By: Mint Suetrong, Contributing Writer
Self-love is a journey, it really is. Some days you wake up and things just don’t feel right. With much more time and isolation due to the lockdown, I found that there was not much else to do other than working and eating, so staring blankly at the mirror became my new favourite pastime.
Many discoveries were made: a little mole on my antihelix, the third eyelid crease after a good night’s sleep, and an indent in my rib, or as I like to call it, a rib dimple. This habit itself is not entirely bad, but if not controlled, this can lead to excessive self-criticism. My biggest problem was time. During this past lockdown, I have realised that so much time in our day-to-day lives is spent as ‘filler time’- gaps between our daily tasks such as walking from one class to the next or waiting in the lunch line. Without those activities, I would find myself sitting dumbfoundedly on my bedroom floor, staring into the mirror.
Body image was rarely ever an issue when I had school on-campus: I was always doing something, whether that may be focusing all of my attention in class, dying of laughter over lame jokes or even simply engaging in a comfortable conversation with my friends as we make our way to the next lesson. There were always so many things that were more interesting to focus on, no empty gaps where I felt like I needed to busy myself by scrutinising my own features.
Reflecting back on my childhood, my family was never the type to spare much time or attention on ‘perfecting’ my image; I was given the freedom to choose what I wanted to wear or how I wanted to do my hair from a very young age. While that may have resulted in far too many embarrassing baby photos, I do not recall a single moment where I felt unsatisfied with how I looked. It was not until 2018, moving back to Thailand from Canada and experiencing both the culture shock and the puberty shock at once. As I previously mentioned, my family was never the type to spend much time or money on clothes or skincare products, so when I started to care more about how I looked, I felt incredibly guilty. I was insecure about feeling insecure about myself.
My hair is naturally pretty curly and for a good couple of years, it bothered me. While my mop of hair could only be described as a bird’s nest, others had slick straight hair that draped gracefully down their shoulders like a hero’s cape. I envied them. A couple of months after I moved back, I straightened my hair and have been straightening it ever since, until last year when I realised that I now actually prefer my natural curls. Standing at 5’3 and a bit (I am 1.61m), I used to feel insecure about my height because I was much smaller than my peers. Now, I don’t really mind it that much. Being smaller has its perks: you can borrow anyone’s jacket and it would always fit. Oversized clothing is the best anyways.
While I am much more confident about my body now, there were definitely times in my life where I felt the need to hide certain features away from the world and felt this unexplained wave of anxiety whenever people made comments on how my appearance has changed, even if they were compliments. Here are some things that have helped me through the years.
Whenever I start feeling insecure about certain parts of my body like my arms or legs, I would grab a coloured marker and start doodling on it. Who could continue frowning at a canvas full of little smiley faces? Coloured markers probably do not contain the healthiest of ingredients for your body so I would suggest using a coloured eye-liner instead. Personally, I find this activity quite grounding as it allows me to express myself freely without being too wrapped up in my head. Drawing absentmindedly is not necessarily a coping mechanism but it is a comfort mechanism. Your body is yours and yours only. Let your imagination roam free and enjoy yourself.
2. Calling a friend
The better part of our insecurities lie within our own head. Calling a true friend reminds you of just that: you are so much more than your appearance. When you are surrounded by people who truly appreciate you as a person, you tend to forget about these superficial concerns. Engrossing conversations are much more meaningful than half-hearted social media comments.
3. Getting off social media
While I am not the type to regularly compare how I look with other people I see on the internet, it is difficult to ignore the standards set by social media. I would scroll through pinterest from time-to-time and find myself bombarded with pictures of beautiful people with their chiseled jawlines and curvy features. While I do quite like the squishiness of my cheeks, it would be a lie to say that I never wished to have more defined features. While the easiest way to overcome this subconscious comparison would be to get off social media all together, I do understand that this solution may not be an option for some of you as you may require social media for work purposes. Other solutions may be to limit your screen time, blocking certain hashtags, or ‘muting’ people that you follow to filter out content that may be harmful to your relationship with your body.
On the days where you are at your worst, it’s really difficult to hear someone call you beautiful because it sounds like a lie. Truth is, it’s not, but if you really are struggling with that, I have learned that it is best to appreciate the fact that you are still living and breathing.
Link to cover image: https://pin.it/7rSdB2e