We’ve all been there. Frantically rolling t-shirts, unpacking and re-packing a bag. Doing everything we can to fit everything we think we need for a holiday into a bag that doesn’t exceed cabin baggage allowance.
Often something has to give. For my last holiday, it was my hair straighteners. For some, this might seem trivial. For me, going for even a day without the ability to style my hair exactly as I like it destroys my confidence in my appearance. Which destroys my confidence full stop.
What’s more, as I realised with a sinking feeling once we were already on our way, I managed to forget to pack my make up. But instead of buying mascara and eyeliner at the airport, I decided that I would set myself a challenge. I would go the entire holiday without straightening my hair or wearing any make up.
What happened surprised me. I was a little self-conscious at first, but just got on with life and tried not to let it bother me. But after a view days, my view of myself adjusted. I became used to looking in the mirror at a bushy haired un-made up girl.
When I wore make up and straightened my hair most days, that was my “normal” and therefore how I thought of myself. That meant that when I did catch sight of myself without I thought I looked awful. But now, wavy hair and no make up is normal and I like how that looks: it feels like me.
I’ve learnt this lesson before. Despite practically living in shorts during the summer, there was a time when I was too self-conscious to wear them. When I was worried about having my chunky thighs and cellulite on show. But the more I wear shorts, the more I like how my legs look in shorts – as I explained more fully last summer.
Essentially, if we want to be happier with how we look, we need to look at ourselves more. As the always-inspiring Bethany Rutter says, you should “have a super frank relationship with your body.”
What I’m saying is to put yourself in a position where you cannot be surprised by your body. Get a good look at yourself naked, often. Know what you look like sitting down or from the back or next to your petite friend. Don’t shy away from those changing rooms with mirrors on all sides: this is essentially how people are seeing you all the time. And that’s because this is what you look like. You are not the heavily-contoured, meticulously-posed selfie headshot. You are your double-chin, your belly roll, your fat thighs spreading when you sit down, the hair in places you didn’t want to believe you had it, the colour of your face when you get really warm and sweaty. That is all you, and the sooner you get to believe it, the sooner you’ll be at peace with what you see. It’s all yours, and it’s no one else’s. You can’t learn to love something you don’t believe exists.
I used to shy away from facing my 5 ft 2 proportions. I used to always wear heels and therefore think I looked particularly small and dumpy when I didn’t. Then I decided that I was always going to be 5 ft 2 with wide hips and shoulders, so I might as well embrace it. Now I choose what shoes to wear based on how comfortable they are rather than how they make me look. I think I look great, and have the added bonus of being able to run to catch a bus.
Of course there isn’t anything wrong with wanting to look good. I still love putting on heels for a night out, and will do my hair and make up when I’m dressing for an occasion. What isn’t so great is feeling like you need to wear make up to like how you look. Or wearing clothes because you think they flatter rather than because you love them. Or feeling like you can’t travel light because your hair needs to be perfect before you can have fun.
Let’s put our energy into having fun and feeling good, as opposed to trying to look good enough to do so.