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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Being a Good Samaritan: Places I Like to Donate To

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I have a complex where I have an inexplicable desire to help people, and I recently gave blood for the first time to help fuel my conscience. I also like to donate to various places, and I’m going to list down below where and why. The purpose of this post is to give those areas in need more exposure, so that others may volunteer or donate to them as they see fit. These services have helped so many people in my area of East Sussex and all over the country, even the world, so it seems right that they get the recognition and the exposure they deserve.

Counselling Plus

I had the opportunity to have 16 weeks of talking therapy at Counselling Plus over in Hastings, East Sussex, and found the experience to be so fulfilling and effective that I would recommend them to anyone and everyone thinking about having counselling. It’s run by a large amount of amazing people, some who volunteer their services and time selflessly without payment. In the waiting room, there is a book sale, with books donated and bought by those who pass through, and each book is 50p. All proceeds from the book sale go towards the charity so I like to donate the books I un-haul to the cause.

Bexhill Food Bank

My local Tesco and Sainsbury’s supermarkets offer a service so that you can donate food to the local food bank easily whilst doing your shopping. I like to donate one item a week to those less fortunate than me. I’ve never had to use a food bank myself, but one day I may have too, and I’ll be thankful for everyone donating and allowing me to use the service.

CrashCourse

Crash Course is a YouTube channel that educates its viewers in a range of different subjects, from World History, to Astronomy, to Literature and Politics, and many more. I constantly watch the videos on their channel and find that the way they explain the subjects to be very easy to understand and informative. At the moment, I only donate $1 a month via Patreon but I hope to donate more as the years go on. Crash Course also aim to create study worksheets and content for the underprivileged.

The Salvation Army

The Salvation Army do lots to help out people in need. Although the foundation began primarily linked to the Christian church, they go over and above the call of God with the charitable needs. I love to take the clothes I don’t want or need anymore and donate them to the clothes bank, which are situated in various places throughout the country. The Salvation Army then distribute those clothes to those who need them, sometimes to the homeless, sometimes to children in foster and care homes, or sometimes to third world countries. They do much more than just giving and receiving clothes, so if you’re interested in knowing more, I recommend you check out their website.

So these are my favourite charities to donate to. Do you have ones you love to support? Let me know in the comments.

Rock Your Body: Tattoos and Piercings

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My opinion on tattoos and piercings is similar to that of buying clothes and dying my hair. I buy a t-shirt in a certain colour because I like how it looks, and I dye my hair a certain colour, or cut it a certain way, because I think it suits me. These are forms of self-expression, and I believe tattoos and piercings fall into the same vein.

(My hair has been various colours over the years, as you can see!)

I wanted to do everything I could possibly do when I came of age, so I got my first tattoo on my eighteenth birthday, as well as buy cigarettes, place a bet and buy alcohol. I knew a lot of people wondered what to get for their first tattoo, worrying if they’d regret it or only getting it because they could. But not me, I knew exactly what my first one would be.

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(Line work done at Black Pearl Tattoo, Bexhill)

People close to me will know my Dad passed away when I was fifteen, so I got Dad tattooed above my hip, next to my faint birthmark in the shape of a diamond. Now, nearly seven years later, I still love it. I could never regret anything that was in memory of my Dad.

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(Dot work done at Inkscape, Bexhill)

My second tattoo I got only last year. I never felt pressured to get loads of tattoos really quickly, so I wanted to make sure I’d had an idea in my head for a while before I committed. Again, if you’re close to me, you’ll know my struggles with mental health, so it made sense for my to get a semicolon, not only for Project Semi Colon, but also because I’m a writer. (And the semi colon is a very underrated punctuation mark, along with the interrobang!)

I’ve also had my fair share of piercings done, beginning with my ears which I got pierced at Claire’s Accessories when I was twelve. Then, there was a trend that started which included everyone I knew getting helix piercings, and so naturally, as a naive sheep-like teenager, I got one too. After a few weeks, it was so sore I could barely touch it, let alone sleep on it, so I took it out and the hole healed up.

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(Nose piercing done at Lord’s Ink, Bexhill and Labret done at Intro, Brighton)

Five years later, I really, really wanted a nose ring like Jeremy Davis from Paramore, and so went to get it done on a break from college. In the years after, I had toyed with getting a labret piercing, but always worried that I wouldn’t be “attractive” if I got it done. I worried people what people would think, or make assumptions about me that weren’t true. But in the end, at the tender age of twenty-two, I took the plunge in Brighton before going to see Charlie Simpson at the Old Market. I went to Intro in Queen’s Road and have been happy with my decision ever since.

The point of me writing this blog post is to tell anyone and everyone who is worrying about what others will think of their body modifications, permanent or non-permanent, then don’t. Your boy is yours to do with as you wish, and if you think it looks good, then that’s all the motivation you need!

Have you been thinking about getting a piercing or a tattoo? Or do you have some you’re particularly proud of? Let me know in the comments!