Weighting for love
One of my favourite pass-times, especially when I'm travelling, is people watching. I love looking at people who don't know they're being observed as they go about their daily business. I love analysing what makes their outfit so cute or uniquely them, checking out their little babes or pups, and, above all, it gives me a sense of perspective. Without trying to flog a dead horse (horrible expression apologies) I think it's so easy to lose a sense of perspective when you spend all your time online. You might remember all the beautiful lessons I learnt about self acceptance and self esteem back in January when I'd cut social media out of my life completely. But it seems those lessons are too easily lost only 6 months later.
You might be wondering what people watching has to do with social media, but over the last few weeks I've found it to be the perfect antidote. You see, social media gives you the illusion of people watching - the false sense of intimacy, the ability to admire people's specifically crafted outfits and even look at them sweaty in the gym's mirror. Yet, I don't think I need to tell you the difference between someone who doesn't know they're under scrutiny and someone who has sifted through hundreds of photos and discussed with friends/family for the perfect caption and eagerly waits to see if the pic crosses the threshold of their expected number of likes (I'm talking to you!). Beyond the buzz of the 'highlight reel' the average person who does well on social media is not the average person in real life.
I will always support women's choice above all else, but if like me you follow a lot of influencers on Instagram I offer you the same experiment I undertook last week. Most of the women I follow are in their mid-twenties and of the non-friends on my feed the first 25/30 photos all featured someone with some form of cosmetic procedure. From botox to lip fillers to boob augmentations - why is it that those in the public eye feel such immense pressure to modify themselves? This is not including lash extensions, fake nails and fake tans. But, before I get side-tracked in a discussion about the obsession to maintain a so-called perfect exterior, none of these personal decisions have to impact my own critical view of my appearance. Either I delete the app and vow to unfollow anyone who falls into the procedure category or I check in with myself and get back in touch with reality.
Last week I was out on a night out in Roma soaking up the dizzying excitement of fresh faces and an open bar. It just so happened to be July 4th which to my Canadian credit I had never celebrated before. But still disappointed from the lack of July 1st (our independence day) celebrations in Europe I threw myself wholeheartedly into the American festivities. Looking back now I probably overcooked the red, white and blue in a bid to fit in - let's be honest no one would've doubted my accent and my believable cover of living in Sacramento, CA. Regardless, I turned up in the lobby wearing a new red and white polk-a-dot crop top and a blue jean skirt, with some stars around my eyes for good measure. Blending in seamlessly I sang along to Star Spangled Banner to my shame and won at flip cup - nobody suspected a thing. In my giddiness I'd attracted more friends beyond the Australian girl I'd signed up with, including some young Californian girls to bolster my incognito-ness.
Unfortunately, I got cocky and started bragging to non-Americans about my secret mission even handing out covert names like Brody and Hunter to two New Zealand guys. And I would've got away with it too if it hadn't of been for a well-intentioned girl from Sacramento who I sat next to on the bus to the club. Cursing my choice of location I gave up the act for the rest of the evening aside from those 'friends' who I'd already trapped myself in a lie with. Now beyond a lovely tangent about my apparent social life you might be asking yourself why I'm recounting the details of a boozy night out on the continent. In all honesty, this night came at the perfect time after a few days of existential dread at the possibility of returning to university in the fall and late-night researches of masters options. Anxiety about my sense of self worth was creeping in just as fast as the number of grad photos on my Instagram feed. You are 22-years old you should grow up and just finish university already and get a good grad placement and get on with your life.
Anyone who suffers with anxiety will know that worries like to piggy-back onto one another especially when your mind is feeling weak and impressionable. I hadn't been exercising or eating right and had been drinking too much caffeine - the defences were down. So, as I was moving my hips on the deck of a riverside boat party, singing along to the latest hip hop tracks pangs of realisation hit me. The little cluster of young solo travellers I'd taken under my wing were consistently being approached by drunk guys from all angles. In fact, the Australian I'd stuck with the whole night had already gotten with two guys before midnight. Not only was I starting to fear for my professional future - an area where I normally derive my self confidence from - I was also feeling really envious that I wasn't getting that level of attention.
Admitting these feelings makes me feel vulnerable on two accounts: the first being that I'm letting you guys know that I'm not batting away guys on a daily basis, and secondly, that I care about something so superficial as vodka-induced frat boys' opinion of me. Reality check here is that if I'm honest I was getting approached by guys but the real sick feeling came from the Australian girl I was friends with grinding on the specific one I liked. Not to mention, that the first thought that came into my head when I felt this supposed 'rejection' was that he must've thought I was too big. Reasons for this include the sudden awareness that all the girls around me were tiny and petite and about 19 years old. Familiar negative thoughts of wanting to fit into the cookie cutter mold that makes you physically approachable in a dark and booze-filled location flooded in and I couldn't shake the feeling that I wasn't as hot as I used to be.
The worst part is that rather than go inwards and shake these stupid feelings about my own apparent lack of undeservingness I allowed them to latch on to my wavering sense of self. I turned to Instagram and picked a photo with a flattering angle and a cute dressed and then tracked it as the likes came rolling in. Each red heart filling the whole in my heart where self acceptance used to live. Then other poisonous thoughts started up with similar refrains that I'm unworthy of romantic attachment until I get down to the size 8 only achieved when I was starving myself. I didn't realise how bad my body image had spiralled until I returned to England and went to stay with my aunt over the weekend. She'd got me some new clothes and asked me to try them on, when I hid in the bathroom rather than stay in her bedroom she knew something was up. Challenging my bs she reminded me that not only am I beautiful just the way I am, but I am so much more important than my dress size.
One thing I want to add for all you ladies who are still reading (thank you btw) these insecure moments normally attack around my time of the month. Tracking my cycle has really helped me to check in when the hormones are tearing my sense of self love limb from limb. And yes, those feelings have started to pass naturally with the reduce in bloating and lack of general craziness. But that might not help you much when you're in the thick of self-criticism spiral. So, returning to the people watching I love to do in my free time. The lessons I've learnt from admiring people IRL is a sense of perspective of what real bodies look like. Please take a moment to look at the variety of people around you and ask yourself would you talk to them the way you talk to yourself? Taking things further I regularly interject when my friends vocalise their insecurities with the simple phrase "stop being mean to my friend" (thank you Izzy for that one).
Most importantly, take a moment to look at the loved up couples around you. Love comes in so many shapes and sizes. Turn off Love Island for a moment and watch the outside world. You do not need cosmetic surgery or to cut out carbs or beat yourself up mentally to be loved and to love. I guarantee that beyond feeling healthier mentally and physically exercise/diet doesn't matter in this big wide world. This lesson isn't just for fellow singletons because if you're telling yourself that you'll feel better when you find the perfect guy I promise you that their love will not matter if you don't first accept yourself. Please be gentler with yourself I know I'm trying to and if you're wondering where this latest epiphany came from check out Jameela Jamil's Instagram campaign and her interview on the #GirlBoss podcast. I am so much more than the number on the scales and you are too! I, for one, am going to stop stopping any potential for love by waiting until I'm the size society deems acceptable.
All my love and if you ever need someone to chat to slide into my dms or drop me a message xox