Let’s get real about: Body Image

It’s been a while since I’ve written – well I’ve written of course, but I haven’t posted anything for way too long. Between packing up the entire contents of my life in London and locating it to Surrey, I’ve been spending a lot of time getting myself together for the next academic year – Year 2.

I’ll obviously document my journey as I go along but I logged on today to talk about something that has been affecting me for a while. Body image. Something that is spoken about A LOT but with so many different points of view it’s sometimes difficult to know where you stand in it all. So I’m going to talk about my own body image, subjectively, because we’re all different, but maybe you can get something from this.

I know that my body is strong and beautiful. Sometimes I have a hard time accepting it, but I know the facts. As a young woman who has undergone A LOT of body changes in the past few years, it becomes hard to understand how the body I had when I was 15 years old has been completely transformed into something that I don’t recognise. It’s a normal part of growing up, your body changes to meet different needs that you may have not needed when you were younger. Believe it or not most of my body confidence issues came after I finished puberty. Besides having acne and being incredibly tall in lower secondary school, I wasn’t constantly obsessed over the way my body looked like I am now.

Despite visiting a doctor and being told that I’m perfectly healthy, I can’t help that I sometimes over-analyse every minor change that happens to my body and let it ruin my day. Example: The other day I bought some new jeans from a shop that I have never bought from before. I bought my regular size that I usually wear in EVERY OTHER SHOP and guess what? Yep, they didn’t fit. So I got so worked up about it, started thinking I was too big and that I had gained weight from the last time I wore jeans, which was like 2 days before. I didn’t even consider the fact that since I had never bought jeans from that shop before, they may have sized the clothes differently which is why they didn’t fit me.

After I accepted this, I returned the jeans and got another size and it was all fine. I know it sounds superficial, there is way more important things in this world than a pair of jeans but it’s things like this that can spiral out of control and create havoc in someone’s mind. We all go through body image issues at some point in our lives. The end goal isn’t having a perfect body, because that doesn’t exist in real life, what is perfect? But we’re aiming for acceptance, acceptance of ourselves, accepting what we may need to change, accepting what we can’t change and accepting what will change inevitably.

You’re all beautiful!

Love Always,

Shadz xo

Self-Image

Everyday many of us tend to maginify the parts of ourselves that we don’t like. We sometimes become so obsessed with the parts of ourselves that we don’t like and subsequently let these parts define us.

I think that we all need to develop a positive self-image. In an world that is so revolved around aesthetics it is almost ineviatble that we as a result let these pressures impact on how we see ourselves.

But what society thinks matters, doesn’t really matter. Look yourself in the mirror, write it down, it doesn’t matter how you do it, what matters is you remind yourself everyday that you are beautiful.

Love Always,

Shadz xo

What we try to conceal

Did you know that there is nothing wrong with the way you look? That spot, that scar, that excess bit of fat, the blemish on your cheek does not decrease your worth or your beauty. You are fearfully and wonderfully made.

I know it can be so easy to look at yourself and compare yourself to the next girl; I do it too. I’ve had times that I’ve stood and cried at the parts of me that I didn’t like such as my spots and acne scars. I used to wear a thick layer of foundation or concealer to cover them up so no one saw. I have nothing against make-up, I love to wear it myself because it can be so fun and satisfying to try new looks. However, back in my younger teen years I used to wear simply because I didn’t like the way I looked, and that wasn’t okay.

I have met so many girls who cannot leave their homes without a full face of make up on, not because they genuinely enjoy wearing it, but because they think they are ugly without it. This saddens me so much because I hate that we as women sometimes hold the “ideal” standard of beauty to the highest regard. We compare ourselves to each other and to the media and then beat ourselves up when we cannot reach those standards. This has to stop. What are we teaching our daughters and our granddaughters? Our little sisters and nieces? We have to break this cycle.

Know one thing, you are beautiful, no spot, blemish or scar will ever change that.

Love always,

Shadz xo

What society dictates

We live in a paper world. I don’t say that to limit the beauty of creation but rather to question humanity and the arguably universal societies in which we live. Perhaps you could call this ‘social satire’; it’s an absolute joke. First of all, I want to address the big obsession that we as a collective have on this concept of aesthetics. Physical aesthetics. It is hard to understand why there is a narrow box that one must fit in order to comply with societies standards of beauty. ‘You’re my type on paper’ is a phrase that I am certain you are all aware of. Is that what we as human beings are defined by? And here I am not referring to the few individuals who wholeheartedly find all people beautiful regardless of their front layer, I’m referring to the majority, I’m referring to society. The wicked truth is that in the eyes of society, we are defined physically by whether or not we meet a particular criteria on a metaphorical piece of paper. Paper standards guys. And who creates these standards? Celebrities? The media? The Government? Queen Elizabeth? No, none of the above. The truth is you make them. I make them. We make them. We are society.

The ironic thing about it is that although we as a collective set these standards, we struggle to uphold them. Only a few, though lightly, manage to play by the rules in the public eye. It’s a game that we created but cannot seem to play. We try to sugarcoat it, with various paper protests regarding ones physical appearance trying to undo the damage done. In turn we as individuals feel obliged to join certain movements which yet again causes those who object to be looked down on. We then end up in a vicious cycle of finger pointing and trying to decide which is the ‘right’ way to think. It’s always ‘us against them’ and proclaiming that ‘not everyone has to be slim and fair’ whilst simultaneously potentially insulting those who fit in those categories. Why the fixation on looks? Why don’t we set societal standards based on respect, love and cooperation?

We need to break these cycles, there’s a dying world out there, a real world, not the paper world we’ve created. The key to life is kindness, being kind to ourselves despite the way we look and being kind to others despite the way they look. Let’s take appearance out of the equation. Truth is you’re all beautiful; that’s a fact. But what really matters is the society that we create for our children and grandchildren. Let’s leave them more to cherish than a paper society.

Love Always,

Shadz xo

melanin.

For the majority of my life I have been surrounded with people from all over the world. In fact my friendship circle consists of British, Hungarian, Nigerian, Indian, Polish, Pakistani, Dutch & Bengali people and many many more. The clash of cultures has taught me to not merely tolerate and accept race, but to completely submerge into the cultures of others, embracing every difference. My problem, however, was never ‘getting used to’ or ‘blending in’ with people from other cultures as I was born into a multicultural society. My insecurities lay not within how I responded to others but rather how I perceived the way that other people would respond to me. This led to a tainted view on how I viewed my race and thus a large part of my existence. Of course now, as I’ve grown older I’ve learnt to embrace my own race just as I have everyone else’s. My puffy hair and hot chocolate coloured skin is nothing for me to be ashamed of, I am BEAUTIFUL and so are you.

Truthfully and thankfully I have never experienced hardcore racism of any sort. Throughout secondary school, particularly during the earlier years, I was labelled as an “Oreo” by some of my white peers (which I embraced) and “white” by my some of my black peers (which I didn’t embrace). In hindsight, it’s hard to pinpoint why exactly the different names had opposite effects on me. Perhaps being called an “Oreo” by white friends seemed playful, perhaps affectionate and accepting into their race (but I still couldn’t understand why I had to be an Oreo and not a chocolate digestive). On the other hand being labelled as “white” by my black friends came across as an insulting, cold hearted and rejecting from people of my own race. (I did have Asian, Mixed race and Hispanic friends, but they never labelled me anything in regards to race.) After a while I internalised these labels and saw myself as being black on the outside and white on the inside. Daft right?! I jumped on the bandwagon by starting to see race as a personality type, defining my racial identity by the interests I had and the labels set upon me. I often felt “too white” for my black friends and “too black” for my white friends. These feelings were and always will be a mistake. It is toxic to believe that hobbies, passions and interests are stamped with a racial barrier. I assure you that you can do and love ANYTHING that you want to do that empowers you regardless of your race and how others may perceive it. I begun to distance myself from many of my black peers (bar a few who I’m still friends with to this day, shout out to you gals!) because I didn’t feel as if I could relate to them. I often felt different from my extended family (we are Caribbean) as I felt that the perception my classmates had on me shone through at family gatherings. This caused me a lot of anxiety and led to me feeling very lonely within the most loving family for a period of time. I could not fathom why enjoying different types of music, speaking in a sophisticated manner, enjoying ballet and contemporary dance, hanging out with different people and speaking openly about mental health was classed as ‘white’ and why being or ‘acting white’ was seen as a betrayal to my heritage by my peers of colour. Likewise, I didn’t understand why my white friends felt they had to announce that I was a black person who perhaps enjoyed and embraced things that were stereotypically part of British culture. I just wanted to be me. I no longer feel any sort of anger or resentment towards any of these people for labelling me, they were (and many still are) my friends. We were all conditioned by the standards of society and I understand that they did not say it out of malice but rather because of societal pressure to conform to the norms.

Theories of being ‘colour blind’ are untestable. The key is to see race fully and actively choose to not define people by their outer appearance or cultural background. Understandably we live in a diverse society and so it should be without a doubt that we no longer define ourselves or each other by our race but I know some people around me still struggle with race and that’s okay. If I were to teach my younger, more insecure and vulnerable self and others one thing about race, it would be this. Cultural differences exist, but we all have the opportunity to unite. Dialect varies, but meaningful communication is universal. Traditions vary, but good morals are reflected in every nation. Racial history varies between cultures but unconditional love is what should bring us together and set us free. In essence the differences between our cultures should not tear us apart or cause us to fall into hatred and intolerance but rather bring us together, allow us to learn more about each other and cause us to grow in love and acceptance. There are more similarities between us all than differences. The YouTuber, ‘Prince Ea’ published a video a few years back about race and it was one of the most heartfelt videos I have ever come across. He posed the question “who would you be if the world never gave you a label?” His answer was “we would be one, we would be together” which as a girl who had struggled with societies interpretation of racial identity, spoke a lot of truth to me and was very comforting. (I’ll link the video down below).

I can only thank God for freeing me from the pressures of the world and allowing me to see myself as I was made. It was a journey to acceptance that I will never forget, one that I’ll cherish forever and one that I will use to help others who are going through the same thing. The human race in all it’s forms is beautiful. The multitude of cultures, races and nationalities that have surrounded me in my life this far have shaped who I am today. Forever and always embrace who you are and be open to learn about and love others.

Love Always,

Shadz xoxo

Prince Ea – I am NOT Black, You are NOT White http://youtu.be/q0qD2K2RWkc