Thanks to my many friends on Facebook, I eventually got around to watching Dove’s Real Beauty Campaign video. As I’m sitting here still trying to pull myself together, I’m left with the feelings of sadness I have so often after I spend a day helping women try on their dresses from my label, Bachhara.
We really are so hard on ourselves. I constantly hear complaints of, “my arms are too fat.”; ” My legs are too chucky.”; “Shame about my face.”; “I wish I looked like you or ten years younger.” The list goes on and on.
Why do we do it to ourselves?
I thought I would take this opportunity to share with you my own journey to accepting my own beauty. I had bulimia when I was 15 years old. I had an athletic, skinny figure before I started to develop my “womanness”. Not knowing how to feel about my bumps, I thought it would be better if they went away. I always felt I was below average on the attractive scale, with my close friends getting much more attention from boys. I spent most of my teenage years dying my hair every colour possible, trying every diet possible, over exercising and constantly feeling anxious about my consistent losing and gaining of weight. My relationship with myself was far from good and from what I have seen and heard from many other women, sadly not uncommon either.
It wasn’t until I moved to Bangladesh and started my work with the children of the Jaago Foundation that the way I viewed myself started to change. My relationship with food began to change, as I didn’t have time to think about what I would eat that day, and had to just eat what was given (usually Dhal and rice). All of a sudden I had better things to worry about and my real beauty began to shine through. I feel in love with a man who I felt for the first time in my life loved me purely for more than my body, and I came to realise no one cared what I looked like when I was in the slums from dawn to dusk everyday, so why should I? (I should note here not caring about how I looked for me, didn’t mean I didn’t put on my favourite outfit, scarf or add a little bit of eyeliner, it meant that I wasn’t consumed by thoughts of who was watching me or how I was looking through out the day.) I was also lucky enough to have the children think my white skin and big nose was the most beautiful thing they had ever seen.
My second breakthrough has been my entire journey with Bachhara, starting with me trying to model. my close friends who were mentoring me in design (with their years of experience as head designers at Seafolly and Sunseeker) suggested I be the model for Bachhara, as my vision and story is what people would want to know more about. This was certainly not what I wanted to hear and made me extremely uncomfortable. My determination to make Bachhara a success had me step up to the plate and give it a try. My first photo-shoot was horrible. I spent about an hour crying and hated every minute of being in front of the camera. I would have rather had been any other person involved in the shoot other then the model. With Bachhara, I had to train my own runway models on how to wear Bachhara, and I realised that if I couldn’t wear it with pride, how could they? So I faked it until I made it, and it worked.
My journey to deeply discovering and honouring my own beauty both inside and out has been a continual process over the last five years. There are times when I feel great and times when I don’t feel great; I think that is just the cycle of being a woman. However I know on a very deep level now, that I am not how I look. How I look can greatly affect my confidence and ability to be who I am, but it does not control me. I’m sure my journey will continue as I age and my youth falls away, just as I have had to readjust and learn to re-love my body during my pregnancy journey so far.
For women of the west, one of our biggest barriers to living our lives to our fullest potential is ourselves. We already live in a world where being a woman can be tough for reasons beyond our control. By contributing to our own suppression with our consuming internal judgments, we are not doing ourselves any favour. We could be spending all of that time coming up with solutions on how to solve many of the world’s problems, being with our children, making love to our partners, exploring our creative ideas and just enjoying ourselves by fully living!
I personally believe women are the missing piece to the world moving forward, and before we can truly fill that place and be that piece, we need to fill ourselves, feel ourselves and be ourselves.
I hope by me sharing my story you realise you are not alone, and probably every single woman out there, no matter how beautiful you think she looks, has similar thoughts about herself. Let’s change that!
What can you do today, to start your journey to freeing your beauty?
By Amanda Ryan
(Amanda is currently crowd funding for her social enterprise Bachhara. Donate to her beautiful cause at startsomegood.com.)