That's me, that is. No, I'm not pointing to my boob.
When you look in the mirror, what do you see? Without a mirror, can you accurately describe yourself? It sounds like a really silly question, but here's the thing: I bet your description of yourself would differ wildly from what someone else might say about you. Because when we look at ourselves, we have a tendency to see the things we don't like. The things we wish we could change. So, in the spirit of honesty, I'm going to be brave and tell you what I see, when I look in a mirror:
- A nose too big for my face.
- Hair that only behaves sometimes.
- Too many wobbly bits (my tummy, especially)
- Skin that behaves very rarely
- Teeth that will never be perfect
- Too many lines.
Pictured: Me in the mornings...
In a world of airbrushed images of perfect, white, shiny teeth, peaches and cream skin and glossy hair, we've become used to being frequently reminded that we just don't match up. Faced with magazines filled with perfectly toned, size zero models, we're used to glancing down at our cellulite and sighing sadly into our morning cuppa. By the way, did you know that the oh-so-slender size zero bodyshape is actually only achievable by less than 5% of women, whereas up to 95% of women have some degree of cellulite?! And it's not just women, either. Statistics and surveys are beginning to show that more and more men are unhappy enough in their bodies to actively consider some form of cosmetic surgery. In fact, last year, a study by the University of West England revealed that a shocking four out of five men would describe themselves as "unhappy" with their bodies/general looks.
I've been thinking about this a lot in the last week or so. I'll be honest, it was something as simple as a tweet that set me off. I noticed that even people I consider to be ridiculously attractive have hang-ups about some aspect of their physical appearance. And I won't lie; when I read the tweet that got me thinking about this subject, I wanted to yell: "NO! YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL!" like some demented version of Christina Aguilera. Instead, I dug a bit deeper and realised just how often we put ourselves down.
Don't get me wrong, I am the Queen of the self-put-down. I like to think of myself as being humourous about it, rather than maudlin, but I definitely do it. Someone complimented my dancing the weekend before last and I responded by replying: "But I have all the rhythm of a three-legged tortoise!"
But you should see me rock the Choco Latte. ;-)
The thing is, we just don't always listen. And it's understandable. I mean, come on! These images are everywhere. "Perfect" bodies in TV adverts. Ridiculously muscular men in magazines. Check your junk emails, or spam tweets and I guarantee you that there'll be messages telling you how to "lose weight - fast!" We're living in a world where we're bombarded with pictures of what we're supposed to look like. We see these pictures every day. Women have it hardwired into their heads - if you want a man, then damnit, you better be skinny and beautiful. Men are confronted with pictures of six packs and start thinking that's what they all need to look like. It's entirely understandable and it's okay to have the odd hang up.
BUT... Let's go back to the thing that started me pondering this whole issue. You see, the way we look at each other differs enormously from the way we look at ourselves. Just days after reading the tweet that made me go all Christina Aguilera, my friends Kirstie and Lizzie had a conversation. Now, if you're unfamiliar with Kirstie and Lizzie, they're sisters and they look like this:
I like that Lizzie looks as though she's holding in the giggles, here.
Hopefully, neither sister will kill me for mentioning them in this blog (seeing as I'm going to Bristol with one on Monday and Butlin's with the other next month), but I think both of them are stunning. Like, not just "oh, she's my friend, so I'm going to say how pretty she is, cos that's what girls do." I mean, literally I would cut an arm off to look like either one of them. Okay, maybe not an arm. Maybe a nail. But you get my point...
And the conversation they were having? Yes, it was about their body hang ups. And I love both girls (and relish being alive) too much to repeat it in a public space, but I sat, as a passive observer, thinking: "DO I NEED TO BREAK OUT THE AGUILERA AGAIN?!" And I told them. Because they're two of my very best friends in the world, I felt able to say "oi you, shut up, you're gorgeous," or words to that effect. And Kirstie responded by saying something that blew my mind. I mean, honestly, I'm still picking out bits of mind out of my laptop keyboard. She said that she envied me.
I was, of course, wearing a suit at the time.
And that's where I come full circle in this blog, to be honest. I haven't told you all that Kirstie complimented me in order to brag or big myself up. I'm telling you, because it finally made me realise that yes, it's okay to have hang ups, but we have to realise that the way we see ourselves doesn't necessarily match up to the way other people see us. When she looks at me, Kirstie doesn't see those things I mentioned that I see when I look in the mirror. Just like I don't see the things that she dislikes about herself, or that Lizzie dislikes about herself.
And yes, I 100% believe that personality is worth so much more than looks. Beauty fades with time, but what makes you you will never change. I'll always appreciate a sense of humour and a sensitive nature over a six pack any day of the week. But when we're talking about physical appearances, maybe, just maybe, we should stop comparing ourselves to unattainable perfection and start trying to see ourselves through the eyes of those who love us, or fancy us from afar, or who just think we're a little bit awesome, instead.
So tomorrow morning, when I look in the mirror, I'm going to try going through that checklist of things I dislike about myself again. And I'm going to remind myself that the people who matter don't see those things and that maybe, I should try looking differently:
- My nose is Greek. And I'm proud to be part Greek Cypriot.
- My hair frames my face and behaves a whole lot better now than it did when it was a crazy mass of curls.
- My wobbly bits are actually just feminine curves. And they're not even that wobbly.
- My skin is Greek, too. So it's olive-y. And that's okay.
- My teeth don't need to be perfect. I can still smile.
- Every line I get on my face is a memory of something that made me laugh, or a hard time I've survived.