You Know What? I’m Not That Bothered About My Looks

When I was a teenager, I used to hate being in photos.

I have a really vivid memory of refusing to be in a group photo at a friend’s birthday party. Everybody involved spent ages begging and pleading for me to take part, but I just sat there, resolute in my decision. In the end, the birthday girl held my hat up next to her to represent me, and I watched sadly as the photo was taken.

Recalling that memory now, I can feel my face and neck heating up in shame. I ruined what should have been a happy momentum for my friend, because I was so unhappy with my appearance that I would not get over myself for the ten seconds it took to take the photo.

Embarrassing though that memory is, I find it an important one to recall from time to time, as it proves how drastically things can change for the better.

Fast-forward to just a few weeks ago, when I was staying at a friend’s house and we were scheduled to go to a birthday party that evening.

My friend spent the day oscillating between checking her Tumblr feed and doing various prep for the evening outing. She changed outfits three or four times. She spent ages doing her make-up. She fussed and fretted about every little detail.

I, on the other hand, spent most of the day playing Cooking Adventure, only to blearily look up from my phone screen fifteen minutes before we left to apply eyeshadow and put my shoes on. I intended to apply more make-up on on the train, but in the end I decided that I would rather continue to play my game and talk to my friend than spend any more of my precious minutes thinking about my appearance.

So when we arrived at the party, my friend looked like a million bucks while I only looked slightly more presentable than the shoelace my cat threw up the other day. And I couldn’t have cared less.

Teenager me would be so impressed.

I have never been one for spending enormous amounts of time thinking about my outfits or applying and re-applying make-up or carefully arranging individual strands of hair or whatever else. Even when I was at my most insecure, I wouldn’t spend more than, maybe, 15 minutes of the day working on my appearance. That part of me has not changed.

But, even though I never spent a lot of time actively working on my looks, I certainly spent a lot of time thinking about my looks – more specifically, how much I hated them. I am no oil painting, and when I was younger it felt as though I was surrounded by attractive friends and family members. I knew I would never be at their level, appearance-wise, and that upset me more than variations in looks should have any right to do.

I can remember spending days, months, years, wishing and wishing that I had a magic wand I could use to change everything about myself that I hated – my small eyes, my red cheeks, my chicken skin… and my weight, of course. Like any normal fat person, my fat was what I wanted gone more than anything else.

But then my outlook changed. All of the hatred I held for my appearance started to, gradually and inexplicably, lessen. I began noticing things about my body that I really like (my nose, my teeth, my legs), and in some cases, I grew to really like some things that I had previously hated (like my chicken skin – I love my chicken skin now).

The most noteworthy change, however, involves the things that I still don’t necessarily ‘like’, such as my small eyes and red cheeks. Like I say, I would not say that I like either of those things now, and there is a good chance that I never will. But I also don’t dislike them enough to care that they are there anymore. So instead of thinking ‘MUST COVER!’ or ‘Please don’t look at them!’ or ‘Why oh why do they exist?!’, I think ‘Meh, whatevs’, and carry on with my day… if I even notice them at all. I think I must have subconsciously come to the understanding that I was the person who was most bothered about these things, and not a single other person in the world either noticed or cared. And since nobody else cared, there was no need for me to care either.

I have no idea if this change in outlook was caused by anything (like my getting into social activism), or if it just happened as I matured and my outlook on the important things in life changed, but I am grateful that the change happened – it is a very freeing thing.

When I was younger and I saw ‘bad’ photos, like the featured image there, I would look at the photo and delete it in disgust, before spending no small amount of time moping about how fat and ugly I am. Now I take a glance, think ‘yep, that’s definitely a photo of me’, and post it without a second’s further thought.

And if I look at it more closely, I start to think things like ‘Aww, look at those wisps of hair by my ears. They’re cute.’ or ‘Hey, you can really see the difference in colour between my eyes! Badass!’

Which is kind of cool, imho.

Posted by Gillian

Hello. My name is Gillian Brown. I'm a freelance writer living in the UK, with an Australian accent to offer as a starting point of conversation. As a writer, my main areas of interest are social activism, ethical consumption, linguistics, comedy, and marketing. My other interests include dancing, tabletop role-playing, crocheting and cooking.

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