Growing a Thicker (Warmer) Skin

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This is probably the most relatable post I’ll ever write, as throughout the years when I’ve talked about my experiences most people seem to have shared my journey.

Growing up, when your body goes through puberty and begins to change, it becomes a confusing time not only physically but emotionally. As a female, my body began to develop to carry and bear children, but I was only coming into my teenage years and embarking on high school, so I definitely didn’t feel mature or ready enough yet to cope with these changes.

Everyone around me seemed to be having an easier time than I was. I felt like the DUFF (the designated ugly fat friend), as they seemed to be growing taller and more womanly, where as I felt like I was growing wider and more clumsy. My feet were large, my hips were wide, my shoulders were broad, my hair was thick and wild and my features were average (and spotty) at best, or so I thought at the time.

My confidence plummeted, and I know I wasn’t the only one, as I’m sure behind my friend’s eyes they felt self conscious too. But our continual search for our identities and wanting to feel comfortable in ourselves seemed like a never ending journey, and for me, a lot of the issues that were born out of that time graduated with me as I left school.

Like most young people, I experimented, not only with clothes, but with hair dye and make up too. I slid happily into the familiar “emo phase”, subscribing to that way of life, not only because my interest in certain music artists ran with similar fashion ideals, but because for a while it felt like “me”, whoever that was. For a few years, I was happy. I liked to dye my hair different colours, dream about piercings and tattoos, wear jeans and band t-shirts to showcase my love of music and I loved that I was a master of the winged eyeliner phenomenon.

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But just like everything else in life, I grew up and outgrew that image, and moved on, but I didn’t have anything to move on to. It was about this time that I took my gap year, so a lot of my clothes were practical and simple, as I spent a lot of that year travelling. When I turned twenty and went to uni, it struck me that I’d been twenty years on this earth and I’d not “found myself” and felt pressured that when I went into a clothes shop, I should know whether an item was “me” or not. But I didn’t, I didn’t have a clue.

I spent a lot of that time adopting other people’s discarded clothes, from my Mum, from friends and family, and it felt like wearing someone else’s identity was far easier than the difficult search for my own. It wasn’t until I left university, had a breakdown and continued rebuilding my life that I could start to find out exactly who I was, and exactly who I wanted to be.

A good friend of mine is a colour analyst and offered to “do my colours” for me. This meant that I sat in a chair wearing an outfit similar to an all white nun’s habit and had colour swatches held up to my face to see how each one would react to my skin tone. It was fascinating how some colours made me look like I had a fresh spray tan, and others made me look completely jaundiced. After an hour or so, I had a complete collection of swatches that made me look amazing.

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You may be thinking that I just replaced one safety behaviour for another, or one clothing ideal for another, but just knowing that there were colours out there designed to flatter me, and by extension, make me feel confident in myself, made me feel so much better about going shopping, something I’d actively avoided for many years.

So here was the break down of my colour analysis. I had a warm skin tone, which meant that warmer colours as opposed to cold colours looked good on my skin. It also meant that gold jewellery was more flattering than silver. The analysis wasn’t exclusive just to clothes but to make up as well. I still love my winged black kohl eyeliner, but I also really enjoyed experimenting with a more natural look which gave me a warmer glow.

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This gave me the confidence to go out and start buying clothes because I liked them and knew the colours would look good on me, not because it’s because everyone else was wearing, or because I felt like that’s what I should be wearing. I still had my band t-shirts and my eyeliner, and I still brought them out every now and again to play, but I began to feel so much happier in myself now that I knew not all clothes were destined to make me look horrible. The Fitting Room Fiascos subsided and I began to feel so much more confident.

I didn’t continue comparing how I looked to other people because I knew that they had different skin tones and different body shapes to me. There was no point trying to squeeze into an outfit that belonged to a cool skin toned person, because it wasn’t going to give me the desired effect when I looked in the mirror. I dressed to accentuate the flattering parts of my frame like my waist and my curvaceous figure. I looked to role models with a similar shapes, like Beyonce and Nicki Minaj, and ditched styles that were “in” or “fashionable” if they didn’t suit me. It suddenly became all so illogical. Maybe I’d reached the point of self discovery after all?

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But here is what I’ve learnt during my “journey to self discovery“. The journey never ends. My style has changed and evolved over the years because I have changed and evolved too. I’m sure by the time I’m thirty my wardrobe will look vastly different. Be comfortable, once you are comfortable in what you’re wearing, your confidence will grow. Once you feel confident, then it’s half the battle won. You can be comfortable and look good at the same time. Once I ditched the jeans and bought different kinds of trousers that weren’t denim, I felt so much happier. Whatever you’re wearing, rock it, and if you don’t feel like you can, then there are a few tips and tricks, like picking the right colours, that can help you along the way. Ultimately, you’re you, a beautiful, wonderful, unique, you, a person that should be celebrated as an individual however you look.

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