For me it was never the magazines, the TV shows or any of ‘the media’ – (ironically) I was never much into ‘the media’, whether by choice or by ignorance. For me it was always myself. Sure, I compared myself to my friends… “why can’t I have hair like…”, “why am I not as skinny as…”, “why is she so blessed with…” – I’m sure you know what I mean. More than the media, more than my friends, I compared myself with… myself.
It might sound crazy at first (or maybe you’re the same), but when I was a kid, I was totally comfortable in my own skin. In primary school I was skinny, I was tall for my age, my skin was smooth, my hair was white blonde & the perfect amount of wavy… but as is the case with most teenage girls, it had to end in pimples, frizz & hips.
As a teenager, little things started to change that slowly made me realise how awkward and insecure I felt about myself. I stopped plaiting my hair in 2 braids because people always complimented me on my blonde hair, and under the top, sun-bleached hair was an ever-so-slightly more brown colour that I absolutely hated. When I was a kid, people would say things like, ‘look at you, there’s nothing of you! I’d do anything for your figure’, and when my hips suddenly appeared and I started to fill out and go up clothing sizes I thought my so called ‘figure’ was lost forever. As a teenager I would look back on old photos of myself and wish that I could go back to an old version of myself that I could be happy with.
This isn’t a sad story, really – although looking back, I’m sad that I felt those things about myself. The point of me sharing this story is that the cycle went on, and I’m still trying to deal with it, along with just about every other girl on the planet. The thing that kept happening was that every now and then I would realise how happy I should have been with my body in previous days, months & years. When I was a teenager I wished I could be the skinnier, younger me, and yet now that I’m a young adult I look at pictures from as recently as 3 years ago and realise that I should have had the confidence to wear [insert item] or do [insert missed opportunity], but I didn’t. I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated my body in the moment, but I don’t find it hard to look back & notice things that I should have liked. It’s not about detesting myself… it’s about wanting to better myself.
The problem is… we’re not perfect. Sorry to drop that bombshell on you, but you won’t ever be as ‘good’ (whatever that means) as you want to be, and if you are then I’m sincerely in awe of you. The truth is that I can continue wanting to be better, and better, and better, but I never will be and by always wishing I was better, I’ll never take the time to appreciate what God’s given me.
Why talk about this now? Well if there’s any time in my life that I want to be comfortable in my own skin, it’s right now. There’s nothing quite like stepping into a white dress & looking straight at those so called “problem areas” that aren’t necessarily problematic but cause some kind of alarm to go off in your head, screaming “you’re not good enough”. It’s one thing trying to deal with self-scrutiny, but trying to impress others is a different thing entirely… so why bother?
I’m having to learn how to appreciate my body for what it is in the moment. When I’m 40, with a couple of kids, I’ll wish I appreciated my stomach when I was 21. When I’m 80, I’ll wish that I had my 21 year old legs that were capable of letting me walk & run & have so much freedom. I’ll wish I had the tight, wrinkle-free skin that I have now, and I’ll be happy with any colour of hair so long as it’s not grey. But maybe, just maybe, by the time I reach 80 I’ll be so good at appreciating myself in the ‘now’ that I’ll just be happy my body works at all.
If I could encourage you to do one thing this week, it would be this: write a list, even if it’s just a mental one, of every single thing you like about yourself – and enjoy those things in total self indulgent love for yourself and the beautiful creation that you are. It might sound corny, but it’s totally worth it.
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
— Lauren xx