What Self-Love Means to Me in 2016
What Self-Love Means to Me in 2016
By Ella Grace Denton / medium.com

I grew up with an understanding that the hair that grows naturally on my body is unattractive. The hair that naturally grows under my arms and on my legs makes me less of a female, less feminine and less appealing to the opposite sex. I learnt from a very young age to feel embarrassed about my body hair.

When I was 13 a boy put his hands down my pants when we were kissing. I crossed my legs, confused and rightly naïve. A week later I was the laughing stock of an all-boys school because that hand had touched my pubic hair and I “hadn’t shaved”. I felt ashamed, embarrassed, and made a firm note in my mind that in order to be found attractive I would need to get rid of all of my newly found body hair. From then on I shaved, over and over again, leaving my skin bumpy, covered in ingrown hairs, irritated and painful, but to me this was without question better than having that hair “down there” and being perceived as unattractive.

I believe that growing up with these cultural stories about what it means to be an attractive, happy, female is what led my teenage years being centred around an understanding that feelings of self worth and love were something only to be felt when male attention and love was present. Unless a man thought I was sexy or beautiful, I had no reason to believe those things about myself. This not only meant that I sexualised myself from the age of 13 but that I quickly learnt to compete using that sexuality with other girls around me.

I had long forgotten this seemingly menial occurrence that happened when I was 13. But 3 years ago, finding myself struggling with feelings of jealousy and insecurity surrounding other women and also struggling with low confidence in a loving relationship, I began to actively delve into what self-love really means to me; Why do I struggled with it? How has it held me back?

Having hair on my body for example; Why do I have such a strong belief that my body hair is “gross”? Why do my friends and I apologise if our legs aren’t shaved? Why don’t I feel sexy with hair on my body?

In societies eyes, to be a successful female means conforming to attitudes and beliefs that have been embedded so deeply in our cultures they seem completely natural and normal to us. When surely to be a successful and happy female is simply that? It isn’t to be shaved, to be made up, to have a certain body shape or to look a certain way. It is just to be happy regardless of anything.

It seems obvious to me now why myself and a vast majority of my girl friends struggle with appearance, confidence and true self-love. We learn as soon as we enter this world that natural elements of our being should make us feel unattractive because they are not appealing to society. I grew up understanding that there is a certain way that a female shouldbe, and if I didn’t fit that way of being then I wasn’t worthy of self confidence.

Firstly, I think we, as a society, need to restructure our understanding of the word ‘feminine’. Feminine is a word that is used to describe a set of attributes, behaviours, and roles generally associated with girls and women, dictated by the society that they find themselves in. It has nothing to do with being a female and in fact has everything to do with female stereotyping. A feminine way of being should be one of simply owning and loving our individual sense of selves as females on this planet, whatever that may be!

The scariest thing is, that as soon as I began to confront and unravel these insecurities I held, I found my inner feminist fighting a disturbingly large part of myself that truly believes I am not worthy if I don’t look a certain way. If my hair isn’t neat, if my skin isn’t clear, if my teeth aren’t white, if my skin isn’t tanned, if I have leg and underarm hair, if I don’t have a certain bone-structure or a petite body.

There is a broad understanding of what it means to be beautiful as a female, and so many of us strive to fit that understanding, rather than remembering that it is simply that, an understanding, and not a fact. Beauty is not something that can be defined, and our society has chosen to define it, leaving so many wishing to be something other than what they are.

Our variety as females is not celebrated by a general society, but more importantly, our variety isn’t celebrated by us, by females! How will men and women ever find a place of individualised equality if we as females cannot even begin to appreciate ourselves and each other for all that we truly are?!

It’s important to me to move into this New Year with a focus on expressing myself and my ideas openly. Regaining the self belief and self-love I abandoned when I was 13 is a big part of this. As an active commitment, I’m growing my body hair over the next three months, a personal experiment to see if I can genuinely learn to love and appreciate a part of me that I have never believed is attractive. In 2016 my main aim is to focus on saying adios to anyone else’s ideas of what makes me a beautiful, able, successful, human being and start saying hello to my own understanding of why I’m beautiful, able, and successful in every way I need to be.


All Illustrations by Frances Canon

0.0 ·
0
What's Next
Trending Today
Welcome to Marinaleda: The Spanish Anti-Capitalist Town With Equal Wage Full Employment and $19 Housing
Jade Small · 9,083 views today · With virtually no police, crime or unemployment, meet the Spanish town described as a democratic, socialist utopia. Unemployment is non-existent in Marinaleda, an Andalusian...
11 Traits of People With High Emotional Intelligence
Raven Fon · 7,775 views today · Lately, new ways to describe human interactions, social behaviours, and many facets of psychology have emerged on the social network scene. One of those descriptions is “high...
Who Are You? Watching This Breathtaking Video Could Be the Moment You Change Your Life
2 min · 7,769 views today · "Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to a job that you need so you can...
When You Kill Ten Million Africans You Aren't Called 'Hitler'
Liam O'Ceallaigh · 7,427 views today · Take a look at this picture. Do you know who it is? Most people haven’t heard of him. But you should have. When you see his face or hear his name you should get as sick in...
10 Provocative Quotes from Ivan Illich's "Deschooling Society"
Daniel Lattier · 6,444 views today · Ivan Illich’s groundbreaking book Deschooling Society (1971) offers a radical critique of the institutionalization of education within modern societies. Illich believed that we...
How a Trump Presidency Would Unleash a Torrent of Racist Violence-And Devastate the Left
Arun Gupta · 6,299 views today · The Left should take the Trump threat very seriously.
Maya Angelou's 3-Word Secret to Living Your Best Life
3 min · 4,579 views today · Dr. Maya Angelou says that in order to be the best human being you can be, you must follow one simple directive: "Just do right." Watch as Dr. Angelou reveals how you can never...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 4,562 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
Doctors Response to Daily Mail Bigotry is Beautiful
Neil Tiwari · 4,259 views today · A poetic open letter to the Daily Mail newspaper from Dr. Neil Tiwari, in response to a bigoted attack on his colleagues, is going viral and it's beautiful.
Forest Man
16 min · 4,204 views today · Since the 1970's Majuli islander Jadav Payeng has been planting trees in order to save his island. To date he has single handedly planted a forest larger than Central Park NYC...
Superblocks: How Barcelona Is Taking City Streets Back From Cars
5 min · 4,091 views today · Modern cities are designed for cars. But the city of Barcelona is testing out an urban design trick that can give cities back to pedestrians.
Real Change in Democracy Comes Not in the Voting Booth but Activism at the Grass-Roots
Ilze Peterson · 3,841 views today · Many years ago, the late Judy Guay, a low-income woman from Bangor, founded the Maine Association of Interdependent Neighborhoods in order to advocate for the neediest in our...
Fighting Trump - Residents Opposing Donald Trump's Scottish Golf Resort
14 min · 3,736 views today · Documentary on the residents protesting against Donald Trump's golf development on the Menie Estate in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Directed and Presented by James Trosh.
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 3,000 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
How to Criticize with Kindness: Philosopher Daniel Dennett on the Four Steps to Arguing Intelligently
Maria Popova · 2,644 views today · “Just how charitable are you supposed to be when criticizing the views of an opponent?”
Alan Watts: What If Money Was No Object?
3 min · 2,466 views today · How do you like to spend your life? What do you desire? What if money didn't matter? What if money was no object? What would you like to do if money were no object? Spoken...
What It Really Means to Hold Space for Someone
Heather Plett · 1,989 views today · How to be there for the people who need you most
Throw (2016)
10 min · 1,768 views today · The first installment of Invisible Thread, an ongoing ELM passion project series, Throw tells the story of an outsider from East Baltimore, an area challenged by gang violence...
10 Shocking Facts About Society That We Absurdly Accept As Normal
Joe Martino · 1,720 views today · When you take a moment and look around at the world, things can appear pretty messed up. Take 5 or 10 minutes and watch the 6 o’clock news. Chances are, the entire time, all...
A City Open to Migration and Diversity?
2 min · 1,604 views today · We speak to Thomas Jézéquel of Eurocities about what the city of Gdańsk can teach us.
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
What Self-Love Means to Me in 2016