I realised a long time ago that I don’t really fit in anywhere. In my various roles as a fashion blogger, actor, author, I’ve always felt a little out of place. When I was at secondary school I tried to blend in and I did a reasonable job of camouflaging my oddness. However, I was too loud and opinionated to effectively assimilate into the crowd. I was a teenager in the 90s and early 00s, when heroin chic was fashionable and images of contemporary femininity featured a gaunt, languid Kate Moss, staring blankly out of adverts for Calvin Klein. Kate looked so serene and self-possessed, I longed to emulate her etherial, silent emptiness. Everything about me seemed too much; I wore a UK size 14, I was 5 foot 9 and had 34DD boobs by the age of 13. I also had an extraverted, often manic disposition that didn’t conform with how girls were supposed to be. The Spice Girls went some way to challenging that expectation, but I wasn’t a fan of their music so I didn’t find much solace in the notion of Girl Power.
I wish I could go back in time and reassure my teenage-self that everything would be ok. It makes me sad to think of that girl with undiagnosed bipolar, plagued with bulimia and trichotillomania. It would have been helpful to have seen someone like me represented in the media and I’m glad that there are now more positive role models for young women. Although the internet and social media has much evil to answer for, there are some wonderful online activists who are quite inspiring. The Body Positive movement is a force for good and women like Megan Crabbe, aka Body Posi Panda, are encouraging women to accept their bodies and feel good in their own skin. Charli Howard is a model who challenged the fashion industry’s demand for women to be dangerously skinny. After being dropped from her agency for being ‘too big’ at a UK size 6, she now has a flourishing career as a curve model, proving that one does not need to conform to some arbitrary societal norm to be successful.
One of the pleasures of getting older is caring less about other people’s opinions. When I realised the folly of trying to fit into a mould that was not built for me, life became easier. I stopped dressing like everyone else and started to experiment with my style. Sometimes those experiments didn’t work out too well, like the phase when I was into PVC tutus, or when I thought a pearl tiara worn with denim was a good idea. I don’t cringe when I think back to my past self as I had fun figuring out how I wanted to express myself. I now dress to please myself and I don’t mind if my look is in fashion, or if the people around me happen to like it.
Accepting who you really are takes time and it can be painful as it requires making peace with the personality traits that don’t make you proud. I found that taking an unflinching, but compassionate look at my strengths and weaknesses helped me accept my whole self. I still struggle with body hangups and the thought patterns associated with my eating disorder have never really gone away. However, I’m working towards full recovery and as I’ve accepted myself emotionally, I’m finding that I’m becoming more comfortable with my body.
Loving your whole self means that you are less reliant on external validation. Pretending to be something you’re not or striving for perfection is a recipe for loneliness and discontent; aim instead for imperfect authenticity.