Can you look at yourself in the mirror and love all of you?
Yes. And no. And both.
My entire life I desperately wanted to be so thin that I had thigh gap, I wanted straight hair, tanned skin, no acne, no freckles, bigger boobs, any coloured hair apart from red, smaller hips, feet at least a shoe size smaller and to make socially acceptable jokes while speaking in a socially acceptable manner.
Are you reading this? I wanted to be anything but myself.
Because I put all of the bullying I received down to those features. That is what was first pointed out when somebody wanted to hurt me. Because that is what I showed as my weakness. I did not like myself, and I sure as shit did not love myself. My appearance embarrassed me. There were days I would not eat in front of people (or at all) because I was not only embarrassed for the way I thought I looked, but I thought people were judging the way I ate and I was terrified they would find something else to dislike about me.
I was quiet in groups, afraid to speak up because I might stumble on my words and make fool out of myself. Struggled to say no to people. Putting my hand up in class to speak up, rarely, if at all, happened. If I did not understand what I was being taught, I would not question it for fear that I would be reprimanded for being dumb or ignorant. On top of that I believed I was terrible at sports. Convinced I was physically unable to participate in most activities because I had terrible coordination, or maybe I wouldn’t understand the rules and I would make a mistake. Therefore getting laughed at.
Often I would avoid new experiences, even if I was keen, because it meant stepping outside of my comfort zone. Again, I was scared to make a mistake, take the wrong train, buy the wrong ticket, be wrong in some way or another.
Do you hear what I am telling you?
The OLD me for lack of a better word, hated herself.
Posting pictures like the one above would be something I would never do because my body is the opposite of the unrealistic bullshit I told myself it had to be.
1 year ago I never believed myself capable of doing what I am doing right now. Writing this to you. Spilling the beans on my darkest secrets. Videoing myself on my instagram and not cringing when I replay it. This continued up until 6 weeks ago. I would say to myself, “I’ll just look like some try-hard blogging wanker”.
So for years prior to now, I waited. I waited for some type of moment that would make taking a risk feel easy. Previously, bailing myself out when the going got remotely tough was common.
But nothing changes if nothing changes.
And I, for one, do not want my children viewing themselves in such a way that they shy away from asking questions that can give life changing answers, or feel the need to avoid mirrors.
Things changed for me when I wasn’t accepted into RMIT’s Bachelor of Fashion, which is the holy grail of fashion courses in Melbourne. I was instead accepted into TAFE and the first 6 months did terribly. Quitting was on the horizon. Until a grumpy Greek patternmaking teacher, who was short on patience and often berated students in front of the class, heard of my intentions. Surprisingly, she pulled me aside and convinced me to do 6 month stint of patternmaking double units with her, before deciding on quitting fashion altogether. Working part-time, studying part-time, this woman, grumpy as she was, showed patience, saw strengths within me I was blind to, and built up my skills in practical application, mathematics and overall confidence. A true educator.
I observed the students who did well and realised it wasn’t luck. They were somewhat pushy and asked questions. They stayed back after class when needed. They researched, went on solo trips throughout the city for inspiration. They were grinding and did what it took to get results. It didn’t come free. I realised I wasn’t being picked on nor was I hard done by. I quit before I even gave it my all. Cue pivotal juncture.
I admired the way many of my peers dressed, walked and talked confidentally. Learning of their bullying experiences or mental and physical challenges, it became clear they had adapted and used these experiences like ammunition. Converting negative fumes into a high functioning jet fuel and powering right through the barriers preventing self confidence, and success.
With such realisations, the constant resistance to things I enjoyed or wanted to take part in due to personal fear of risk became exhausting and I held up the white flag.
I became selective and surrounded myself with friends that loved me for all of my strengths and my follies. They did not want to modify me into a generic shell of a human. With this, and the adoration and support from my husband who has encouraged this transformation since the age of 16, I let go of unrealistic body expectations. Was I ever going to be the size of the beautiful Miranda Kerr? Never ever. Our body types are chalk and cheese. But I have got booty and curvaceous hips that are mine and nobody elses. Was I ever going to appear as a seemingly perfectly “composed woman”? Not with my sense of humor. But now I can call a spade a spade and spit out terrible puns with a goofy sense of pride.
The idiosyncrasies past me would shy away from are now accepted. I embrace them. Not always easily. Particularly hormonal days occur where I flashback into the angsty teenage Shaara where nothing fits and “I look crap in everything”. A little insight; this facet of my personality lead to 13 year old me kicking in my parents glass door because my mother wouldn’t answer her phone. A fierce temper somewhat humorously passed down to my sons.
I no longer cry at the reflection in the mirror pleading to be something I am not. If I would like to change my hair, get a tan or eyelashes then I do it. However when those faux adornments fade, I rock my natural look because what I previously believed the world was saying to me is no longer important.
I am a curly red headed, freckle faced, fair skinned, mum-bod donning, food loving, small breasted, size 9 shoe wearing, 30 year old footy mum. I can sing. Lift weights. Do yoga and pilates. Sew clothes. Kick a footy (skill building in progress). I can organize the shit out of things if I put my mind to it. And I can confidentally put my hand up to ask questions.
I can learn from mistakes and I know that failure is part of life and is essential to personal growth. I understand that I played the incubator and delivery receptacle for my two children which altered my body in various ways, and I own that shit. I love me. And I wish I could hit rewind and shake adolescent Shaara and force her to see that being a “ranga” with originality is okay.
The lioness does not concern herself with the opinions of sheep.
You are the one that has to live with yourself and your choices, more so than anybody else around you. Improving aspects of your persona or appearance according to what makes you happy is totally okay, if you are totally ok with it.
I will leave you with this golden nugget of a lyric from a Hailee Steinfeld track, because I’m no longer afraid to admit I love “mainstream” pop music;
Some days you feel so good in your own skin. But it’s okay if you wanna change the body that you came in. You look greatest when you feel like a damn queen 👑
Own your shit woman, or man
Until the next rant,
Queen Sha x
Hailee Steinfeld tunes: Most Girls and Love Myself
Olivia White – House of White (IG handle @houseofwhite)
Emmylou MacCarthy from Emmylou Loves (IG handle @EmmyLouloves)
Lizzo track Feeling Good As Hell– (seriously, listen to this!)
The best resource of all. Listen to the compliments from your besties, partners, hubbies. They say nice things about you for a reason.