If you’ve been on social media today, you may well have seen various references to the fact that today is National Selfie Day. (Yes, there is a day for seemingly everything!) Brands are using it to promote their wares, influencers are sharing perfectly poised images of themselves, and the rest of us regular Joe’s and Josephine’s are warily uploading photos of our faces and hoping people don’t think we’re being narcissistic (or, alternatively, not uploading a picture for that exact reason).
But, is embracing your own image and uploading a picture of your face to the internet really narcissistic, or do we just find ourselves in a world where self-love is so frowned upon that any sign of appreciation of ourselves is chalked up as a negative?
This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while now, and today seems like the perfect time to talk about it.
Now, this epiphany came to me when I was in the place I do all my best thinking – the bathroom. I used to do all my thinking behind the wheel of my car, but as I do most of weekly travel by foot or by train these days, the time I spend in the bathroom on my own is where it all happens for me. In total honesty, it’s usually in the time I’m in there before bed; removing my make-up, cleansing, cleansing again, toning, moisturising, brushing my teeth, and applying my eye cream in a desperate bid to hold on to the last vestiges of my youth. As I begin to wind down for the night, so my brain begins to think really deeply about life in general and I find myself having Eureka moments which is absolutely perfect when I’m trying to drop off to sleep, as you can imagine.
Growing up, I didn’t have the easiest of times. My home life was perfect and full of love, but when I set foot outside my door, that’s when it all began to fall apart.
It all started in Senior school, when I found myself the victim of merciless bullying. Chewing gum in my hair, graffiti about me on the school desks and toilet walls, isolation in the playground… It all culminated with me sinking into a deep depression and dropping out of school at the age of 13.
At 15/16 I had my first boyfriend. I felt so grown up and found myself in a situation whereby I was being controlled and abused emotionally, mentally and physically. He bruised my heart and soul as much he did my body.
Aged 24 I dated someone for 2-years who hid me from his friends and family. They had no idea I existed. He wouldn’t go out in public with me and if I tagged him in something on Facebook it would be deleted in seconds; removal of the evidence. Looking back now I wonder why I put up with it, but when you’re in an emotionally destructive relationship it’s easy to become blind to things. Easier to lie to yourself.
Starting in my teens – in those formative years where we begin to explore who we are and who we are yet to be – and continuing for a decade, I had my sense of identity knocked. I became worthless to myself and with that opinion I began making decisions which only came to reinforce that. I was trapped in a vicious circle. For so many years, from so many sources that were so important in those developmental stages of my life, I was told I wasn’t enough. And I believed it.
I wasn’t cool enough.
I wasn’t tall enough.
I wasn’t curvy enough. (hey plastic surgery!)
I wasn’t pretty enough.
I wasn’t clever enough.
I wasn’t important enough.
But, as I stood there a few weeks ago, looking at myself in the bathroom mirror as I performed my nightly skincare ritual, I realised. I was never the problem; it was them.
They weren’t kind enough.
They weren’t understanding enough.
They weren’t loving enough.
They weren’t accepting enough.
All those years of heartache and self-doubt. All those years of second-guessing myself. All those years of worrying if people liked me, wondering if I was standing up to scrutiny and passing the test. All that wasted time.
But now I can see, I didn’t need to change my essence; they needed to change their attitude.
And what a revelation that was. At that moment, looking in the mirror at my face, free of make-up, the mask removed, I realised that I am enough and I have always have been.
It sounds really wanky and I am totally unapologetic for that, but this year – this short 6.5 months we have had of 2018 – feels like the year that I longed for throughout my teens and twenties. I feel like I know myself more than ever and, weirdly, after all these years, I actually feel self-love. And honestly, it’s a game-changer.
That’s not to say I’m perfect – I’m far from it in so many ways – but I try to be the best person I can be and to always act with kindness and love, so, really, does it matter if I’m rounder than I would like to be or that I struggle to do maths in my head? I champion the people around me and I try to help those less fortunate than me where I can, so does it matter that my face won’t win any beauty contests or that when I dance my stomach jiggles?
I don’t think it does. At least not to me.
And so I’m learning to love myself for my good points and to love myself even harder for my faults. I dance in front of the mirror in my underwear and grin at the wobble of my edges (shout out to the wonderful Grace for that top self-love tip). I laugh at my clumsiness and embrace the lack of mental arithmetic I’m capable of. Because if you’re leading a kind and honest life it doesn’t matter what shape you are, it doesn’t matter how brainy you are, and it doesn’t matter how popular you are.
Society tell us that to say, “they love themselves so much!” is a bad thing and that self-deprecation is the acceptable self-treatment, but I beg to differ. We are our only companions from birth to death and to live a life without self-love seems such a waste.
We can be our own best friends. We can be our own cheerleaders.
So, to all those people from school.
To the abusive ex who left me bruised and broken.
To the ex who refused to let people know I was his.
To them I say; YOU WERE WRONG.
I was enough, I am enough and I will continue to be enough.
So, go and take a look in the mirror, smile at yourself and marvel at the wonder of you – we are all miracles of nature and science, made of dust from the stars, and we should never forget that.
My face might not be perfect, but it’s the only one I have and I promise to love it all my life.