Welcome to the twenty-third day of Blogmas with Sara Laughed, where I’m blogging every day ’til Christmas Day. Head over to my Blogmas calendar to see the full collection, or click on the gift tag below!
I’m not an especially confident person. If you’ve been reading this blog for a few years, then you’re familiar with my long-standing struggles with my body. Writing online has exacerbated a lot of those struggles — sometimes, when I step in front of the mirror, the first thing I hear in my head is a hate comment I’ve gotten (side note: it is so immensely frustrating to me that a comment someone wrote in less than a minute has lingered with me for months. That cruel fact has made me a lot more conscious about how I speak of others). Sometimes, when I look at someone else’s Instagram account or YouTube video, the first difference between us that I fixate on isn’t personality, or passions, but appearance or size.
Facing these struggles head-on was one of the major themes of 2017 for me. At the end of last year, I graduated from college and decided to make a change in the way that I was treating my body. I started meeting regularly with a personal trainer, with the motivation to lose weight. But those results have been secondary to something else that has been much more valuable to me: a sense of belonging in my body.
Working out made me physically stronger, and noticing the new things my body was capable of made me feel at home in my body in a way nothing ever had before. For years, I had heard people talk about appreciating our bodies for what they’re capable of. I tried. But it was hard for me to appreciate my body for the ability to dance, or run, or get stronger, when I wasn’t doing any of those things.
That changed in 2o17. This was the year I learned to dance and run and lift weights. It was the year I learned how to listen when my body was tired, and push on when it was just my brain that was giving up. For the first time, I saw muscles in my legs and arms that I knew I had earned, and I felt so proud of myself.
That confidence has manifested in other areas of my life. I no longer accept the weight of other people’s judgements as easily as I once did. I’ve learned to be more engaged socially, to try new things and step out of my comfort zone. It’s not that I’ve achieved those things because I’m fitter than I once was; it’s that I now have a confidence in myself that I didn’t before, and that confidence has grown to affect every part of my life.
This all came to a head yesterday, when I posted a photo of myself without makeup on online for the first time. For my Tried and Tested series, I’m trying a week without makeup. I realized that I really enjoyed the hassle-free aspect of going without, but there was one frontier I was not excited to explore: the online world. As I’ve said before, the internet has not always been kind to me, and that’s made it harder for me to be kind to myself.
There was a time when posting a photo of myself without makeup on would have been very scary. That’s less true now, though I was still intimidated by the prospect. But the confidence that I’ve gained this year made it doable. After all, me-without-makeup is just me, without makeup. My face, unpainted, is just my face. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
So, I shared the photo, with some thoughts on how my relationship to my body has changed this year. It received fewer likes than my usual photos, which may be because of how I looked, or may be for any other reason among hundreds of possibilities. It doesn’t really matter to me. What I realized in posting it was that, for the first time in a few years, I feel free to be myself online again.
For a while, I felt bound by the court of public opinion, and held back by the hate comments I’d get from time to time. But this has been a year of change, and in changing my relationship to myself, I am now able to change the way I present myself, too.
It’s realer now; more honest. And maybe you don’t like it, but that’s okay — because I do.