Emily Caulton offers five ways to start seeing your 'imperfections' in a new light, and to find ways of loving those characteristics that once seemed like flaws. We all have things we're not happy with, but this article can help you turn all that around.
Your imperfections represent something positive, not negative.
You were bullied at school for part of your body. That family member just had to point out your greatest insecurity over dinner. A magazine you once read implied that part of your body wasn’t as attractive as it ‘should’ be. Insecurities are often insecurities for a reason, and usually self-consciousness about a part of the body stems from some sort of negative external influence. Letting go of that pain is easier said than done. After my surgery, my body didn’t look like any “bikini bodies” you could find in magazines – in fact, it didn’t look like any body I’d ever seen before. It’s a vertical scar that runs about 20cm down my torso, and there aren’t many people who have something like that on their bodies, let alone photos of them. Realising that my scar wasn’t against me, and was instead sitting on my body with the best intentions of helping it work correctly and stay healthy, was a big step in learning to tolerate its presence, because it meant that it was society’s expectation of ‘perfection’ that needed to change, and not my body. Whether your insecurity is your nose or your legs, your hair or your stomach, thinking about how every part of your body is intended to help you function and remain healthy can start the process of recognising that the part of your body that you don’t like isn’t against you. Your body isn’t your enemy, the idea of ‘perfection’ is.
Buy a piece of clothing that conforms to your comfort and makes you feel great, even if it is despite your imperfections.
While no part of your body should be something to be ashamed of, it's also important that you never feel pressured to wear an item of clothing that exposes your bodily insecurities if it makes you uncomfortable or self-conscious. Never accept phrases like "you got bullied for that ten years ago, you should be fine with it now!" or "looks aren't everything, just wear a bikini like everyone else!", even from people who are well-meaning. Feeling not ready to bear the parts of your body that you feel insecure about is not a weakness, nor a failure. So wearing what you're comfortable in is vital, regardless of whether it completely conceals your imperfections or highlights them. Wear clothing or makeup that you really love on a day when you’re feeling particularly insecure about part of your body, if it makes you feel better and more confident. Personally, one of the best items of clothing I ever bought was a (very unnecessary!) swimsuit with the sides cut out of it, because I liked the way I looked in it. It doesn’t celebrate my scar at all – it covers it up and shows the parts of my body that I still like – but it still makes me feel better about my scar because it’s clothing that I feel good in, and I don’t think about my insecurity when I’m wearing it. Only you can determine what you are prepared to show, and nobody should have influence upon how much or how little of your insecurity should be shown or covered up, apart from you.
If you're ready to go bare, do it.
It can be as simple as really looking at your body in the mirror. It could be getting a tattoo over the part of your body that you feel very self-conscious about and showing off that, or half-exposing your birth-mark by rolling up your sleeves. Regardless of what it is, often physically exposing the part of your body that you dislike can be a step towards accepting it.
Try to banish the habit of apologising for your imperfections.
I find it difficult to even catch myself doing it because I do it so often. Apologising for your “imperfections” can take many forms, including literally saying the word ‘sorry’ before you expose it or warning people about how bad it looks. I must have warned my boyfriend ten times about how disgusting my scar was before I finally showed him (and his reaction was extremely anti-climactic; he didn’t care about its appearance at all). Saying sorry for part of your body is a stark indicator that you are associating your worth as a person with the way you look. Try to catch yourself out each time you do it, and realise that having an insecurity does not mean that you owe other people an apology for it.
Don’t put pressure on yourself to love every single aspect of your body, and instead work on loving your body as a whole.
“Love your imperfections!” is a phrase that’s thrown around a lot, but its far easier said than done, particularly when so many magazines and TV shows are simultaneously encouraging you to change them. Understanding that it’s alright to not absolutely adore the bodily feature that you’ve struggled to tolerate all your life relieves the pressure placed upon you to reach another unrealistic standard – except this time, it’s an unrealistic standard of mental state. If you can love all your insecurities, that’s wonderful, but not necessary if you feel that you’re not there yet. Instead, work on loving yourself as a whole. In today’s world, we’re encouraged to stand in front of the mirror and pick apart all our individual features and critique them as though our bodies are anatomical diagrams - don’t do this when you criticize your body, and don’t do this while trying to accept your body either. Instead, try to look at your body as a whole entity and love it in its entire form, as opposed to putting pressure on yourself to love every single one of your individual parts. As long as you take small steps to loving your body as a whole entity, as opposed to analysing your affection for all your individual body parts, you’ll be on your way to helping yourself embark on a happier relationship with your insecurities and your body as a whole.