Feeling comfortable in our own skin is something we all struggle with, through various stages of life, whether a teenager or a new mother. At various points, we feel naked, exposed. "Who are you?" we ask ourselves "You haven't got a clue what you're doing?!" Have you ever felt like that?
In this blog post, I want to share some of what has made me the person I am today, and how I have become comfortable enough in my own skin to share who I am on the internet on a blog and on my YouTube, something many may consider the terrifying thing (yet would secretly still want to do). I want to briefly share with you how I went through phases of feeling like I was a bad fit for myself, and how by finally, gradually accepting who I was helped me gain the courage to start blogging and feel more comfortable in my own skin.
I was inspired to write this post because Estee Lauder has a new foundation called Double Wear Nude Water Fresh which is the most comfortable sheer foundation I've worn in a long time. When I first tried it, I realised that I had been covering up my skin in another higher coverage foundation and felt scared showing my skin through, parring back my look. I didn't feel comfortable exposing that much of myself. Finding someone online, who was a bit of a role model, and who explained why the product had that look made me change my whole outlook about whether I was hiding my face under makeup like armour. But more about that later on.
High School Daze
We're born into the world as a blob, without particularly distinct characteristics. As we grow, we are influenced by our parents, our friends, our city and the culture we're exposed to. At about eight years old, I used to love watching a TV show called 'Sabrina the Teenage Witch'. I truly believed that when I was 16 I would, like Sabrina finding out she had magic powers, work out who I truly was. It would come down on me like a spell, a fully-formed cool personality, a boyfriend and lots of friends. Of course, life is never that simple.
In fact, while some breeze through high school, in some ways, I found it the hardest period. At that age, people are frequently giving you useless life advice for the future, like 'Be yourself'. But how can you be yourself when you don't even know who you are? While I was a teen, there weren't the range of awesome strong female role models there are now and YouTube didn't even come out until I was 15 in 2005 (it was mainly for cat videos back then). It was hard as a teen as creative role models in music, literature and pop-culture tended to be males. Apart from fashion models, the actresses from the OC and perhaps Gwen Stefani, there were few people I could look up to and admire. My ultimate role model of that time came in the form of silent Audrey Hepburn, an elegant dutiful princess in Roman Holiday, perhaps is a sign of what I thought was expected of women. Beautiful, elegant and a little bit sad - but perfect.
While I was lucky enough to have a relatively stable home life (except that one time my Dad threw a shoe at me because I was running late and it went through the porch window - just jokes Dad!), I never felt that comfortable in my own skin while I was growing up, especially around 11 to 14. It felt like there was a disconnect between who I felt like at home with my family and who I tried to be to impress my peers. At home I loved cups of tea, Enid Blyton books, playing with dolls, drawing, imagining things. Other girls already had boyfriends, were into makeup and could run 100 meters without breaking a sweat.
As a result, I tried to fit in and copy others to be cool, from faking a love of metal music to watching how some friends were funny and why. It certainly worked for a while, and helped shape my personality. I made some great friends at school in the end, a few who I am still friends with til this day. But, deep down, I knew I wasn't really 'me', despite the bravado. Discovering my passion for writing was a big help and truly is one of the core things that made me who I am. When I am writing, I feel like my most authentic self. I especially was interested in storytelling and would write poetry, short stories and anything else I could. Today, I certainly wouldn't be on social media to the extent I am if it wasn't for my passion for writing underpinning it all.
As I grew older, I felt more confident. I worked out, I made new friends, I studied, spent time on my own and got a degree. I even had a boyfriend, although he turned out to be less positive in my life. In fact, I felt like it was only after that first breakup that, as I said at the time, I went from seeing in '...black and white to seeing in color'. I finally stopped being such a people-pleaser. But I still had a lot to learn about being myself. In my early twenties, I still hid behind my music taste, an affection for indie vibes and a desire to be more edgy that perhaps I truly was (yep, actually certainly wasn't). I even smoked cigarettes to keep up a cool persona when I went out and to distance myself from the 'resting good girl face' I loathed about myself (not my face, just that I always looked so 'nice').
While I dated in my twenties, I was always trying to slightly modify who I was to fit someone else's expectations, whether dating for friends or dating for boys (I'd like to think friend-dating is a thing). I was single, but always sort of wanted a boyfriend. I knew how to flirt, or be appeasing, but I sometimes found myself taken advantage of, by both boys and friends. There would always be that one friend who wants to stay out later than you're comfortable with (and a few moments occurred that I look back on now and shudder at how easily something could have gone wrong). Equally, there's always the guys who want something for nothing. You never really know them, they just appear like a phantom and then are gone again a few weeks later. One guy even asked me to send nude photos not long after smartphones became mainstream (remember 2013 kids?) . Thank god I knew myself enough to not do that (if you do, that's cool, but personally I just know he wasn't worth it)!
It can be tough to know who you are, but every moment you reach your limit, you understand more about who you are. Although I shed many tears, especially in the time up to when I was 25, I felt like those hard times, when I felt like I was hitting the walls with hurt, made me who I am. To feel foolish and vulnerable is the most exquisite teacher that you will never let someone treat you like that again. Endings can be new beginnings, perhaps with others, but most importantly with yourself. I also found the role models I needed, in TED talks, in books, from people like online entrepreneur and life coach Marie Forleo to author and form LVMH executive Mirielle Guiliano. I looked up to these women, and felt like they spoke to me. By the time I met my boyfriend, I knew what I no longer would stand for. It took a bit longer to get to that stage with some friends, but now I am firm in what I will and won't accept.
She started a blog?!
Blogging has truly been the final frontier in my early life in finding who I am. I decided not to give up on that childhood dream to become a writer, and saw that blogging could be a niche I'd be able to quickly fill (Allen & Unwin, I'm fully open to writing a book - email me!). For the first year, I did more scary things than I had in my life (except exciting scary, not alarm bells scary). I emailed people I didn't know, I wrote to people and asked them to be on my blog, I filmed myself on video (ugh, horrifying), and put photos of myself online. The most horrific thing was inviting everyone I knew to like my blog. About 10% accepted which I considered a huge success. I also posted photos all the time of my face to the point where people now very much know what I look like.
I lost two friends when I moved out from my old flat. They didn't support my blogging but I was fine to let them go. I knew they had come into my life for a reason or a season. It was okay. We'd run our course.
The rewards came from consistent blogging, but none more powerful than finding my own identify and for the first time ever feeling 100% comfortable in my own skin. That doesn't mean I don't have moments of doubt or worry - as I shared in this blog post a few weeks ago. But while I once believed those unhelpful or irrational feelings, now I have learnt to step away from the laptop. That is the reason last weekend I completely disconnected from social media in a very deliberate way. I joke that I do 'Mum vibes' - and I think that I always have. It's just now, I own it, and I am not intimidated by those who are ostensibly 'cooler'.
Having a voice makes you realise that some people will make you feel in life that you don't deserve one. That's certainly what my ex did, those friends did, and what I, for the longest time, did to myself. But everyone deserves a voice. Everyone deserves to share their experiences. Last year, I re-watched Breakfast at Tiffany's. I hadn't got it when I was a teenager, not understanding the worldly nuances. But in my late twenties, I was so moved by it. I practically cried with relief that finally I GOT what everyone had always said was so brilliant about this film.
Similarly, through December and January I was given a new foundation to try, by Estee Lauder Double Wear Nude with SPF 25. At first, I simply didn't get it. It felt thinner and lighter than I'd been used to. I was so used to layering on foundation with a brush, influenced by YouTubers and Instagramers, layering with thick primer to start. It was a ritual. I was comfortable behind the screen. With the new foundation, I felt bare. I wasn't sure what to think of it.
It was only when I found the videos by Violette_Fr that I GOT Double Wear Nude, just like I'd got Breakfast at Tiffany's. Violette is a professional makeup artist with her own independent YouTube channel and also the global creative director for Estee Lauder. Immediately, I could see the influence of her philosophy in the makeup. She didn't use hundreds of products. She just used a handful, put on on the go, no brushes, just her fingers, and like me had studied art. It was when I watched her videos embodying her approach that the new product made sense to me. Violette's philosophy of minimal makeup was so different to the chorus of the majority on YouTube or at makeup company's. I tried it again, applying the foundation to my skin with a new perspective.
At 28, I feel I have experienced enough to not try to change who I am, inside or out. Using this foundation, empowered with my new knowledge about the creator, make me realise, in the words of Gwen, "What you waiting for?" Naked skin isn't just for the very young. It is also for those who are confident enough to bare themselves to the world, regardless of innocence or experience, and who feel comfortable in the skin they wear. Now is the time to embrace being in my own skin (with just a few dabs to enhance it). You can let that skin shine through. I'd become so used to the over-made up look, that I'd forgotten the look of skin, the look of who you are is beautiful alone. I don't need to cover, mask, or hide who I am and neither do you. You are enough as you are. Your face is to be seen. Your voice is to be heard. Aime toi toi-même, mon amour. Start creating - you'll be great!
Final disclaimer, this post isn't sponsored but genuinely inspired by my love for Violette_FR. I was sent the foundation as a press sample. Also, I have a bit of an obsession with the mythology of french women - no one is perfect! These photos were taken by Dinosaurtoast.com and are meant to be a homage to Violette_FR's videos.