At any given point in time on social media, there will be some sort of ‘challenge’ going around. For the most part I tend to ignore them, seeing other people’s but never getting involved myself (all with the exception of my my pitiful attempt at the ALS Challenge which took me 5 minutes because of my fear of water) but one that popped up on my Twitter timeline this week really jumped out at me – the #2006vs2016 hashtag.
Pretty simple in its concept, you simply have to upload a photograph of yourself from 2006 and one from 2016 alongside. I loved seeing some of the people whose faces I know so well as they are now, transported back 10-years to when fashion and style were so much different. Some people looked almost exactly the same, whilst others were unrecognisable. As is only natural, my mind looked back to 2006 and the person I was then.
This picture makes me so sad.
I look at this and I just want to wrap my arms around this girl and hug her tight.
2006 was quite a landmark period for me. It was the year I got plastic surgery because I hated the way I looked so much and it was the year I bought a house, standing in the hallway on the day I moved in thinking, “What have I done?” as I realised I was making the biggest mistake of my life buying with my then-boyfriend. I was underweight, I was unhappy and I had no idea who I was, down to not even knowing what clothes I liked. I’d descend into a panic about social engagements, worrying endlessly about what to wear and whether people would like me.
I was living a life that I knew didn’t fit.
If I could go back now, meet 2006 Penny and look into her eyes, I’d tell her that she is good enough and she is strong enough to get out of the relationship that was so clearly broken and make her own way in life. I’d tell her that the years ahead of her, living alone in her own flat, would be some of the best of her life. I’d tell her that surgery isn’t the answer to self esteem issues and that it wouldn’t change the way she felt; it would only defer her focus from that area to another part of her. I would tell her that she could wear whatever the hell she wanted and she should stop trying so hard to fit in, because people’s quirks are so often what others love the most. I’d tell her to break free from everything that was holding her down and just BE. Be happy, be healthy, be herself.
Don’t get me wrong, 2016 Penny has her worries. I’m still not happy with the way I look, I still have an endless need for people to like me, and I still worry about every tiny little thing, but I also know that this is me and I’m comfortable with the person I am.
In 2016 I’m living a life that brings me contentment. I have a good job, the best family and friends, three amazing little furballs who greet me at the door every day when I get in, and I’m lucky enough to be in love with my best friend. I’m not perfect – far from it – I have many faults, and I’m sure there are people out there that can’t stand the sight of me, but I no longer berate myself every time I look in the mirror. I no longer feel like I’m living the wrong life. I no longer make excuses for who I am or feel the need to fit in to societies dictation of what a 31-year old woman should be.
2006 Penny was so sad and so empty inside, I can’t quite believe she’s me.
10-years has passed and in that decade a huge number of things have happened, but as the sun sets, so too does it rise in the morning and with each new day comes the chance to do something and be something truly special – the one and only version of you.
My life isn’t perfect and neither am I, but y’know what, in 2016 I’m a-okay with that.
PS. Shout out to 2006 for being the year my cats were born! Always gonna love you for that!