How I learned to be comfortable in my own skin
The transition from being a twelve year old child to a thirteen year old ‘girl’ was a bit tricky for me. As a teenager, you already feel like the entire world’s out to get you, and now you suddenly have pimples, periods, being too lanky ‘for a girl’, hairy legs and arms and thick eyebrows hitting you right and left! But, there’s also a catch: Girls aren’t supposed to have pimples; we aren’t supposed to be skinny, and mind you, we’re not allowed to be the opposite either; and the best one, we are to have nothing but smooth porcelain-like skin without a single speck of hair on our arms and legs at all times.
When I was in my mid teens, I cannot state how great an impact this had on me. Every time someone came up to me and asked ‘Hey what’s that thing on your right cheek?’, I felt embarrassed, even ashamed at times. I remember going to lengths to hide the fact that it was a pimple by saying I got an insect bite (on my nose?!) or I accidentally scratched myself in my sleep, among other things. Today, when someone asks me the same question, I give them a smile, and tell them “It’s a pimple.” And that’s it. But getting to this point where you feel no shame or embarrassment about something as natural as a pimple was an uphill internal battle.
When I was in school, I was the skinniest girl in my class. I had a very boyish look going on back then, and till a little part of my early teens, that was actually the cool way to be. Soon enough though, the bombardments of importance of external appearances caught up. I discovered that girls aren’t cute unless they have certain essential feminine features, and they are certainly not cute if they have hairy legs or bushy eyebrows. I was doubly blessed. Guess how.
I remember going to salons to get my eyebrows done even though I hated every minute of sitting on that chair while a woman pulled out hair from my eyes. I remember shaving my legs even though it was very time consuming and quite frankly, extremely unnecessary. (PS: The results are NOT worth it.) And every time some one asked me what that red bump on my chin was, I remember feeling conscious and uncomfortable about it all the while after. With many of my friends growing up to be the conventional idea of ‘feminine’ women, I felt exceedingly conscious about my body.
Ah the beautiful Eden-like time that are teenage years.
Over time, I grew tired. I was so tired of feeling that conscious about things as natural and ever-present as pimples and body hair. I consciously made an effort to stop feeling embarrassed of my naturally thick eyebrows and my apparently lean figure that ‘was not very feminine’. What helped during these ‘conscious’ efforts were my attempts to make the situation lighter. It’s amazing how many things you can get over when you learn the simple art of not taking yourself too seriously. “Is that a pimple” was immediately followed by “Yup.”
That’s it. I stopped following it through with explanations or excuses or fumbling my bag for a foundation to cover it up. The blunt ‘Yup’ is sometimes followed by unwarranted advice but you and I both know how that’s going to go. You’re probably never going to do them anyway, so let’s leave it at that.
‘You are too skinny for a girl.” was immediately followed by an intense rant on “For a girl? What does that mean? Have years of feminist movements taught you nothing on how wrong this phrase ‘for a girl’ is?” Usually, people are intimidated to pursue any more. At best, we end up having a very productive discussion on feminism and viola, my curves (or a lack thereof) are no longer anyone’s business. Just as it shouldn’t be.
These endless extra efforts I put in to ‘look good for the world’ just eventually atrophied when I realized the absolute comfort and freedom embracing yourself just as you are gives you. My morning routine is less than 10 minutes of getting ready for classes, and honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Most of the times as a teen, I used to feel very conscious about the hair on my arms and legs, but today, I’ve learned how to embrace them too. Something about myself that doesn’t bother me shouldn’t bother anyone else either.
How can you really learn how to be comfortable in your own skin?
For starters, stop letting others dictate your life. Your body hair, your pimples or even ‘skinniness’: they are all parts of you. There is nothing wrong with you for having pimples. There is nothing wrong with you for having body hair and there is sure as hell nothing wrong with you for being skinny. So you have pimples? There’s no one who doesn’t every once in a while. Even Chrissy Teigen agrees. So you can cut yourself some slack! The motto? Don’t let others’ ideas of how you should look dictate how you should look. You decide.
Second, learn how not to take yourself so seriously. Laugh it off. Bushy eyebrows? Laugh it off like Anne Hathaway. Pimples? Laugh it off. When you stop taking these things so seriously, others too as well. There’s an unparalleled liberty that you get once you realize you are perfectly alright in your absolutely natural self and no one else should get to decide if it should be otherwise.