What is “it”? Is it the way your hair lies, or the cut of your shirt? Perhaps it’s the perfect silhouette, and the ability to wear a clingy dress without seeming to have a single bump or imperfection.
As a young teenager, I believed that it was all those things and more. I was obsessed with the media’s negative portrayal of how a woman can only have “it” if she adheres to what it is that is expected of her.
I was intelligent, good-natured, the funny and uplifting voice at a table of people groaning, “I can’t be bothered today”, most importantly I was, at least, outwardly confident.
For the six years of my high school career I was very negative about the way I looked, and being less buxom and curvaceous than my classmates was a big issue for me, making me change my outward appearance to reflect the “plain Jane” I felt I was – dressing mainly in baggy clothes that did nothing but emphasise the things I felt were “wrong” with me.
When I left high school, things settled down. I felt able to express myself in a way I hadn’t been able to as a younger teenager. I discovered lingerie, and fabrics, and shapes of clothes which I would never have dared to wear during that more intimidating period of my life.
As I experimented with all these new concepts, I began to understand that there were different styles and fits which emphasised the more feminine aspects of my body that I had failed to recognise in my self-conscious adolescence. Gradually I became more proud of my body as a woman, I began to feel like just maybe I’d got “it”.
One evening, while spending time with some boys I had gone to school with, I asked them,
“What was it about me that meant that nobody ever asked me on dates? Why wasn’t I sexy? Didn’t I have ‘it’?”
They all looked at one another, and collectively confessed to me that they had all had feelings for me at one point or another, but none of them had known how to say as much because they too had felt pressured by society, and their way of fitting in was to go for the stereotypically “sexy” girls whom I had envied and admired.
It was at this point that I realised that maybe “it” wasn’t the thing that I was longing to be.
That evening I went home to experiment again with my new wardrobe, and I found that the way I was viewing myself – dressed in a neatly cut silk shirt perhaps, or a flared skirt – that I felt good about myself. I had inadvertently discovered what my style was.
Upon speaking with my other female friends, I uncovered that I was not the only women in my inner circle to have had issues distinguishing between what made them feel good about themselves and the “it” which we were all striving for.
Since then I have made a conscious effort to encourage each and every woman who tells me that she doesn’t feel good enough because she isn’t this, or she isn’t that, to look beyond that, and to tell me when she feels that she is good enough.
Not everyone is given the opportunity at such a young age to discover their style, some of us go from a uniformed education to a workplace in which we are required to yet again subject to a uniform. We may be well into our adult life before we get to experiment and learn to understand ourselves, our bodies, and our own unique style, but it is never too late to begin to learn about that side of yourself.
Whether you were a young explorer, or an older adventurer, you should never feel obligated to stick to just the one style. It isn’t the same for everyone; one woman may feel a goddess in silk, another in leather – some may dabble in both depending on their mood. Sometimes you cannot express your personal style at a visible level; some of us may work in an office, or on a builders site, in a place where uniform is mandatory, but that isn’t to say that you cannot still feel good about yourself. A pretty lacy bra can fit under overalls just as well as a boring black one.
The fact of the matter is that there is a place where we all feel amazing in our skin without having to adhere to what we feel is expected of us. That is where we should revel in our own femininity.
So if you find yourself feeling a little self-conscious, like you aren’t worth anything, go home and take a good look at your wardrobe. Are you buying things to hide yourself away because you don’t feel you can meet the unreasonable demands of a society obsessed with “perfect”?
Take some time to yourself, and go and buy something which makes you feel like you.
Experiment with colours, materials, fits and shapes – and most importantly, buy some underwear which suits your body, rather than necessarily squeezing yourself in to things that you feel are “sexy”.
Every woman has the right to feel good about themselves, and comfortable in their femininity.
It’s about time that we explored what that means for ourselves.
Tara Moore, Guest Blogger.