Having spent a long weekend with one of the most beautiful girls I know, I started to think about our friendship, how it changed over the years and the impact of having friends who, despite their individuality, are no doubt conventionally beautiful.
My friends are all gorgeous but, like everyone, have things they don’t like about themselves. My own physical hang-ups have mainly revolved around my body: not being thin enough; being unable to get rid of my stretch-marks, cellulite etc. Now that I’m 26, the lines around my eyes are a constant reminder that I’m getting older; these days I don’t leave the house without concealer.
There is not a single friend I haven’t compared myself to. I have a round face with full cheeks so the moment I’m next to somebody with higher cheekbones, I begin to feel self-conscious. Why is it that so many of us feel discontent with what we have and who we are?
An insecure woman can make a very dangerous friend. Funny, given that we’re all full of insecurities. I remember being 16 and telling my friends I wouldn’t be joining them at the arcade because that way they’d have less competition. At the time, I was fuelled with rivalry and self-doubt. I remember being angry and vain, using my self image as a means of protection from the outside onlookers.
I’ve had friends compare our features, compete for male-attention, gossip about my weight and cry about their own. I can’t even be mad, young women are pitted against each-other from early ages, believing that their value is determined by the male gaze.
I recall how alien it felt for me, aged 17, to visit my friend in Germany and receive little admiration in her presence. Prior to this trip, the way I looked to others seemed to be more important than how I felt about myself. Honestly though, I just needed to dig a little deeper.
It was a big lesson for me. I began to think about the girls who have never felt physically adequate, who constantly compare and belittle themselves based on an unrealistic, unattainable standard of “beauty”. With all they have to offer, this pressure is so unfair. It was time to shed my teenage angst, to invest my energy into other areas and stop being so goddam pathetic.
Anyway, a friendship initially attached by superficial string soon transformed. These days when we rekindle, my German friend and I forget about the people around us; their stares become irrelevant. Sisterhood should be based on safety, trust, consideration and fun. Our physical differences should be accepted and celebrated rather than scrutinised and compared.
The amount of times men have approached and openly compared my friendship group is staggering. That they believe their unwarranted opinions hold an ounce of value is laughable; rolling from us like water off a duck’s back. As a young girl however, their throw-away remarks played a damaging role to my self-esteem. I never forgot their comments.
I recall nights out, the “fun before the fun”, where my friends and I would transform from girls-next-door to girls-on-fleek. We’d spend a good couple hours gaping in front of the mirror, with a familiar feeling of heightened anxiety. Our egos, bristling up against each other like an elephant in the room; tensions felt but never acknowledged.
We are all unique beings who deserve to be accredited for our behaviour. Who gets to decide what beauty is anyway? It’s subjective. When faced with that familiar stab of competitiveness or envy, I now talk about it and laugh it off: there’s just so much more to life.
Forget about how you appear to others: how do you feel about yourself? We are far from a perfect species and never will be, so let’s start by celebrating each other’s differences without tearing each other down.