“But I look horrible!“
We went for a walk on Sunday. We got in the car, drove to a nearby bit of countryside, and did some exploring. I will be honest with you and say I had a BLAST – I inhaled some fresh air, I ran along a muddy path like a five year-old and felt twigs break under my feet, and I happy-cried when a cow waved back at me with its ear (it WAVED okay, there were no flies getting on its nerves at ALL).
But an hour or so before, things had looked slightly different. As we’d left the house, I’d decided I was in fact NOT fresh-faced and cute without make-up – just messy and small. I’d wondered if leggings were suitable attire for a walk, then come to the conclusion that they absolutely weren’t. I’d suddenly spotted my uneven eyebrows in natural light and then wanted to vomit.
I call them mirror meltdowns, and they suck. They used to creep up on me most days, when the seemingly simple act of getting dressed turned into a three-hour event filled with expletives and piles of discarded clothes. Now they are few and far between, which I am incredibly happy about – somehow, I have managed to become a little calmer and kinder about myself and my appearance.
Everyone is different, and what works for me might be completely useless to you. But if you do have mornings where you’re gripped by that familiar shoulder-crunching, face-reddening feeling, you’re 20 minutes late for work and you want to burst into tears, take a little look below – here’s what I tell myself when I’m in the midst of a mirror meltdown.
No-one is perfect
For the longest time, the mirror and I were not pals. On one occasion – when I’d spent hours alone studying my own stomach and now needed to get dressed to go to the supermarket – my mom came home to find me crying behind the bedroom door in my underwear, like a lost, confused Mowgli.
Normally my mom is the most laid-back and understanding person of all time, and she will let me wallow to my heart’s content, because she knows I am very dramatic and luv 2 navel-gaze. But on this occasion – possibly because she’d had enough, possibly because she just wanted to get her god damn food shop done – she said “PUT THESE JEANS AND THIS T-SHIRT ON” in a very stern voice, and bundled me out of the house.
When we got to the car park of our local supermarket, she turned off the engine and said “We are going to do some people-watching. I want you to look at everyone who walks past us and tell me when you spot someone who is perfect.”
You know what the moral of the story was: NO-ONE IS PERFECT, SOPHIE, SO STOP BEATING YOURSELF UP! (ALSO, I WOULD QUITE LIKE TO BUY SOME BROCCOLI BETWEEN NOW AND THE END OF TIME.)
But seriously. Now I’m older, I think about that day sometimes. I’m not sure if my mom thought I would take her words to heart, but I did. No-one who walked by with their Tesco trolley that day looked perfect to me. That’s not to say I thought they looked bad. More that they didn’t look like the front cover of Vogue magazine, but yet here they were: doing their shopping, hugging their children, living their life. They didn’t have to be perfect to get that stuff done. They just had to go out and do it.
SIDENOTE: There is not one person in existence who doesn’t have some kind of physical flaw or insecurity. Even Emily Ratajkowski probably wakes up sometimes and thinks “I don’t like how I look today.” EVEN EMILY RATAJKOWSKI.
You will never be attractive to everybody
Everyone who knows me fairly well also knows that if I lived in AmericanMovieLand and could wangle some sort of body-swap scenario with Alexa Chung, I would totally do it. Then she would be like “Sophie, this is crazy, we’ve gotta find a way to switch back!” and I’d be all “Of COURSE, I will make it my life’s mission” while actually not making it my life’s mission at all, because I would be very content with looking like Alexa Chung.
To me, Alexa is BEAUTIFUL. She has great hair, she dresses better than anyone I have ever seen in my life and she has the face of a chiselled angel. I am quite proud of my own cheekbones, truth be told, but Alexa’s are on another level.
But sometimes when I mention my love of the Chung to other people, they won’t get it at all. Then they’ll tell me about a celebrity who they think looks great and I’ll say “REALLY?” and wonder if we are talking about the same person. But that’s my point: despite me thinking that Alexa has THE MOST EXQUISITE FACE IN THE HISTORY OF FACES, there are always gonna be some people who look at her and say “Meh.” It doesn’t mean she’s ugly, or that I’m wrong. It also doesn’t mean that they’re wrong – all it means is that I have an opinion that she’s a hottie. That’s it.
I think that goes for all of us. Some people will love your Hello Kitty t-shirt collection, other people will be like “Ew, is she eight?” (yes I am speaking from experience, what of it). Some people will think your gappy teeth are kind of hot, while other people won’t be fussed about them. And so on, and so forth. You can’t please everyone, in any situation, and there is no given day, EVER, where you would be able to step out the front door and ~wow~ the entirety of England. It just can’t happen. When I realised this, I felt a lot better.
P.S. This isn’t me trying to say “Some people will think you’re BUTT-UGLY, so deal with it!” in a mean voice. Not at all. You look great. I guess what I mean is: you can’t please everyone, so why even worry about it? Easier said than done, I know. But WORTH REMEMBERING.
Your body does some super-interesting stuff that goes WAY beyond what it looks like right now
I read this anxiety book a few years ago, and inside it there was a section about how cool your heart is – how it pumps blood around you ALL DAY, EVERY DAY and never stops. The section was supposed to be inspiring and uplifting – to ground the reader and take them back to basics – but it ended up making me feel very panicked. I had never considered how my heart worked before, and the realisation that it just keeps going constantly FREAKED ME TF OUT. Like, WHAT IF IT GETS TIRED? What about when I am asleep? Can’t it take a break then, like the rest of me? Turns out no, it can’t, because then I would be dead. Science, huh!
This particular paragraph did not work for me, as you can see, but others did. Sentences about how cool it is that a lot of us can move our hands and feet just like that. We don’t even consciously think about it, we just DO it. That some of us CAN GROW BABIES INSIDE US?! That we have eyes that make us SEE (SEE! WE CAN SEE STUFF!) and that we have eyebrows to catch the sweat off our foreheads and noses to smell popcorn with. That we can sing, and write, and paint. I mean, if you think about it, your body is pretty cool. I sound a bit like a Christian youth worker right now but I DON’T EVEN CARE COS IT’S TRUE.
And the more I think about it (and the older I get, actually), the more I am grateful to just have a body that works. So many people aren’t as lucky as I am, and I don’t want to waste my energy telling my own body that it’s horrible when it does so much for me.
This isn’t me telling you to SHUT UP AND GET OVER IT, by the way – I am a firm believer that “people have it much worse than you” comments don’t help anyone. I just find that thinking of my body in terms of what it does rather than what it looks like can be really oddly soothing.
Earlier, I literally Googled “WHAT DOES MY STOMACH DO” and I learned a lot. Like DID YOU KNOW that there’s this little flap at the back of your mouth that springs into action as soon as you go to swallow food or drink, to stop it all going down your windpipe? Sometimes it’s a bit slow or you’re a bit too speedy – and that’s when you’ll cough and someone well-meaning will pat you on the back and say “Oh, dear, did it go down the wrong way?” I found all that very interesting, and now I keep thinking about it. I don’t know. Give it a go, maybe. It’s harder to hate your stomach when you know that behind it, there are intestines working hard to seek out all the vitamins and nutrients from the food you’ve just given them. GO, LITTLE INTESTINES, GO! WE’RE ALL ROOTING FOR YOU!
To everyone else, you probably don’t look any different to normal
I am going to let you in on a tiny secret – a secret that I only recently found out myself. Sometimes I forget about it, but when I remember, it helps me a lot.
Are you ready?
Okay. Here it is:
YOU WILL NEVER LOOK WORSE THAN NORMAL TO OTHER PEOPLE. YOU WILL ONLY EVER LOOK THE EXACT SAME AS NORMAL, OR BETTER THAN NORMAL.
“Ohhh, shut UP, Sophie,” I bet you’re saying, “I know I looked worse than normal the other day, ‘cos I had bags under my eyes and three huge spots and I tried a new shampoo but it didn’t wash my hair properly so it felt STICKY and it bugged me ALL DAY.”
And you know what I am saying? “Oh, right. Well, that’s funny, because I didn’t notice any of those things. I thought you just looked like you.”
If you don’t believe me, think about it from your own perspective when you see other people over the next few weeks. Do you ever look at Alison in the office and think “VOM. Looks like she didn’t get much sleep last night”? Do you spot the man from down the road in Aldi and fixate on the bit of his hair that won’t go flat? Do you glance upwards while enjoying lunch with a friend, and think “Jesus, what a mess”? Of course you don’t. Partly because you’re not the worst, but mostly because they look exactly the same as they always do.
I’m not saying people NEVER EVER NOTICE when you have a massive zit on the end of your nose. But they notice that zit in the same way they would notice if you were carrying an ice cream around with you, or if you were wearing a yellow hat. It’s a very small, very insignificant observation, not a silent declaration of disgust.
In my experience, people notice good things, mostly: they will notice when you’ve had your hair cut and it looks a bit bouncier than normal. They will say “Your make-up looks nice today!” and you will go a bit red but be secretly pleased. They will tell you they like your new top, even though a nasty voice in your head has been shouting “GO HOME AND CHANGE, YOU VILE TOAD” since 8am. They will think you look nice, or they will focus on something else entirely and think nothing negative of your appearance at all. Like, they won’t even notice anything about it. Isn’t that a relaxing thought?
Earlier I said that we shouldn’t obsess over what other people think of us and how we look, and I still agree with that 100%. But (BUT!) if you do worry about being judged by the world and his wife, try to keep this secret in mind. It helps, I promise – and I hope the rest of this did, too.