If you’ve been around for a while, you’ll know that I occasionally write about self esteem, body acceptance and self love. I’m of the school of thought where I believe that the key to learning to accept yourself, care about yourself, your goals and your mental health, starts with accepting your body, with all it’s lumps, bumps, wobbly bits, in all shapes and sizes. I’m a plus size woman, and I’ve struggled to accept myself since I was a teenager. It doesn’t help that everywhere we are bombarded with contradictory and damaging messages, that encourage us to abuse our bodies – that the point of exercising is weight loss, or the point of eating fruit and vegetables is to lose weight. NO. The point of exercise is to enjoy moving your body however the hell you want (I love to dance and swim, and walk in the woods), and the point of good food is sustenance and energy (plus all of the noms).
(Photo © Sarah Ward)
Of course, for women in particular (and also men bombarded with similar advertising messages), we are forced to see airbrushed, edited bodies in advertising, films and on TV pretty much every day. Women’s magazines have the latest diets next to articles about learning to accept yourself. There may be a small shift in the way that we see plus size women – in particular there are some wonderful plus size blogs such as Arched Eyebrow, Pocket Rocket Fashion, Oh The Places You’ll Go, Blog to Be Alive, Frocks and Frou Frou and French For Cupcake, amongst many many other brilliant blogs, but mainstream media keeps away from things that might conceivably help women feel good about themselves, or, heaven forbid, begin a journey towards loving and accepting themselves.
So, it is with some trepidation that I’d like to talk about self esteem and weddings. Weddings are a huge industry, and one that cosmetic companies, magazines and general society (it seems), blows up into a massive deal. From the moment I changed my Facebook status to ‘engaged’, I was bombarded with ‘lose weight quick’ ads, bridesmaid dress ads, ‘wonder’ hair and make-up, and many more things besides. I’m not one of those people who has dreamed of the perfect wedding since the first time she played with Barbies, nor am I one of those people who thinks everyone should have perfect teeth, skin and hair.
(Photo © Sarah Ward @ Stars and Rainbows)
I’m very much a wash my hair, condition, dry it and go kind of person. I love to experiment with make-up and yes I have issues with spots and facial hair (I can thank having PCOS for this), but I don’t think it’s necessary for me to wear make-up if I’m going to be working from home all day. Yes, I’m self conscious about my skin, so I do wear foundation or tinted moisturiser and concealer to go out, but I know I don’t have to. More importantly, I’m always striving to accept myself, and understand that life is bigger and more beautiful than having some unattainable, perfect body.
I’ve been reading the kind of wedding blogs that veer into alternative territory, and so are much more about the style, feel and details of a wedding, as opposed to ‘how many pounds have you got left to lose?’ ‘this make-up product will give you perfect skin!’ ‘spend money on these shoes – they’re only £1500!’. So much of our wedding is about the theme, look and feel of the day, rather than transforming into completely different people. If you want to feel your best, pamper yourself and enjoy life, try not to get too stressed about everything, and look forward to celebrating with your nearest and dearest.
(Photo © Sarah Ward)
However, some aspects of the wedding planning process have made me doubt myself a little bit. The dress will be lovely – it’s being made by someone in the extended family – so I’m not worried about that. It’s the fact that so much is made out of the bride being the ‘centrepiece’ of the day. Which is not what I feel weddings should be about. They are a celebration of a relationship and a couple, and an ushering in of a new part of life. For both of us, it has been fun to plan the details and make things – the invitations, the table decorations, the room decorations, the music.
On the other hand, I think my reticence is also about introversion, and how I’ve always disliked being the centre of attention. Communication and friendship, to me, is about listening, thoughtful conversation, and well-thought out advice. It isn’t being loud, at the centre, the brightest neon crayon in the box. I love style, clothes, decor and art, but that doesn’t translate to attention-seeking. So if someone compliments me, I will say thank you (and feel boosted), but feel a little exposed. Its a paradox of introversion that I like to be praised for my efforts, but also feel a sense of modesty, and try to deflect attention away from myself by praising someone else too. This is why being the centre of attention, at least for some parts of the wedding, is such a difficult thing for me to swallow.
So this is where self-esteem comes into the mix. I’ve felt self-doubt and fear start to creep in where my appearance is concerned. Never mind that in the eyes of my partner and my family, I’m fine as I am. There are things that I feel are important details for me (maybe not for others) – perfume, jewellery, a flash of colour here and there (purple!), a comfortable but pretty hairstyle – and others that aren’t so important, like shoes, and finding the perfect long-wearing foundation. Shoes, in particular, have been one of those things where it’s easy to go a bit crazy. Nobody is going to think any less of me if I wear a pair of New Look heels, or even, bare feet. In fact, with how difficult it has been to find a pair of affordable, but comfortable shoes, I think bare feet is the better option…
People seem a bit shocked that I’m saving money by not having a hairdresser or make-up artist on the day of the wedding. I like doing my own make-up and I’ve been looking at tutorials online for long-lasting make-up that will last through the day and into the night (with touch ups). Perhaps for people who don’t usually do make-up or aren’t sure what suits them, a make-up artist is useful, but I feel that I would like to try out different things myself to settle on something that suits me. As for hair, I don’t think there’s any point doing something too complicated, as much as I’m seduced by all the pictures of beautiful wedding styles.
I had a bit of a stressful period of bad self-esteem about a week ago when the pre-wedding shoot photos came in. My confidence was knocked, and I think that it’s good to be honest about these kind of things. The photos themselves are beautiful, but you know how it is – sometimes you look at photos of yourself and it doesn’t match what you see in the mirror or in selfies. It made me rethink my approach to my wedding look, about how I’ve been approaching the wedding. Did I need to lose weight? Do I look terrible? The answer of course, again, is a resounding NO. Over the last few days, I’ve been going back to the photos and realising how happy I look, how happy both of us look. It would be easy to erase whole swathes of our lives because we don’t like the way we look in a photo. A lot of the photos are so lovely – they exude how much love we have for each other, and our personalities. This is more important than anything else. So I will be framing the ones I like best.
Reading blogs such as Rock n Roll Bride, Alice in Weddingland and Love My Dress have given me more confidence and helped me to understand how weddings are all about the two of you. It’s not about an unattainable look, a kind of pristine, perfect and magazine-crisp spread. Idiosyncratic, quirky and fun – that is what we’re aiming for.