On flaws, beauty and vulnerability {International Women’s Day 2014}

30 Years Old
30 Years Old

I recently turned thirty. The age of thirty often has an ominous sound to it. For whatever reason, society has turned the age of thirty into a turning point in a woman’s life. Suddenly the fun and carefree twenties are over and we are now past our prime. And yet, why is it that I feel like I’m only just coming into my best years?

A large part of this feeling comes from finding myself to be more comfortable in my own skin now than I ever have been in the past. My teens and twenties self was a mass of insecurities. In much the same way as every other girl growing up, I was never happy with what I saw in the mirror. With my long face, uneven teeth, roman nose and strong jaw, I very quickly accepted that I was never going to be the ‘pretty girl’. I realised that the most likely label I would ever have would be ‘quirky’, the ‘weird’ or ‘unusual’ looking one. Needless to say, this was not something I was comfortable with at all.

In my late twenties, after years of complacency, I started to really look after my body, eating healthily, going to the gym when I can, and found myself starting to feel happier within myself. As my body started to look healthier, this was reflected in my attitude. Yet, that same face would look back at me from the mirror and I would realise there was still a lot of work to be done.

“I myself am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions.”

– Augusten Burroughs –

I have always loved other people’s flaws. I don’t like perfect – I never have. I love unusual. Unique. Interesting. Intriguing. Flawed. I embraced the flaws in other people, and yet never embraced them in myself. I was somehow ashamed of those same flaws in myself.  I wouldn’t smile quite as wide as I didn’t want to show my uneven teeth. I would pose with my hands on my hips to make my arms look slimmer. I would turn my head in pictures to reduce the prominence of my jaw. I did not allow myself to become to vulnerable to judgement from other people and to show my flaws too publicly. Other peoples flaws were beautiful, but my own flaws were not.

“What underpinned this shame, this “I’m not good enough,” — which we all know that feeling: “I’m not blank enough. I’m not thin enough, rich enough, beautiful enough, smart enough, promoted enough.” The thing that underpinned this was excruciating vulnerability, this idea of, in order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen.”

– Brene Brown –

This double-standard that I was holding myself to was harmful and unfair. While I embraced and encouraged the flaws in other people, believing their flaws told beautiful stories of their lives, their struggles and their loves, I did not embrace my own, nor did I see them as beautiful.

I wish I could pinpoint the moment that this changed. I wish there was some lightning-bolt moment where I looked in the mirror and suddenly wasn’t disappointed with what I saw. But there wasn’t. Instead, gradually over time, I started to accept that face. I started to see the beauty in my own flaws, rather than only seeing the beauty in other people’s. I started to believe that I am enough. I started to open myself up to  letting other people see my flaws and making myself vulnerable.

My jaw and nose show that I am my father’s daughter through and through. They are a part of my family’s ‘look’, it is part of my heritage, and I have grown to love my profile, rather than hide it. I have uneven teeth. They are uneven because I was born with a cleft palate – they are a symbol of the incredible work on my palate that the doctors did when I was a baby and they tell a story of my parents love and patience and struggle with me in my earliest months. My uneven teeth are something that I would like to change in the future but I accept them as a part of my story. I am very tall – but I have learned to embrace my height. Now that I am healthier and happier with my body shape, something which I can control, I can walk with confidence. I even wear heels now, when I used to slouch and only wear flat shoes.

This acceptance and openness to vulnerability could only have come through time, and in entering my thirties, I feel that I am coming into my most fun decade yet. The so-called fun and carefree years of my life were filled with insecurity and non-acceptance. Roll on the next decade – I’m standing tall, beautiful and ready for whatever it holds!

“They fully embraced vulnerability.They believed that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful.”

– Brene Brown –

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