In my short life, I have often felt like I didn’t deserve things based on my body type, and the “rules” that seemed to be universally acknowledged by every one around me (and myself).
- Do not wear a bikini if you are not this or that particular size (and please do not blind us with the paleness of your skin).
- Your art is worth nothing, until somebody tells you it is. And even then, you will never be as good as the others who are “making it.”
- You are not allowed to do certain things until somebody comes along and TELLS YOU you are. Modeling is one such thing.
I have a dear friend who stopped wearing skirts, because somebody once said that her legs don’t really look good enough to be displayed.
An fantastically talented artist I know is surprised to find that there are people in the world who love her, even though she considers herself such a deeply flawed creature.
The famous writer Gail Carson Levine still feels awkward about her singing voice, because her father once said that women couldn’t sing.
Every day, someone feels entitled to tell someone else what they can or can’t do – based on their own limitations, beliefs and fears.
Here is my personal list of things I did not deserve to do/have/dream of until last year:
I didn’t deserve to
be a writer, have a man who respected me, be a model, express my sexuality, have a sexuality, feel good without makeup, feel good with makeup, wear crop tops, go to the beach in a bikini, have it all, present myself confidently without the “perfect figure”, express what I am good at, stand to my flaws, stand to my talents, be authentic, feel good about being an introvert, be “different”, gracefully accept a compliment, have a man who makes me feel safe, express my feelings, be “out there”, have loads of money, be imperfect, be successful, be happy with my figure, just leave a destructive relationship, do what I love just because it makes me happy, accept where I am right now, embrace imperfection, ask for help, aim for the stars, land in the mud – and many things more.
So many negative words, assumptions and beliefs were steadily burnt into my mind and body. Things I was told. Casual remarks. Universal beliefs and ‘knowledge’. Expectations.
Slowly, slowly wrapping around me and consuming me.
I was eaten away by my fears and doubts, pretending that everything was OK. Accepting that this was what life had to be. Why should I be entitled to anything special; to anything else?
Slowly I stopped doing what I loved, the colour drained from my life – I was mummified alive.
While I would love to dump the responsibility for all of this on my environment and faceless instances of society, I will admit to you that the only one who truly believed I didn’t deserve these things – was ME.
I have been my own gatekeeper to authentic happiness for more than two-thirds of my life.
I was the one who crawled after the world’s crumbs, feeling like I didn’t deserve any better. I was the one who constantly sabotaged herself, so that the light of my passion for life wouldn’t shine too bright. I was the one who body-shamed herself, because I could always have eaten better and done more exercises, or just punished myself for not being the ‘ideal’.
There was the constant sound of a whip in my head, lashing at me and demanding that I be more, do more, and be a better person. With every smack of the whip in my head I heard: not good enough, not good enough, not good enough, still not good enough, you will never be good enough…
I completely stripped myself of self-love, self-worth, and self-esteem, and stowed them neatly away in a box, until the day that I would prove myself deserving of them.
If that inner voice of yours is any bit as nasty as mine, you know that this magical moment of “good enough and deserving,” will never EVER come by itself.
You are never thin enough, active enough, happy enough, in love enough, taken care of enough, or fantastic enough for the content of that box to be given back to you.
Underneath my facade – there was nothing left of me. I had gone lost. Scared to laugh in case somebody could think I was happy.Scared of the woman and person I could be. Disappearing in self-hate, shame and neglect. Like a cloud of white smoke – I dissolved into nothingness.
Until one day something changed. I asked myself:
Why was I not deserving of these things? Who was stopping me? Who was holding a gun to my head and demanding that I accept all these negative stories I feed myself every day? Why should the opinion of some other person be worth more than my own? Why would I look to other people first to inform my opinion of myself?
WHY does someone else have the right to an opinion of me that weighs more than my own? WHY can’t I be and do whatever I want? WHY do I have to wait for anyone to ALLOW me?
SELF-LOVE, SELF-WORTH, and SELF-ESTEEM, are my natural birthright. No matter where I am on my personal journey, no matter who I am, how I look like, or what I do – I AM ALLOWED TO HAVE WHATEVER I CAN MAKE POSSIBLE FOR MYSELF!
I am allowed to love myself, have confidence, and go for the cakes, rather than the crumbs of this world. I have the right to believe in myself and take care of myself – no matter what, and no matter what I look like.
However, this is not something that is just handed out freely. Nobody is going to scout you and say: “congratulations, you are now allowed to love yourself. You are allowed to be [insert ambition/dream) and you are also allowed to [insert what you want to do] now!
Most likely, many people will only gladly encourage your emotional and physical deterioration, because that way you are so much more like each other.
They will help wrap those bandages of self-hate, shame and hoplessness tighter, so that we may all suffocate together.
That I am the one who has to decide what I allow myself, and when I feel good about myself, is something so completely self-evident that it took me 22 years to actually realise it. But,
once I realised that I had the power and the agency to RIP OFF all those horrible bandages of internalised and emotional sewage MYSELF- my world transformed.
Suddenly, I was deserving of EVERYTHING I desired. I was allowed to invest myself into whatever I wanted with passion. I could be and do whatever I wanted on the condition that I truly dedicated myself to it and made it happen for myself.
I stopped waiting for someone to tell me what I was and wasn’t allowed to do.
But the most important realisation for me was:
I needed to believe that I was deserving of my own love and the love of others, and that I was a person of worth, RIGHT NOW.
Not after a diet, not after my first sale, that suntan, that outfit, that relationship, that size, that success, that muscle tone, that interview – now.
I had always been deserving of self-love, self-worth, self-esteem and doing whatever it was I wanted. I just had to get out the rusty key that I had hidden away, open the box, and give myself back all that I had always wanted but never allowd myself to have, or even think of.
This is a journey that can be overwhelming; that has its great and its crap days. It is an ongoing practice – something I have to allow myself every day.
It cannot happen overnight, but it can begin overnight.
I know that it can be overwhelming. I know that it can be scary. And I will tell you that it is an ongoing practice. It is not something that happens overnight.
However, it can begin overnight…once it is allowed to.
My journey started when I stopped accepting the crumbs I was given, and that I was giving myself. FUCK CRUMBS!
There will only be big, fat, creamy, chocolate cakes for me from now on.
I invite you to this decadent feast, and I will of course be serving tea.
Model/Reatouch*: Cat De Pillar/ Photographer: My dear friend Bernd Rößler. *No body, skin or blemish retouch, only the lighting was adjusted, and the writing added.