Let’s talk about what we see in our own reflection or perhaps what we have been taught to hide in our reflection, I will start. I thought that to write about the topic of self-love I had to be fixed, that I had to no longer believe the things I can feel about myself. That in order to talk to others about it I had to provide a story about someone who had risen from all their self-doubt. What I have come to realize is that I need to provide an honest account of my struggles because people don’t need to hear a happy story, they need to hear the truth. Everyone will find their own way through their story and the truth is we will all get to self-love in different ways, but if we don't talk about our struggles we are doing ourselves a disservice. And the more we pretend that they don't exist, or that we have to be perfect to be relatable, the more we miss out on the chance to have conversations that mean something. Conversations I think a lot of females want and need to have but fear judgment. Well screw judgment, here is my truth.
For me it really began when I was sixteen years old. It may have been there before but this is the age I remember caring more than ever before about what I saw in the mirror. For a high school girl who had recently moved 1,000 miles from where she grew up, I was pretty confident in who I was. That year I had started a job at a retail store and had been there for 6 months when a brand rep arrived at the store to make suggestions on how the store could improve sales. As I walked passed my manager and the brand rep they asked to speak to me. The conversation that followed would shape the way I perceived myself for years. I was told that my scars, from a recent ACL repair, "weren't in line with what the brand represented" and they asked that I wear capris or pants from now on instead of shorts or skirts. Every other girl could wear shorts or skirts but my scars were ‘too ugly’ to be shown to the public. Imagine what that does to a 16 year old girl, who before that saw those scars as something to be proud of. I had been proud of the fight to get back to my sport, now I was just self conscious about the marks on my knees it left behind. That conversation standing in the middle of the store made feel like those scars were just an ugly imperfection and it would be the beginning of questioning how many more things I had that needed to be hidden or fixed.
And so it began; self-doubt, self-judgment, the ability to look in the mirror some days and see what I perceive as faults. How can I allow something as petty as physical appearance to have such a negative effect on me sometimes? It makes me feel insane. But the ads, magazines, and a lot of social media pages all point in the same direction; each making me feel like as a woman I better look good or I am not worth as much in this world. We seem sold on this idea that women are judged more harshly on their appearances then men, and then worse, we really start to believe we need to correct all these ‘imperfections’ that society tells us we have. It is DISGUSTING, but I buy it sometimes. Why do I buy it?
I think back to the girl who knew who she was until some stupid retail store told her something was wrong with her and it infuriates me. These were adults, people who should have been encouraging that girl, but instead took it as an opportunity to point out what they believed was a fault because of the way something on her body looked. They convinced her that imperfections were ugly, that they are something that people will judge, that they had the right to judge, and that imperfections should be covered, hidden or fixed. What they taught her still lives on in me at times. Too often now I still wrestle with the same thought when I see something that I consider an 'imperfection'... do I need to hide this part of me?
I have learned a lot since that conversation in the store and I am definitely a more confident woman. Age and maturity have significantly helped my outlook. I wish I could always be kind to myself, to the way I look, but I have days where I really struggle to do it. I try not to have toxic people in my life and yet there are days I am the provider of those toxins, those self-doubts, which can lead to insecurities. I am definitely getting better about focusing on all the positives instead of consuming my thoughts with what I perceive to be my negatives. And one of the best things that comes from that change in mindset is I find it allows me to be less judgmental of others as well. There is never a perfect answer for everyone and we are all a work in progress but we cannot allow the outside voices of judgment to become the inner voice that speaks to us. Women Do is a place about being honest about those voices and fighting them, together. So can we promise each other one thing on this journey together? To help each other fight not only the judging eyes of others and society but also help fight off the eye that can judge us the most harshly at times, the one staring back at us in the mirror.