There is always a lot of weight put on social convention. On what is expected of people, rather than what they want to do. As long as no laws are being broken, what harm is there in wanting something that suits you out of life? I spent a long time fretting over social expectations when I was younger, and it is only in recent years that I am able to embrace who I really am. And trust me, not one part of me fulfils social expectations.
When I was a teenager, I had bad skin, bad fashion sense, was ridiculously clumsy, went from beanpole to curvy in a matter of weeks (thank you puberty), and generally had a gloomy and teen-aged view of life, love, the universe and everything. I also had a love of books and comics, a very mixed taste in music, very little interest in television and a very, very small pool of friends.
Due to teen magazines, advertisements and unending peer pressure, I had a set view on what I should look like, dress like, and how I should think. I was unable to keep up with any of these social expectations. I viewed the girls in my school as rungs above me on the social ladder, as having reached completely unattainable heights. I tried my best to fit into the pigeon-holes that had been created in my school, but I had too varied a taste in everything. I liked comic books and nerdy things, but wasn’t smart enough to fit in with the nerds. My taste in music was so wide that I fit in with neither the pop princesses, nor the goth girls. In short, my own personality made me a social pariah, and this was not a fact that I took lightly. I became withdrawn, took on some very unhealthy behaviours, and by my leaving cert year in school, I was a ticking time bomb. I was obsessed with my weight, my appearance, having the right haircut and colour, the right clothes, being right, and fitting in.
Let’s fast forward.
After school ended and my life actually began, I discovered a hundred new things about myself. One of which was that everything does get better. my skin improved once the stress of secondary school was removed, I grew into my chin(!), my body shape corrected itself to what it wanted to be, which was a curvy but still slim hourglass shape. Curves, as people used to tell me, that I should be proud of. My fashion sense was still based on magazines, but what are you gonna do about that. I started to feel more comfortable in my own skin.
It gets better.
It’s now ten years since I left school. In those ten years, there have been inevitable ups and downs, dark times and happy times, the usual fluctuations of life. Bad teenage experiences have been dealt with, parcelled away and labelled as “life lessons”, and have faded into my history. I am now more comfortable with myself than I have ever been. I’ve got my body image issues like all women, but I have accepted my wobbly thighs, soft curves but overall alright figure as just ME. The realisation that everyone is different is one that I didn’t reach for a long time, but now that I have it, I want nothing more than to shout it from the rooftops.
I have realised (in particular over the past two years), that I am my own person, and that I can look however I want to look, and be whatever I want to be. I have stopped reading fashion magazines – honestly one of the healthiest things I have ever done, ditch those mags right now, they give such an unrealistic view of women and will just make you feel inadequate about your body, fashion sense, career, whether or not you have children etc etc etc – I stopped listening to social conventional ideals of what you SHOULD do. Eg; wow, you’re 27 and still in college/ when are you going to have children, you’ll be 30 before you know it/ have you started saving for a mortgage yet? Oh please. It’s my life. That is something I have only recently discovered. The usual rules do not apply to everyone.
My current priorities are:
Finishing college. I’m in my final year of nursing, a fairly gruelling year is ahead of me, but at the end of it, I will have a career I can take anywhere.
My relationship. My boyfriend and I are currently moving in together. He is excited, I am terrified. And I’ve discovered that it’s ok to be nervous about it, some of the greatest things that I have ever done have completely terrified me. For the record, I am also excited, I’m just hard to live with!
My body. I’m putting this in here because I am more than accepting of my body these days. I’m sure with hard work and the denial of sweet things I could have the sculpted hard-body I think of occasionally. But you know what, I love food. I’d rather have dessert once or twice a week and walk the dog every second day, than work out round the clock and count calories forever. That’s just who I am, fair play to anyone who has any other opinion than mine. As long as I can keep a handle on my shape and am happy with it, who cares.
My future. I have so many people several times a year asking me when I’m going to get married and have children. My answer is usually “does it matter?” I don’t even know if I want to have children, and it’s nobody’s business whether I do or not. As for getting married; yes I would like to, but that doesn’t mean I will. It honestly depends on circumstances, finances and a whole host of other things. As for the question of mortgages or housing, I’m coming round to my boyfriend’s way of thinking that buying a house over renting is mostly about what is expected of us, rather than what we want.
So, my life is not panning out how I had thought when I was a spotty teenager pouring over magazines and obsessing about celebrity diets or airbrushed skin. I am breaking the social conventions because that’s just who I am. Who cares if I’d prefer to travel the world than have a savings account? Who cares if I never marry or have children? Who’s business is it anyway?
These days, if I don’t like a current fashion or trend I simply don’t partake in it. If all the girls in my course are out every weekend in nightclubs, kudos to them, I usually have a date with a glass of wine, a movie and my comfiest pyjamas. I rarely go out drinking, and I don’t drink an awful lot any more anyway. I don’t wear as much makeup as my peers but I don’t really care what anyone else thinks about that! I’m also more comfortable in a jeans & top than anything else, and I’ve stopped dressing to impress anyone else but myself. And you know what, since I realised that who I am is ok, that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks but what I think of myself, I am so much happier. I think that it is something everyone should do. Why not be the person you want to be, instead of what magazines and trends tell you what you should be. Happiness is really what’s important, not what others think of you.