just so happens to play the bad witch making the protagonists life hell, but she wore really fierce boots and was top of her class at everything, a total teachers pet and I loved her. If you haven’t seen the film, you can find it all on Youtube and below is a picture of my favourite character from the movie:

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In spite of all this, I didn’t emulate anyone in particular and this adoration of Ethel the bitchy witch didn’t extend further than asking my mam if I could have boots like hers for school… And I did:

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The same could indeed be said of my earlier teenage years; most of my heroes were male musicians from the punk scene or in some cases, incredibly pale, long haired, piercy blue eyes Finnish metal gods. I did love the screen sirens of times foregone, such as Doris Day, but not in the sense that I looked at my body and thought that I needed to change it, or that it was inadequate in some way. I can’t really pinpoint the exact moment, but it began to fester within me, I guess, when I started watching The OC. At the time, I’m pretty certain it was a cultural phenomenon and everyone was affected by it and loved it; I was so in love with Seth Cohen that I genuinely typed, Curly haired Jewish boys in Newcastle, into Google and hoped I would find him staring back at me with comic book t-shirts and great taste in music. When Anna was introduced, she could have been, arguably, the first person I ever wanted to emulate as a teenager. She was so cool and adorable; I cut my hair off to look just like her and for the first time, I began reading comics and fell in love with Betty White. All I really managed to do was look like a pixie boy and prove to people that I was a weirdo obsessed with old people, but she still embodied a lot of the characteristics I recognised in myself as a teenager at the time; I was quirky and wise beyond my years, or at least I thought so and her wardrobe was enviable to the point I began dressing like her too, much to the chagrin of my poor mother who had no idea what the fuck I was trying to accomplish.

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For me, I think college was the first step towards me becoming the big ball of insecurity and anxiety I am today. When I started college, my parents offered to buy me new clothes and whilst I was incredibly grateful for their offer, I really regret the entire day, even now. It’s one of those memories that burns in my subconscious like a perpetual, horrific flame intent on ruining my life. You see, my dad insisted on coming with me that day and he hates shopping. My dad insisted on coming shopping with someone who loved the likes of Topshop and complained at everything in there. I can’t remember where I shopped in the end, but I dragged him around the shops for far too long, until he and my mam began to tell me what college was really like, so I had a better grasp on what kind of fashion ensembles to purchase. Turns out my parents were remembering their college years in the eighties as though they had gone to college in America in the sixties and what I ended buying made me look like the perpetually bare foot, long haired, bearded, hand-held drum playing marijuana expert; I was basically dressed in a Jesus t-shirt and khaki green combat trousers that my parents insisted were super-duper cool and that’s why they weren’t in Topshop, but at the back of a shop AND ON SALE. I also ended up buying a turquoise blue golf inspired jumper with other golf related colours on, which I wore ON TOP OF a shirt with FLARED jeans. I am so ashamed to admit that, until I started my first day of college, I thought I looked okay.

On my first day, the entire college was awash with really attractive, well dressed individuals. Women who looked as though they’d been up for hours perfecting their hair and picking out all the right accessories to go with their skinny jeans, heeled boots and cinched at the waist by massive belt style tops. I wore pink trainers with cherries on them, flares and the dork ensemble that made me look less like Anna from The OC and more like my parents had banished me from our Amish camp because they heard me listen to rock music one time. I was mortified. Even more so when I saw that there were people wearing the band t-shirts I so desperately wanted to wear, with skinny jeans, Converse and studs. I owned pink Converse! I could totally fit in! All day, I internally cursed my stupid parents for having such an influence over my fashion choices, because of their free admission that I had shit taste in clothes. Now, I realise that we were partaking in the eternal struggle between teenager and parent and that, for the first time in history, parents won and I allowed myself to be controlled by their ridiculously misplaced love. Arseholes!

Eventually, I found my own style and wore a lot of brightly coloured tank tops with t-shirts underneath, a lot of black and I eventually started buying my own accessories that made me look like I was trying to perform an African wedding ceremony on a daily basis, but it still makes me think back with abject horror at how bad I looked, but I still had no real issue with my body. Just my fashion choices… Sorry, MY PARENTS FASHION CHOICES. I then developed a distinctively 60s style, but a better one that seemed to be because of my burgeoning obsession with Ms Edie Sedgwick, out came the dramatic eyes and the big old earrings… Gone was the dorky girl who listened to her stupid parents!

The first time I ever felt horrible about how I looked, I was going into Newcastle for a night out with my sisters and one of my nurse friends. I was wearing grey shorts with black tights and a black top that fastened at the top of my neck, for some reason, with a black cardigan (I always wear cardigans!) my hair was tied up and my makeup consisted of the white eyeshadow with black eyeliner as I was going through my Edie Sedgwick phase and bright red lips. I remember standing in front of my mirror looking at my ‘then’ ridiculously flat stomach, before turning my attention to my round, seemingly pert derriere and thinking I’M A FUCKING WHALE I HATE MYSELF. I cried my make-up off and made it clear to my sister and mother that I didn’t want to go. Unfortunately, my sister really did want to go, so I had no choice. So along I went, in the clothes that I hated, my make-up reapplied and I sipped a few cocktails. Eventually, we decided to go dancing and went to a bar I haven’t been in since. On our way out, something hit me on the top of the head and when my sister turned around to see blood pouring down my face like I’d just stepped off the Carrie set, she began pushing and screaming to get me to safety. Someone had dropped a glass bottle on me from upstairs and burst my skull open, as far as I was aware. I knew I didn’t want to go out.

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Now, admittedly, when I don’t feel that I look okay and have anxious feelings about leaving the comfort of my home, I think back to that night and realise that it was karma. I did look fat, I did look hideous and I should never have left the house. A broken head was my punishment.

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Selfish Selfies: Why I love The Selfie

I’m going to write a blog. But first? Let me take a selfie…

The Selfie has become an element of society that is so deeply ingrained within pop-culture, that it was bound to raise a few eyebrows and prompt a few head shakes from the media. Selfie culture has gone from a few teenagers taking pictures of themselves in their bedroom, to an overwhelmingly successful industry that not only includes The Selfie Stick, but an opening in the market for Kim Kardashian to slip into, thus creating Selfish the first Selfie book.

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Within the media, selfies generally are attributed to an overwhelming sense of narcissism, only further perpetuated by our use of social media; it enhances the concept of digital narcissism and our innate desire to brag, show off and become constantly apparent in everyone’s lives. There are countless articles online that perpetuate the concept that being appreciative of one’s appearance is wrong and that posting a picture of yourself looking good because you feel good makes you a self-absorbed monster and is representative of something very wrong, not only with social media as a whole, but you specifically are more likely to be a pervert, a psychopath and must have something very, very wrong with you. A selfie is tantamount to you standing on a stage, overtly seeking approval from your peers by screaming, ‘LOOK AT ME’ and not at all as a result of a simple, innocuous action as a result of feeling good about yourself. The concept of feeling good, feeling self-confident and thinking you look good is entirely inert within this research – it seems that general opinion dictates that if you take selfies, then you are insecure, constantly seeking the approval of others and are dangerously narcissistic.

This is, I think, why social media is seemingly agog with the concept of Kim K releasing her very own selfie-positive book: people are openly questioning why there is a space for her in the market to release a book and further questions as to why she’s famous and making more money in a day than most of us will in a life time. Granted, I understand the concept of becoming unimaginably rich beyond your wildest dreams by sucking dick and cleaning up after Paris Hilton doesn’t seem like reason enough for someone to be at a level of fame that releasing a book full of pictures of themselves is possible, but I can’t help that Kim Kardashian’s overt declaration of self-love is a positive thing: it stands up against the media’s perception of how people should look, it cries out against their perceptions of narcissism and re-appropriates the concept of feeling good about yourself – it renders the media inert, in a sense, because now we have pictures of Kim Kardashian, released and approved by Kim K herself, what do we need the paparazzi shots for?

As a woman and as someone who is very conscious about how women are perceived within the media and pop-culture itself, I support Kim Kardashian wholeheartedly; she has reclaimed her appearance, her physique and the media’s perception thereof and has thus rendered any other means of viewing pictures of her obsolete; she is a social media magnate and when we want to see pictures of Kim K, we don’t rush out to buy the latest magazine, we open Twitter or Instagram and look a pre-approved, consensual photographs taken by the woman herself. Kim Kardashian has done an incredibly positive and seemingly intelligent thing: She has reclaimed herself and has taken ownership of her physique away from the media/paparazzi. Isn’t that at least worthy of a round of applause and standing ovation?

Other celebrities are following in her footsteps, too, rendering our desire to buy the likes of Heat magazine and tabloids non-existent. Taylor Swift, for example, uses social media to document parties, gatherings and other social events with her celebrity/model friends; they pose, they pout and they represent a positive view of how women behave socially, rather than the paparazzi shots of women falling out of clubs and flashing their knickers, which is the image of choice or desire of any major publication; a non-consensual image of a woman flashing her private parts is more appropriate to the media than a consensual picture of two celebrities smiling widely on a night out. Rihanna, whilst her photos are slightly less child-friendly than Swift’s, also render a paparazzi shot of her obsolete; if we want to see Rihanna in a bikini smoking weed on a boat, then we go to her Instagram page. Legions of celebrities are following suit, presumably because their lives, their appearances and their bodies are overwhelmingly dictated by the media; these insights into their lives are real and they are positive and far more accurate representations of how celebrities behave and the media dislike it, because, again… it renders them pointless. Naturally, the media are against selfies and want to demonise them for all involved in the movement, but I for one see through it and celebrate women like Kim Kardashian, Taylor Swift and Rihanna, for reclaiming their bodies and images as their own; they aren’t there for paparazzi consumption any more – if we want to experience a vicarious view into the lives of these women, that’s what social media is for, and better yet, it’s free!

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I promote selfies because I believe that all people should feel confident and happy in their own skins and I feel that the media intrusion into what we should and shouldn’t find attractive and what we should and shouldn’t be doing with our own bodies and appearances is a negative impact on our self-esteem. We’re not insecure for posting a picture of ourselves. We’re not narcissistic for thinking we look good and document it for others to see and we aren’t psychopaths for promoting the importance of self-appreciation; we’re normal, attractive humans and a celebration of self should be part of our daily routine. So let’s all raise our smartphones and selfie sticks in the air and celebrate being humans, am I right?! #LookingGoodGuys

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