My Perfect Imperfection

The first thing I ever posted on this blog was a coming out story, of sorts. A literal moment of truth. I guess this whole blog has been a coming out story…a story about who I am and how I’m learning not to live up or down to people’s expectations of me. My adventures. My stories, my scars, my pretty things, just like it says up there in my header.

That header represents a promise to you guys, and to myself, that I won’t just show you the pretty things. I’ll show you the scars, and tell you the stories behind them. Writing that first post was one of the most terrifying, painful, cathartic things I’ve ever done. But so many people reached out to me afterwards and told me that they’d been going through the exact same thing. The post-graduation slump. That reading it written out like that had made them feel less alone. What I had seen as imperfection, other people saw as strength and beauty.

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I went to see a comedy show this week by the fantastic Juliette Burton. Look at Me follows Juliette’s struggles with eating disorders, lorded over by Tanya, the super-slim, effortlessly beautiful girl who peers out of every magazine, telling Juliette that she isn’t good enough. I have a Tanya of my own, but she’s more insidious. She’s the hardworking blogger who juggles a burgeoning digital marketing career with insightful think-pieces and glamorous events. She has thick, swishy hair, a grown up girl blazer, a capsule wardrobe and beautiful handwriting. Her world is made of Pinterest-white-walls, Instagrammable brunch meetings and pretty print notebooks. She’s beautiful and funny, and of course she has flaws, but they’re endearing ones. Like in Sandra Bullock movies where they’re worried she’s too perfect, so they make her clumsy, or ditzy, or make her snort when she laughs.

And the scariest thing about my Tanya? I could conceivably pretend to be her. Online, at least. I could pitch myself as glamorous and sweet and unfluffable and relentlessly positive. But that’s not what this blog is about. This blog is my little corner of the internet in which to tell my truth. And that’s what I’ll do, forever.

My Tanyas fill my social media streams every minute of every day, each perfect cappuccino and flawless white apartment a tiny reminder that everyone seems to be moving faster than me. And I’m not gonna contribute to that. I have an amazing, wonderful life, and I am so, so grateful for it. But it, and I are both so far from perfect. I want you, my lovely readers, to share in my joys and celebrate my successes. But to pretend that they’re not balanced out by flaws and tough moments is dishonest to you and to myself. I won’t be somebody else’s Tanya.

This weekend, I was invited to speak to a lovely bunch of aspiring beauty bloggers and thinking about what to say really forced me to think about what kind of blog this is, what kind of girl I am. And the truth is, I am imperfect. Wonderfully, outrageously imperfect. I know in my heart that my strength lies in my difference, but that doesn’t stop me walking into rooms and wondering whether everyone in them is staring at me. I procrastinate endlessly because sometimes that’s easier than trying my hardest and failing anyway. I self-sabotage because sometimes I feel like I don’t deserve the amazing things that I have. Sometimes I am so afraid of my own potential that I want to run away. Sometimes I wonder whether my life has really changed since I graduated. Sometimes I wonder whether I’m letting everyone down. Sometimes, something knocks my confidence and I cry myself to sleep.

Tanya wouldn’t do any of that.

But Tanya also wouldn’t spend an evening with her family attempting to fit a party popper on her nose.

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She wouldn’t write an obscure semi-paranormal young adult novel just because she suddenly felt inspired. She probably doesn’t know the cha cha slide, or the entire script to Fried Green Tomatoes. She doesn’t make the world’s most delicious, but ugliest cakes. She definitely doesn’t have a weird obsession with German cinema or true crime stories. She does not love Cluedo. Or eat meatballs straight from the pan with a hunk of bread. She doesn’t throw open her windows in the middle of storms because she loves the smell of the rain, or shiver at the sound of church bells. She doesn’t have a huge, mad, sprawling family. She never played a pregnant dominatrix in a show that her father watched from the third row.

387980_10150515779825809_1150577696_nShe can’t make balloon animals. She has never danced so enthusiastically that she fractured her auntie’s cheekbone and gave her a black eye. She doesn’t dream of owning a frog called Oliver. She probably would never have been broken enough, and brave enough to start this blog.

And if that’s what I would have to trade, I’m sorry folks, no deal. I don’t want to be Tanya. If you’ll have me, I’d love to keep having a go at being Fiona.

Take Back The Beach

So, on my lunch hour this Wednesday, fellow blogger Tara and I did this:

How to get a beach body-Take your body

If you would like to read about us doing that, head on over to my last post here!

Basically, the response that we’ve had has completely knocked me off my feet. Seriously, you guys should give yourselves a pat on the back. I have been so, so bowled over by the love and support and strength that we’ve been shown.

Well, for the most part.

Protein World’s response has left…well, a little something to be desired. After we tweeted our photo, I saw some pretty heinous responses to docu-comedian Juliette Burton’s tweets (you can find Juliette on Twitter here, and you should definitely follow her. She’s ace).

protein world twitter

 

I was pretty shocked. As someone who spent a year working in social media, I nearly fell off my chair that this was the brand’s official response. The tweets got increasingly horrendous, telling women to “grow up” and branding them “crazy”, and then last night, I stumbled on a response to some women saying:

Surely as feminists, you understand no one takes you seriously?

And it hit me. They’re trolls. They’re literally just trolls. And I don’t know about you guys, but this totally takes their power away for me. I’m now imagining Protein World as being a group of guys polishing their muscles and reassuring themselves that feminism is the reason they’re not getting laid. Maybe with a smattering of girls insisting that they don’t see why the ad is offensive, probably because they’re not hysterical like all those other girls, babe. I’m kind of embarrassed for them.

After this paradigm shifting revelation, I realised that this isn’t a protest anymore. This is a party. This is a celebration of the million and one different ways that a woman (and a man, you gorgeous men, you) can be beautiful.

So let’s celebrate. Tara, Juliette and I are organising a massive version of the photo above at 3pm on Saturday 2nd May. Do you look like the model on the poster? Awesome, step this way, gorgeous! Are you a size 24? Come on down, beautiful! Are you a guy? Get those swimming shorts looked out! Don’t want to bare all in a bikini? Come in whatever you feel great in! Beach ready means different things for everyone, and we want to see all of them.

This was never about suggesting that people shouldn’t try to get fit if they want to. If having rippling abs is your thing, more power to you. I bet you rock them. But I’m so tired of it being an expectation. The idea that your body should be covered up and hidden away if it doesn’t meet these bizarrely specific requirements…I’m over it, you guys. And judging by the response we’ve gotten on Twitter, it looks like you are too.

Bring your friends. Bring your beachballs and buckets and spades. Bring those awesome beach bodies.

We’ll be meeting on the grass by Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park (by the Marble Arch entrance), and I’ll be there from a bit before 3. If you’re coming in your bikini, we’d maybe suggest wearing a dress over it that’s easy to whip on and off, to fend off hypothermia.

The more people we have, the more amazing this picture is going to be, so rope in as many people as you can. Saturday the 2nd. 3pm. It’s happening. And it’s going to be sexy.

If you’re coming, feel free to give us a wave down in the comments or on Twitter! You can definitely just show up on the day, but it would be cool to have some idea of how many people we have. We also have a sexy Facebook event here if you’re on Facebook!

Addendum

So, as expected, all of us have been on the receiving end of some genuinely sickening comments after speaking out like this. Of the two of us in the photo though, it’s depressingly unsurprising that Tara and her beautiful, perfect body have been the target of the most vitriol. I’d just like to thank Tara for having the bravery to hold my hand through this, even though she probably knew in advance that she would bear the brunt of the abuse. And to every single person who has posted nasty comments, I’m sorry that your life is so unfulfilling that you feel like you have to tear down a strong, gorgeous woman who is celebrating her body.

On this note, if actually coming to our event would make you feel unsafe, please feel free to support us with tweets, messages and happy thoughts. Let’s keep each other safe. Let’s keep each other strong.

What My Body Positivity Looks Like

Body acceptance is awesome. One of my favourite things about the blogosphere and the internet and the selfie trend that people like to write off as narcissism, is that people who are underrepresented in the media can put images of themselves looking and feeling amazing out there for the world to see. And body acceptance isn’t just a matter of community. People who do not fit the preconceived idea of beauty are routinely discriminated against, abused and belittled. If you don’t think this is the case, you’re not listening to enough voices. I think the body acceptance movement is a tremendous force for good, and that’s why I want to see it say the right things.

body acceptance

I debated a lot over putting up this post. I get a lot of privilege because of my body. I don’t have people snigger at me in the street. I don’t have people tell me what I should and shouldn’t wear. I don’t have people make judgements about my work ethic, professionalism or motivation based on my body shape. When I go to the doctor, it isn’t assumed that I’m causing my own problems. The worst I can expect is hurt feelings every now and then. So I don’t want to wade in and drown out the voices of the people who do go through stuff like this on a daily basis. Nobody wants another #alllivesmatter or #notallmen. So please, feel free to call me out if I overstep the mark here. But there are a couple of messages I’ve seen from the body positive community that I think are unhelpful for everyone.

“This is sexy. This is shit.”

This is a slogan I saw emblazoned across a photograph of Kelly Brook beside a supermodel walking the catwalk. Unfortunately, I feel like describing any body type as “shit” isn’t really what body acceptance is about. I understand the anger that comes from seeing the same woman on every poster, in every advert, on every catwalk. But taking that restrictive ideal and replacing it with another restrictive ideal doesn’t really make anything better. Kelly Brook is gorgeous. There’s no denying that. But that doesn’t mean that being Kelly Brook is the only way to be beautiful. Every time I see a magazine championing “women with curves”, it’s always the same photograph I see. It’s always a white woman. She has long legs, big boobs, big hips and a tiny little waist. It’s always Marilyn Monroe or Dita Von Teese. Body acceptance should be about widening our definition of beauty, not just switching it out. There are so many wonderful ways to be beautiful and it comes in all kinds of shapes and sizes. We should be celebrating each other. This isn’t a competition. I contact Hayley from Curves and Curls about three times a week to admire her boobs. She doesn’t fit that Kelly Brook mould, but that doesn’t stop her killing it every single day. And that doesn’t make me feel threatened, or any less like a woman. It makes me proud to be a member of such a thoroughly kick ass, sexy gender.

“Oh God, eat a sandwich or something.”

I get this a lot. And I get that this really isn’t that bad compared with the crap that overweight girls have to deal with. But it’s not the statement itself that bothers me, so much as the implication behind it. That I’m skinny because I don’t eat enough. By that logic, people are fat because they eat too much. And considering how much of the body positive message is about not being able to tell how much someone eats, how active they are or how healthy they are by their body shape, this is a seriously damaging claim to be staking. Just don’t do it. Uncool.

“Bones are for dogs. Men like curves.”

Oh, did you speak to all of them? Damn, I was operating under the impression that my boyfriend finds me and my body attractive. Silly of me, I know.

This statement is offensive to both sexes. Firstly, it assumes that men are cookie cutter, only capable of finding one thing attractive. And they’re not. My boyfriend’s commitment to both me and Christina Hendricks is proof of that.

But more importantly, this bases a woman’s confidence in her body on a man’s approval. What is that about? It’s not exactly a shocking revelation that confidence that is based on validation from other people isn’t the most unshakeable confidence. If we made decisions solely on what “men like”, we wouldn’t have high waisted jeans. Or purple lipstick. Or massive jumpers. And I am not willing to give up on any of those. And don’t even get me started on the assumption that all women are into men.

“Real women…”

Okay, lemme just stop you right there before you embarrass yourself. Being a real woman has absolutely nothing to do with your body. You don’t need boobs to be a real woman. You don’t need curves to be a real woman. You don’t need a thigh gap to be a real woman. You don’t need a vagina to be a real woman. Do you identify as a woman? Congratulations, welcome to the real woman’s club! We’re all real women, and nice women wouldn’t try to shut out their fellow women based on their body type.

Now, I’ve ranted enough. I’d like to hand you over to some awesome ladies who really know what they’re talking about. Here are some women who preach body positivity, look beautiful, and generally exist in a way that makes me want to both shake their hand and snog their faces off. Get them followed. And please, if there are any bloggers/writers that you cannot believe I missed out, give me a shout! I’m always looking for new stuff to read and love.

Rosie Astbury.

Ucantwearthat.

Fuller Figure Fuller Bust.

Naomi Griffiths.

Marie Denee.

Danie Vanier.

A Wheelbarrow Full of Style.

Frocks and Frou Frou.

Georgina Grogan.