To begin, this isn’t intended to be a blog simply telling you that everyone is beautiful and unique… even though they are. What I am hoping to explore is less recognising that everyone is beautiful, and more recognising that we don’t always feel beautiful, and I want to do this in two parts, if you will.
Struggling to recognise my own beauty comes down to a plethora of reasons. I don’t like my weight, I don’t like my shape, I don’t like my eyes or my face in general, and as a result, a lot of the time I don’t feel beautiful. Instead I have moments when I feel beautiful, and few and far between as they are, they are accompanied by intense self-validation and happiness – in exactly the same way that performing a poem really well makes me feel like an amazing poet, or doing well in a test or project makes me feel smart.
I think sometimes we place too much pressure on ourselves to always feel great, and that’s very unrealistic.
If we never had the downs we wouldn’t be able to truly appreciate the euphoria of the ups, and constancy breeds monotony – music needs dissonance as well as assonance. I know from a personal experience that being overly critical of yourself can feel like you’re failing, or holding yourself back, and honestly… I think that attitude makes it harder to move past that. We each need to find some peace with the fact that sometimes it will be hard to love ourselves – and accept that side of the coin to create a more balanced life. Of course, strive for self-love, don’t give in to self-criticism, but don’t feel like the criticism pushes you further away from self-love – anyone who’s swam in the sea knows that it’s easier to duck under the surface and let the waves pass over you, than to try to swim against them. Once you learn to do that, you’ll find that the waves have next to no impact on you reaching your destination, so you don’t have to feel that you’ve failed just because the waves comes; that’s beyond your control, and it’s how you respond to them that matters.
Another topic that is very important to me in regards to perceptions of beauty and worth is the danger of empty compliments. Personally, this is primarily something I face with being fat. It was hard for me to actually write that word, and you may have noticed that earlier I dodged it with a nice allusion to ‘my weight’. And the reason I feel it is necessary to tackle this head on is because, well, the fact of the matter is that by definition I am fat. Despite this, when I say it I am often met with an immediate denial from others, with the best intentions at heart.
The problem is, those well-meant compliments don’t change the fact I am fat, rather they vilify it.
They turn being fat into this monstrous secret that I’m not allowed to recognise or acknowledge, as if being fat is too unbearable to admit. That ideology, whilst coming from a pure place, has an underlying toxicity to it that people don’t address. It teaches people with insecurities from a young age, that rather than learning to accept, or even embrace the things they have been taught are weaknesses, they should bury them, like they are source of shame. This isn’t just something that happens with weight, this happens with having acne, sounding different, looking different, being different, the list is endless.
We are all so subconsciously scared of failing to meet the unspoken societal norm, that we are unknowingly teaching each other to bury traits that fail to conform.
This is not me saying that you have to celebrate your insecurities, rather that you should feel able to accept and acknowledge them. Once you recognise that they are a part of you, you can choose to change them, love them, overcome them – whatever works best for you. But without this acceptance and acknowledgement, they just become a weight around your neck, and everytime they are reinforced by empty compliments or immediate denials, they just get heavier. We each deserve to have these burdens lifted.
You may agree with me, or this may not have resonated with you in anyway, but the key points I would like every reader to take away from this – whether they are to think on, scoff at, or just throw into discussion – are these:
1. You will experience times when it is hard to see beauty, worth and/or the good in yourself.
2. These moments are not failure, and as long as you take the steps that work for you, whatever they may be, they will not stop you from being who you want to be.
3. Insecurities and peculiarities should not be made to feel like sources of shame. They do not have to be celebrated, but no one should ever feel like they have to bury them.
Written by Nyanda Foday.
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