Everyone has hang-ups about their appearance. Literally everyone. But women tend to have more of them; mostly because societal pressures to look a certain way leave their mark on girls from such a young age. Whether it was the 90s’ waif, or the Kardashian curves of the 2010s, body types are a fashion statement and, well, youthful good looks are always a la mode.
In my career as a writer, what I have found most interesting is talking to women from different backgrounds, races and cultures about their insecurities. For me, it’s highlighted the similarities we have as women, and drawn attention to the sad fact that it’s rare to find someone who doesn’t have hang ups. As rare as finding eyeliner that genuinely doesn’t budge.
Although being self-critical is a common theme when interviewing women, listening to inspiring stories and advice that leaves you feeling uplifted happens a lot. And I’ve found these positive conversations make a difference to how you view yourself. So here are some of my favourites to hopefully help nudge a few of you in the direction of getting over those totally unnecessary hang-ups.
Look after your skin
I interviewed a woman with extremely severe eczema and her advice to really care for your skin – whatever its condition – really stuck with me. Her perception changed when she had a baby and he developed eczema. She told me she would lovingly spend so much time rubbing in moisturiser and researching ingredients that could help him. Then she realised that she should be doing this for herself too. By putting in the time to care for herself she noticed a difference (both inside and out) and it made her able to better accept her skin, even on the days it really flared up.
Try not to compare yourself to others
It’s a tough one in this social media-mad world, but talking to a woman called Fabiola for the beauty brand Dove really opened my eyes to how important this is. Originally from Nicaragua, she was so nervous to be filmed at first, but equally gave off this aura of someone very content within herself. She told me that she doesn’t really compare herself to others anymore – whether that’s a model in a magazine, her friends or people on the street. It’s often easier to do as you get older, but something we should all be actively trying to do whatever our age.
Be open about your issues
I once interviewed this 15-year-old girl for AXA Healthcare about her anxiety and eating disorder. The thing that left it’s mark on me most was how things had started to change once she’d opened up to her family, friends and teachers. A load had been lifted off her shoulders and people were there to support her in getting better, or just listen when she was struggling. It’s so helpful to have conversations with people about how you’re feeling so problems and hang-ups don’t become all consuming. And then equally as importantly, actually listen to what others have to say. Often you need an outside perspective more than you realise.
Have fun with beauty
Beauty shouldn’t be about covering perceived flaws or conforming to what everyone else does. After interviewing a student from the US called Chizi, I came away realising this more than ever. She was studying art in London and I spoke to her about her life and how she wasn’t afraid to have fun and play around with how she styles herself. She had bright red lips, glowing skin, a shaved head and a colourful dress sense, but by far the most noticeable thing about her was her confidence and kindness. I really wish everyone could have a conversation with Chizi.