Anyone who ‘knows’ me ‘knows’ how confident I am. Why is ‘knows’ in inverted commas? You ask. Because not everyone who ‘knows’ me, knows the struggles I have had with my self image since the beginning of forever.
On the exterior, I’m ‘Vix’ – the outspoken sex and relationships blogger who can get up on stage and make up a poem just as easily as she can rock up at an event and make everyone her best mate. And that is a large part of who I am. If I’m confident in ANYTHING I’m confident in who I am as a person. I know myself well. I also know this sounds like I’m a conceited prick. Women always get bashed for loving themselves. But I won’t apologise for loving certain aspects of myself because this confidence can disappear when it comes to my appearance.
It’s not a grotesque hate. I don’t abuse myself or shout from the rooftops, ‘OMFG I’m so hideous, whyyyyy meeee,’ in a way that would make anyone want to punch me in the tit but I can feel it – a simmering dislike. One that I’m sure has planted its roots early on in my life and has never fully been eradicated. Just as it’s on a continual gentle simmer – for the majority of the time it’s unnoticeable. It’s virtually invisible when I’m getting chatted up at the bar, or I’m getting complimentary texts or comments or I’m having one of those badass days where I feel untouchable. But just like anything that’s on a simmer, eventually the heat gets turned up and it all boils over.
Don’t get me wrong, there are times where I feel BANGING. And those times are becoming more and more frequent. I can take a good selfie, at the perfect angle with hot AF lighting. And I can glance my reflection in a tube window and think GRL DAT BONE STRUCTURE. I can even walk past a shop window and think THOSE CURVES THOUGH. But it boils over when I see pictures of myself that others have taken or I see myself in the mirror on day 4 of not putting on any make up or getting dressed up, and it’s then that I think, fuck, I’m horrific.
Last week I had a photoshoot, of which you’ll know more about very soon, and as I was shown image after image taken of me, the worse and worse I felt. My hair and makeup was done by a professional, the photographer was a babeing miracle and the lighting was so perfect, anyone would’ve looked a superstar. But as I looked on the camera screen, I felt my stomach bubble, my nose crinkle and that familiar feeling beginning to boil. Why did I look so fricking gross?
I was too pale. My arms looked too fat. I was cross-eyed. My hair was flat and lank. I looked old. Double chin? Nah, times 12. My lips were too thin. I looked cheesy. I looked stupid. I didn’t look sexy or cool, I looked try hard. All of these negative thoughts were stabbing at my brain like a thousand tiny knives.
My photographer could tell something wasn’t right. I could barely look at the screen without feeling physically sick. She called me on it and said, ‘Why are you turning your nose up at every single one, what are you seeing?’ and at that moment, I just wanted to cry.
What was I seeing? I was seeing 30 years of appearance hang ups, manifesting on a tiny LED screen. No matter what anyone working on the shoot said to me about how pretty or good I looked, I just couldn’t believe them.
So where does it come from?
Growing up I was told I would be pretty if I wasn’t fat. I was told I had a nice face but my lips were too thin. I was told I had a ‘JLo bum’ but a ‘mother’s hips’. I was told that I’d never reach my dream (of being an actress) because I wasn’t skinny or beautiful.
And all of that shit has stuck.
It’s not even just the negative comments. Sometimes what can hurt the most is the complete ignorance of your appearance. I used to fall out with my ex boyfriend repeatedly over the fact that he never complimented me. I convinced myself there was nothing to compliment. I got branded as ‘needy’ and ‘insecure’ but when no one has ever appreciated you for your appearance, it wears you down. I realise upon reflection that that was his failings and just because he didn’t tell me he fancied me, it didn’t mean I wasn’t fanciable. But that’s the logical part of my brain speaking, not the harmful, self-loathing part.
When I had interest from boys as a younger woman, all I ever heard was how great my personality and sense of humour was and how it was great to have a girlfriend that’s like a best mate. Sure none of my boyfriends or male suitors have called me ugly or fat but NO ONE ever told me I’m beautiful, sexy or gorgeous. PS my Twitter followers don’t count because you’re all SO NICE and I appreciate it.
Furthermore, It doesn’t help when I’ve heard the same line over again from the majority of men I’ve been with… ‘I used to go for girls who were just stunning but now I realise that’s not what’s important – personality is, that’s why I’m with you.’ OR, ‘I always thought I’d get with a worldie but I’m happy to settle with someone who’s kind, intelligent and funny.’ NONE of these things have been said with malice but boy did they sting. I translated that to – you’re ugly but fun so you’ll do. Upon reflection I’ve obviously always gone for guys that are clearly insensitive twatheads but when you’re with someone you fancy the pants off and who you’d happily make feel like Mr Universe, hearing those ignorant statements are gutting.
I was also never the friend that people wanted to copy or emulate and my brain would translate that to tell me I was hideous. Friends never actually made unkind comments about my appearance but none were rushing to tell me they were jealous of how pretty I was. I was also never allowed to be Baby or Posh Spice and always had to be Sporty because the other girls were skinny or cute. Pathetic now but devastating at the time! I even remember being told that my favourite member of NSYNC couldn’t be Justin because out of the friendship group, I had the least chance with him….WHAT! Absolutely ridiculous but subconsciously, it must’ve stuck. Then whilst Becca was copying Gemma’s new hair do and Jenny bought all the same clothes as Linda, I was just there. Literally a wallflower. I know that’s the same for most people. If you’re never the ‘pretty’ one of the friendship group, you just get used to it. But without it being obvious, it hurts somewhere inside you.
As I got older, family and friends didn’t help. My Mum, even though well-meaning, always used to tell me that it was what’s on the inside that counts and boys will like me for my personality, which is more important. Or when friends heard I’d been cheated on they said, ‘oh well if he wants to go with someone who’s just all about looks rather than you with your great personality then bollocks to him,’ yeeeeaaah as if I wasn’t already destroying myself over the thought of someone cheating on me to find someone better looking. They never meant any of it in any other way than trying to make me feel better but sometimes, to feel better you just need to hear, ‘You’re fucking gorgeous and anyone would be MAD not to appreciate that.’
Maybe if somewhere along my timeline of life so far I’d heard, ‘I’m so lucky to be with you, not only are you hilarious/intelligent/blahblahstopbeingabigheadblah but you’re also SO BEAUTIFUL,’ then maybe it might’ve sunk in. Or maybe if my family were more of the type to tell their ‘pretty princess how wonderful and beautiful you are,’ every day, it might’ve given me the foundations to have built up some self belief but that’s just not been my life.
All of these factors, plus societal pressures add up to your image of yourself. If no one has ever spoken to you positively about your appearance, it’s very hard to muster up those thoughts yourself.
But we need to try. I took to Twitter to say I was nervous about posting this as I worried people would want me to get my tiny violin out but EVERYONE said how they can relate to these types of posts because everyone has their own hang ups. And that helped me. When you’re in an online world where people only ever present the best versions of themselves, it’s hard to believe that these aspirational babes think the same way I do. But everyone does. Everyone is their own worst enemy.
Reading this back, I can see that a lot of my issues appear come from others not validating my appearance and that is absolutely ridiculous. Why am I letting what other people have failed to say out loud form my opinion of myself? But for years I have and it’s time that stopped and I changed.
So where do I, and anyone else like me begin? We can start by not blocking out the kind things people say and choosing to believe those things over our own doubts. We can continue to build each other up. It really doesn’t hurt you to compliment someone else – they could be sorely needing it.