Trending This Season: Loving Yourself

photo by Chelsea Francis

photo by Chelsea Francis

By: Joan Daly

I know what you’re thinking – this is another one of those “you’re perfect just the way you are, no matter what the media says!” posts about body image and self-appreciation.

Okay, I’m not going to lie to you and say it’s not. That’s what it is on the surface. But this has been a topic that’s been on my heart for a while, and I haven’t been able to put it to words until now. I also believe it is a topic that can be addressed again and again, because every hour of every day, little girls look at themselves in the mirror and think that they are not enough. So, as a self-proclaimed “fashion girl,” I think that other “fashion-girls” and everyone else should give this seemingly stereotypical post a read.

When I was in middle school, I started watching a lot of Disney Channel, and paid a lot of attention to what the Disney stars wore. I would then proceed to look up their red carpet looks, going-out looks, and before I knew it, I was buying fashion trend magazines at the local convenience store every month. Vogue, Elle, Glamour, Marie Clare, you name it, I had it in my backpack after a Friday afternoon spent hanging out with friends downtown. Soon, those Friday afternoons with friends became Friday afternoons at home, by myself, with my magazines. Fashion became my religion, my focus; it felt good to be so passionate about something at such a naïve and malleable age.

Enter high school: I had become quiet and insecure, not confident in whom I was. My fun group of friends was like a group of strangers to me now. I relied on Anna Wintour and Amy Astley for approval and companionship, not humans my age. And why was this? What had changed? I was happy, wasn’t I? I had something I was passionate about, I had fashion. I had my magazines.

I look back on those years of my life and instantly become saddened by how fooled I was. My happiness was purely superficial and derived from unattainable ideals. When I read up on fashion trends, I saw things that only 6-foot-2, size 00 models could wear. I would end up feeling inadequate and upset that I didn’t look like Karlie Kloss or Kate Moss. Every morning, I dreaded getting dressed and having to look in the mirror, because I knew that whatever trends I was going to try to pull off would be unsuccessful. And at the end of every day, I lay back in bed thinking of how I could be better, thinking of how I was not enough.

The thing is, I was enough. I am enough. See, the fashion industry – as invigorating and exciting as it is – has the manic ability to corrupt younger girls. It shows them things that are unattainable for every human, and gets them thinking they can get there, and then they get upset when they can’t, and just like that, a vicious cycle of inadequacy is started. And it is so, so hard to break from this.

I’m not sure exactly how or when I broke from my vicious cycle. I think it was when my mother saw how stress was taking a physical toll on me and I didn’t look like myself anymore. She cried. She said it broke her heart to see me this way, to see me this unhappy. And then, she cried some more.

I realized that I had been breaking my mother’s heart a little more every time she saw how uncomfortable I was in my skin. Social and print media had taken a toll on my well being, just like it did to many other young girls around the world. And to see women who I looked up to – my mother, my grandmother, my best friend – have their hearts broken because of my actions tore me apart inside. Seeing my loved ones so hurt by my actions brought me to see how much they love and care for me, and how I should have that love and care for myself.

The fashion industry is improving in addressing the importance of real, attainable beauty. But that doesn’t mean everyone understands it yet. The most important thing we can do right now is spread body love, and realize that no matter our personal style and no matter how many magazines we buy (because if I’m being honest, I’m still a sucker for a September Vogue issue), nothing makes a girl more beautiful than being at peace with herself. And maybe one day, we can each wake up and jump for joy, because we were each made beautiful and unique.