In a world that places so much value on the way we look, it’s easy to feel unworthy when you don’t look like the manipulated bodies we’re bombarded with on billboards.
It’s easy not to feel normal in a world where the only tummies on the telly are taught, toned ones. It’s easy to feel ugly where flawlessness is a given and a standard. Photoshop erased every stretch mark, blemish, roll and scar until the photos in the magazines all blurred into one. One that was Caucasian, slim, able and more than likely blonde. The unrealism of these images is not something that was born with Instagram, our mothers grew up reading how to lose weight fast and how best to dress to flatter a ‘pear shape’.
All of us have been continually told that we are not enough as we are. We must wax, work out, smooth and submit to an unobtainable standard of beauty only those with a team of make-up artists, cosmetic surgeons and photo editing whizzes could ever reach. Our collective process of unlearning self-criticism and comparing ourselves to others will be a long one, but with companies like Curvy Kate, the tide is beginning to turn.
When I looked at myself growing up, I felt my body wasn’t one that was normal, desirable or even good. I hated it and hid it away, wishing and trying desperately to make it different. Every comment at school about my hooked nose, big boobs or the dark hair that covers my body stuck with me. Those throwaway lines made me feel ugly, unworthy and utterly unlovable. I couldn’t count the amount of times I cried and wished I was someone else. Sometimes I wished I wasn’t here at all.
Over the last few years I’ve overcome a lot, personally and professionally, but my self-esteem always remained sub-zero. No matter how many times my friends would tell me I looked good, the years of indoctrination meant the belief that I wasn’t enough always won. I missed out on a lot because I was too afraid of what people may say or think, and I didn’t want to do that anymore.
I saw the Curvy Kate callout late one night when I’d had a few drinks. The dutch courage told me to do it and I still can’t quite believe I did. The week leading up to the shoot, every day I was flitting between feeling empowered and liberated by the idea of putting my body out there and not being able to imagine anything worse. The flip-flopping about the shoot very much reflected how I feel about myself - some days great, and other days not. Deep down, I knew that I’d regret not taking part much more than I would doing it. So, I did it.
On the morning of the shoot, I wanted to run away. I berated myself and asked myself why anyone would want to see my scars, stretch marks and cellulite. I looked at the other Bikini Babes and compared myself to them. I looked at these four beautiful women and realised they had hated themselves as I had, but they had no reason to! Then it dawned on me, neither did I.
Over the course of one fateful Monday, uplifted by the support and encouragement of some of the most beautiful women, inside and out, my life had changed. I saw the photos of myself with all the things I disliked about myself on display, and liked myself, unfiltered, untensed, unafraid. It was a pivotal moment. I’ve gone from someone who once felt insecure in their underwear in front of long-term partners to flaunting it in a two-piece for the internet to see.
There have been days since I haven’t liked myself, but far fewer. I might not be at the point of total self-love, but self-like is a good step and I’ll get there one day.