I’ve failed as a woman and I’ve never felt more beautiful.
The difficulty with referring to yourself as a writer is that you are then expected to be able to write about everything - and I mean everything. I once had to write a ‘how to’ guide on period sex, even though I was raised to believe women could not swim on their period let alone ride a dinghy. But if your editor says jump, you jump; and you certainly don’t waste any time asking how high. One, because the answer is obviously as high as you can and two, because you aren’t being paid nearly enough to bother with questions. It is implied in the job spec, right beneath depression, that you are capable of becoming an expert on any given topic in an unreasonable timeframe. So, when my editor asked me to write a piece on beauty, I was both both excited and horrified. Beauty was not my forte. I had only just begun to draw on my eyebrows, for goodness sake. Nonetheless, I was resolute I would write an incredible, dare I say expert, piece. The next few days involved trying to thrust myself into the air and failing miserably.
Why could I not seem to get off the ground? Why could I not find my angle? Socially aware beauty? No. Conventional beauty? Nice try, Lauren. Funny beauty? Maybe! Satire and cynicism were my bread and butter, after all; so why not try to make the topic fit my personality rather than the other way round. Spoiler alert: it was a horror show. I must have written the same paragraph twenty five times and each one read more woefully than the last. I had the infamous writer’s block; and there is nothing quite as traumatising for a writer than not being able to write. Was I out of the industry for so long that my bread turned stale? Was I no longer Salted Lurpak, but rather, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter? I refused to believe it. I was as salty as ever. So, I curled up in a foetal position like any real grown up does when they are distressed and closed my eyes.
And then it hit me. The reason I could not write about the beauty industry is because beauty meant something entirely different to me. Even as a young girl, I was never interested in makeup or the latest trends. I barely, if ever, put a mask on my face and if I do, it’s because I have a leftover egg and google told me an egg white face mask is good (it is, you should try it). The older I got, the more abstract beauty became to me. If anything, I felt let down by it. I was mocked for not plucking my eyebrows, for having small boobs, for not wearing makeup. From the moment I hit puberty, it felt like I had failed as a woman. It is no wonder that, at 17, I developed an eating disorder. “Maybe I will finally be good enough,” I told myself. And yet, I was more confused than ever. Some people envied my body, some pointed and laughed, and some look frightened. I nearly killed myself trying to become beautiful and beauty still rejected me. “How am I meant to write a piece about something that makes me feel worthless?”, I questioned.
By remembering who I am.
I was so caught up in trying to be a stereotypical girl again, that I did not realise the answer was in front of me all along. The first time I felt truly and unconditionally beautiful was when my boyfriend told me he loved me. A seemingly endless instance of bad experiences had led me to believe I was incapable of being loved by anyone but my family; and even they HAD to love me. Yet, here was a guy who adored me. Not the person I pretended to be… the real me; the anorexic, the socially awkward perfectionist, the anxiety ridden loner. He embraced the parts of me that society rejected and he made me like them too. He made me beautiful; not because he said it was so, but because he took me as I was and made me realise my family had done so my entire life. The reason I struggled to write about ‘beauty’ is because I made the mistake of believing it meant one thing - the industry. But the definition of beauty we all seem to subscribe to is merely a social construct. In reality, beauty is entirely subjective. If you are reading this and your definition of beauty is makeup and self-care, it should be because those things make you feel like the best version of yourself - not because the world tells you it should be. For me, beauty was falling in love and being loved in return. It was finding someone who made my world stand still when I’d spent my entire life trying to get it to slow down. Beauty was having parents who fought for me when I would not fight for myself. It was having people in my life who taught me how to love myself. The industry may still reject me and I don’t think I will ever get the hang of drawing my eyebrows, but these days, I accept myself - and that is pretty beautiful to me.
Article written by Lauren Dorling. Keep up with Lauren here
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