I feel dramatically different going into 2018; I can’t quite pinpoint why though. There have been multiple times in the year where I have noticed the difference between the versions of myself I have been, but as usual it has taken up until the very last day for me to write my reflections down and craft them into something.
Some of these differences manifested into concrete incidents, for instance the recent decision to stop shaving my armpits. I stopped because I couldn’t remember a reason why I still did. I stopped shaving my legs roughly 2 years ago because of the very same reason, and to be honest I’m surprised it’s taken this long for the pits to catch up. My decision and the aesthetics of it have, as you may or may not expect, garnered mixed responses. It is in my reaction to these responses that I have seen the biggest change within myself – a recognition of genuinely confident behaviour.
Like many people, the largest obstacle that has stood in between me and things that I want to do has often been what other people will think. I am the reluctant owner of a pathetic desperation for other people to like me. A desperation so significant that I would always relinquish the way I truly was in order to ensure somebody’s favour. If somebody disliked me or something I’d done it throughly unsettled me to the extent that I would do whatever it took to end it, even if at the sacrifice of my own beliefs or integrity. I hope just how pitiful and feeble this is as a character trait is translating. A huge section of my identity lacked any substance unless it was filled with the validation of someone else.
I do not owe anybody anything other than kindness and respect (and a few cab fares for some of my flatmates).
This is not such the case anymore. The critical reactions I received for my underarm hair (what a ridiculous thing to write) cease to bother me. I like it and I literally don’t care if anyone doesn’t. I cannot convey how unfamiliar it is to truthfully write that statement about myself. And as arbitrary and meaningless as this appears, it hasn’t felt this way. I have noticed a significant difference in my attitude towards myself since; probably because it is a concrete action that actively defies traditionally attractive norms. As a young woman, to go against what can at times feel like the core of your worth is incredibly challenging. But that is what I’ve confronted – my own attitude towards how I felt about my body and how I look. I held a bizarre (but I know not uncommon) mindset that I am essentially designed to attract and seduce, for multiple purposes. My body was not really mine to enjoy and treat as I wish, it was for the viewing and use of others. I had to remove hair here, have hair here, so other people liked it. It didn’t matter how I felt because surely all I wanted was for people to like me. This may sound hilariously extreme, but such an attitude is held within the very fibres of the pro-life argument and many authoritative board’s actions surrounding women’s healthcare and services. The observation of women and their bodies as vessels for babies or sex or milk or as someone to stand behind you and clap whilst you rule a country.
To intentionally inflict harm upon my ability to attract or seduce can feel synonymous with some form of suicide, but what began was a cyclical formation of events and feelings. The defiant action created a wobbly form of confidence within myself, and that confidence then reduced the insecurities I had regarding the action, and so on. For me, the moment I let go of habits that manifested from and perpetuated the belief that my body’s purpose was other people’s enjoyment, was the moment I felt the embrace of ownership return to me.
This feeling of ownership over myself has transformed into a drastically improved feeling of self-worth, as I have begun to actually feel the things I have told others to feel and been preached about on a famous model’s inspirational Instagram post. But I recognise I’m still not there yet.
I was away for the majority of the year on my own and started university in September. Those are clearly formative experiences, and yet I struggle to articulate what it is about said experiences that has changed me. I just know and sense my own unfamiliarity within myself. I feel a conflicting series of feelings – I feel more independent objectively but introspectively I still feel incredibly juvenile. I know I am more confident than I used to be but I am still consumed at times with a feeling of inferiority. All I can seemingly identify is within my ability to grow hair out from underneath my arms. It feels like an unusual format within which to approach a new beginning.
A lot of the time people approach the new year with the naive attitude that they will be able to completely transform into what they want to become – that the next 365 days give you that tingling feeling of opportunity, that it’ll all be different because the last number in the date has changed. Very rarely people enter into a new year simply aiming to make progress towards what they want to become – it sounds almost defeatist to believe that in the space of a whole year you will only make progress and not actually reach your end goal. But I recognise that that is all I will be able to do in 2018. I know I will not become the carefree confident woman of my dreams by the end of next December, I know I will probably still eat chocolate and biscuits for breakfast and I know I will still shower way too infrequently. But I will hopefully still be travelling alone, learning and advancing in my degree and putting a stop to useless, draining people-pleasing. The ‘unusual’ half-grown personality I feel I inhabit now instead feels incredibly optimistic. I have experienced tangible positive changes, and the very knowledge of their possibility is what I hope will propel me into more in this new year.
I hope, if nothing else, this year has taught you something useful about yourself, and that you can use the knowledge to begin living a life that is truly your own from the end of this year onward.
Happy new year. Happy new opportunities.