There’s a scene in Mean Girls where Lindsay Lohan’s character Cady is watching The Plastics pull back their pores, scratch at their nail beds and audibly loathe their calves. Coming from a home-schooled environment, this self-hatred is new to her and the accuracy in what her inner monologue says next is just so real. “I used to think there was just fat and skinny,” she says, “But apparently there are lots of things that can be wrong on your body.”
There is nothing more radical than liking your own body. There’s beach bods, Instagram bods, winter bods, menstrually inflated bods, run ragged bods, yoga bods and dad bods but your bod… Your bod is yours, all yours. Yours until the bitter end and you’ve been conditioned to pick out its flaws every single time you get dressed with your inner monologue sounding exactly like Piers Morgan on Twitter. If you are feeling a little bit impressionable and you hear other people criticise parts of their body that you never even knew could be criticised, it turns something that never mattered before into something that needs to be changed immediately. While some of us unfairly compare our bodies to movie stars, reality TV dynasties and pop icons, there’s a great liberation in simply enjoying the body that you’re in.
Five products for your eyebrows
When we compare ourselves to others, we instantly set an unobtainable goal that makes us feel like we’ve failed before we’ve even started. If insecurity is one of the fuels on which you run, there has to be a comfort in knowing that we all have our insecurities but in the eyes of others, those perceived flaws are actually non-existent. Eyebrows and boobs are the best example of this. If you have too much of them, you don’t want them. If you don’t have enough, you do everything you can to make it seem like you do. Eyebrows are really having a moment lately and with that comes a whole other rush of concerns that I had been previously unaware of.
But listen to me when I say that your brows are perfect.
Earlier this year, I attended a beauty panel talk and one of the make-up technicians onstage told us that every single day, she uses no less than five products on her eyebrows. Five! Even though that’s really just capitalism at work, this deep discussion of what makes the perfect brow threw me back to my not-so-glamourous time in secondary school. Over 15 years ago, girls in my year used to queue up in the toilets at lunchtime for one expert plucker to bald their brows down to one tiny, whippet-thin line, as was the fashion at the time. Like when we used to backcomb our hair in the late 00s to look like Noel Fielding, we are now told that we have to bush up our brows in the same way, even though so many of us killed off the nerves in our eyebrows 15 years ago and regrowth is a constant uphill battle. But listen to me when I say that your brows are perfect. They’re framing your face and they’re catching beads of sweat. They are serving their purpose and if you want to enhance them, let’s see them from the moon! And if not, what of it? You're fab regardless.
No one is crueller than the voice in your head
So many women have a love/hate relationship with their cleavage, wishing they were born with the opposite of what they have. I’ve been bosomous since I was 14 and for the best part of this year, I researched breast reduction surgeries, even going so far as meeting with a plastic surgeon because I felt trapped in my clothes, overexposed if I wore low-cut tops and generally just frumpy. I hated my boobs. I was comparing my body to every single one of my breasted friends and I couldn’t understand how everything looked better on them than it did on me, forgetting that my overall body shape is mine and not theirs.
'I’m no longer researching surgery and instead I’ve just started wearing my clothes a little differently'
My opinion of my own body changed this summer after I heard my drop-dead gorgeous friends - male and female - expressing their own body insecurities when, to me, they are beautiful woodland nymphs; all shiny hair, clear skin, sparkling eyes, jutting jawlines and different shapes and sizes for all weathers. I couldn’t understand why they were so mean about themselves when I remembered that no one is crueller than the voice in your own head, that Piers Morgan voice. I also remembered that no one is quicker in batting down your insecurities than a good friend, a friend whose inner critic has less than pleasant things to say about their own arms, their pubic hair or their forehead that they think is in a permanent frown. Hearing this and seeing how insecurities can hold people back from having fun, it was a little wake up call that I needed to work with what I have, even if it’s not what’s traditionally celebrated in the fashion pages of magazines. If I'm going to reassure my friends about how gorgeous I think they are, I have to believe the same about myself. I’m no longer researching surgery and instead I’ve just started wearing my clothes a little differently, embracing the cleavage and shushing any element of societal and inner shame that comes with a booby top.
You - singular - are fabulous
There are so few disabled people in the mainstream to look to for body inspiration so, out of necessity, I’ve had become my own blueprint. I rewired my brain into thinking that my body - as it is now - is my ideal. For my own mental health, I decided to stop comparing myself to others and to stop wishing for a little less here, a little more there and just started doing things I was too nervous to do before. Little things like wearing shorts and flaunting my pins, wearing crop tops and letting the curve of my spine show. These are the small changes that have made me happier in my body and, Jesus Christ, I feel great.
Where we comfort others, we punish ourselves when we all just need to be kinder and more appreciative of what we have. When you start to focus on the things you actually like about your body, this huge weight of negativity lifts from your shoulders and the confidence outshines everything else. Removing the pressures of what we think is expected of us, ignoring fashion trends or rules and embracing our bodies just as they are is a radical thing. And just in case your inner Piers Morgan voice is trying to derail you today, ignore him because you - singular - are fabulous. Cancel out all the other noise and just celebrate you, exactly as you are.