Will you join me?

In a world that the visual image has been heavily manipulated and spun almost as much as the written word how do we know what we see is real and the people in them actually exist in the form we see them in any shape or form? Praising those that exemplify the fake a la Kim Kardashian to Cheryl (whatever her surname is right now) and putting them on pedestals of what 21st century beauty should aspire to be. In contrast calling someone brave for their attempts to step away from it as though they are being daring for to go without make up to choosing not to have Botox in their lips by the age of 22. Personally I find it ridiculous that we let someone’s manipulated image show us what we should look like and aspire to be as in reality nobody can look as they’re shown to be without deception to surgery. Some may say it is not their fault but sadly the golden carrot of money is often enough to make many follow blindly like a sheep or dance like a puppet on stage.

We do not need designer clothing but clothing that is made fairly for those making them under often horrific conditions to the consumer that will wear them. Fashion magazines and websites are built on insecurities that we all naturally feel and urge us to change with the seasons and years but as we all realise soon enough they come round again at least twice or thrice in our lifetimes! Fake tans to skin bleaching almost make us feel bad for our natural skin tone and heritage yet why should it, just look how stupid racism is and judging another based on their physical form of family history. Instagram or Snapchat filters for a bit of fun or help us hide behind masks as feel we fit in better so won’t be judged or laughed at…and even worse perhaps encourage more likes on social media. These likes that eat in to our self esteem that we must have so many likes in order to feel pretty or approved of by others; we are sugar coating our lives with unnecessary filters.

How can we learn that the imperfections we see in the mirror or talk to us in our heads are not things to air brush or filter away? Differences are seen as flaws not part of what makes us the unique person we are and the word ‘normal’ used for humans when there is no normal or average human being! There is no life Photoshop to change what we do not like about ourselves and lives, although I am sure we have all seen others try rewrite their history. Our individualism is under attack as now rather look and act like our favourite celebrities than the real us. However, as I said before these people are paid to edited to look the way they do to us, and make us feel bad over the slightest of things. Can we keep living in a world so fake and ultimately lose our individualism? I do not think so. So it is time to start the fight back, I refuse to bow down to someone’s manipulated idea of how a human being should be. Will you join me?

© Fi S. J. Brown

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I am what I am (a.k.a Self Portrait 2018)

Five years ago I posted the photograph below with the words written upon it describing my journey recovering from Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), self-hate, and low self-esteem. Today things are very different and this entry describes how things are today. If I am honest I still did not think I could ever reach the point of body and self positivism as the negative hung around like a bad smell I could not get rid of. Looking at old photographs I can see and feel my pain with part of me wishing I had the keys to a time machine to reassure myself but know I probably would not believe myself or recognise the person as me. The ogre that once lived in my head has been truly vanquished, such are the incredible healing properties of self-acceptance and happiness. Actually, I thought I was not allowed to be happy as was meant for others and not for me. Now I realise happiness takes many forms, and I have the right to that as much as anyone else on this planet.

In an age when judgement is made so much on our physical form it makes me still at question if I fit in. Judging on physical form deeply saddens me as know there is so much to us than our shell of many colours. To those that think looks are everything consider the following: when you see an iceberg you only ever see the top of it not what it actually looks like in physical form (this is like judging someone from the clothes you see them in and only desiring the slimmest of figures); equally consider a swan that as a child looks very ordinary but becomes a beautiful and majestic bird (this is akin to judging someone based on their past alone, not who they are in the present and what they may have overcome); and finally consider if the music remained only oral and never visual with those you judge their music based on their sex appeal you could never see (this is like basing your attraction on a walking puppet controlled by someone unseen where nothing is actually real).

I know I am not an ogre but I am equally not a Hollywood A-list celebrity, but then again I would rather be the ogre than the Hollywood star! Accepting me as me has been far harder than academic study; although on saying that my PhD was one of the greatest stresses of my life to date. I am me, not the love child of Frankenstein’s monster and the Hunchback of Notre Dame as I used to think. Which was replaced with Pablo Picasso’s ‘Woman in Hat and Fur Collar’ for a bit as I attempted to readjust the mental image in my head. This was followed by a patchwork doll made up of patches that represented all the different things that make me, me, and stitched together with love from those that are special in my life. However, now I see the same image others see in my photographs and smile like I never thought I could, it used to physically hurt my face for starters. If I was to have any other visual of me it is of a Matryoshka doll, because there is more to learn about me even when you think you know me well I will always surprise you with another layer to what makes me the uniquely beautiful human being I am.

© Fi S. J. Brown

5 years ago.jpg

The Swan

Earlier this week I tuned and adjusted the white balance of this picture, which I recently took of me with my mobile/cell phone; finding myself looking in the eyes saying ‘yes that’s me‘ and ‘quite a good photograph for a quick selfie.

For a long time an ogerous monster lived in my head that would have said something like this: ‘eww, what an ugly and loveable freak of nature you are, no wonder people point and laugh at you in the street. Delete that at once, nobody wants to see your ugly face on Facebook or Instagram. Don’t bother taking any more selfies, shows your ego is growing. Oh and may break your phone…ha ha!’

Instead another voice came out, the one I use when talking to others with my natural empathy and understanding ways, and not one I have heard myself say to me: ‘You look pretty and happy there Fi. Who cares if you see flaws or things that aren’t right in this photograph, better to knit a scarf than nitpick at yourself for no reason. Anyone that laughs and/or calls you ugly can spin on your middle finger, that’s what it is best used for!

I nearly choked on my own emotion, not for the first time, but this was in a positive way of my own doing to myself. Pondering, perhaps this former ugly duckling has finally seen her own swan-like reflection, and will glide the river of life wherever it is leading her to go. I do not need a mask of chemical colours or a surgeon’s blade to syringe to make me look beautiful; I am me, not an ogre but a swan, and that’s fine with me.

© Fi S. J. Brown

me 2017

The Beautiful Ones

These days it is easy to be hard on ourselves if we do not meet the airbrushed, “perfect” image, we see in newspapers and/or magazines to websites and social media. People that we are told are “beautiful” yet feel the boy in the emperor’s new clothes when realise they are not.

Remember, this is not the world’s view on what is beautiful and/or perfect. In fact perfection is a lie we have been convinced exists, look at flowers in a field or garden, they are all shapes, sizes and colours as we are. Make up or surgery do not enhance beauty, but hide or trap what makes us unique.

Ugly is not a trait of physical beauty but in personality; with greed, envy and jealousy that eats away at them over time. Sometimes it can be seen in the eyes as darkness as it has eaten away at the soul till there is little or none left. Making them blind, unable to appreciate or respect another’s way of being.

It is easy to compare ourselves to others, convincing ourselves they are far more beautiful and/or their lives are easier or better than our own. Stop it now. Few of us know another so well that could make that comparison and in fact only we know the true ourselves. Find, accept and respect them always.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Self esteem survival tips

As someone that has struggled with self image and esteem since my earliest years, but in recent times has learned to accept me as me and appreciate her for who she is.

Today on the bus I was thinking of tips on how to boost the self esteem of others, and this is what I came up with:
1. The media portrays an image of beauty that is edited and manipulated, look at people around you, they are what a “real” man or woman looks like not someone shown in The Sun, Vogue or Heat magazine;
2. How we look is but one aspect of us, by focusing on our personalities and what makes us uniquely special lets our true selves shine;
3. We all have bad days, even if we think we ‘look bad’, there are people that have it worse than we do and let go of expectations, be ourselves;
4. Smile, sounds so simple yet it can be so hard as I know well because it used to hurt my face more to not smile than to do so, so try it today;
5. Make up, do we really need these chemicals to put on a mask? It is not brave to go without, we should not feel we have to wear it to fit in or hide behind;
6. Fashion is a curious thing with designs and styles that don’t suit everyone, so wear what is comfortable and enjoy wearing, not what a magazine or website says;
7. Mirrors are mime acts copying our moves but do not become fixated with what it shows as only show a snapshot of who we are and have bits we dislike;
8. It does not matter what size or shape we are, focus on being healthy and listening to what our bodies say on functions not on how fat or slim we are;
9. Is your nose really that big or do you need larger breasts? Good friends will be honest and tell you. However, only you know and live with your body;
10. Grey hair or wrinkles? Old age is not something we all will experience, so who cares if we’re starting to ‘age’, life only goes in one direction, forward.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Mirror…reflections

What is a mirror? To most people it is something that shows their reflection. If we think beyond that, it is a silent mime act following our every move. If we go a little deeper, it is showing us in live action motion how the outside world sees us. Deeper still it is a magnifying glass that highlights all we dislike about ourselves. However, is it all of these things and none of these things? It physically may show these things but how we interpret what it is we see is another. Furthermore, it is said if we met our own double we would not recognise them, as we have an image in our head as to how we actually look. So does a mirror really reflect the real us and how we look to those we meet in the workplace, streets and malls?

The silent mime act may make us laugh as children, as there is someone doing all we do. As we grow we get worried how the outside world sees us as fear the fingers of judgement and rejection. Then we find it to be a truth sayer, telling how much weight we need to lose to how old we now are, reflected back at us. However, what we forget is it does not have a voice, and I don’t mean our own internal one, for if it did it may say something very different. It would not massage our egos but tell us how well we are doing with life; like a scar we see above our forehead, the mirror may show a small scar but our insides know it hides the painful memories it tells. So perhaps it gives us a version of us or hologram of our mind’s image?

These days we put so much emphasis on physical appearance that the mirror may reflect back to us. However it is what it does not show what is on the inside, from our personalities to the colour of our auras. I remember one of the early photographs I took of myself in Italy mid-May 2007 and asked someone “do I really look like that”? To which I got laughter of “erm yes Fi, who else did you think it was?” It hit me hard as realised the image I felt of myself was not the girl in the photograph. The girl in the photograph looked sad and in pain, needing a big hug to say all would be all right, and I knew in that instance I had to find my true self if was ever going to be free. Now I know a mirror does not reflect the full us; best viewed like a child, as a mime act copying all we do in that moment and nothing more.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Perfect happiness

Does and in what ways appearance and body image – being perfect – is it connected to happiness? A current prevalent assumption is that those who are more perfect will be happier. Many women (and men) judge themselves and others on how much they ‘fit’ the dominant ideal, on how perfect they are, and their sense of self often follows from this. That being perfect connects to being happy is often assumed: ‘if I’m thinner, prettier, sexier s/he’ll love me more’ or ‘if I was ten pounds lighter, I’d be happier with myself and my life would go better’.

The images we are presented with these days from movies, television, magazines and newspapers are real but not real, the people represented in them maybe real but the images are not as have been subject to edits that in some circumstances show someone to be something they are not. Yet even if we know these are not real these are still presented as representations of how a modern woman or man should be. If anyone is not fitting with this view, many often laugh at them in the way some with disabilities were regarded as freaks for a circus in Victorian times, but who are we to act as judge and jury to another we know or don’t for gaining weight but celebrating another losing, when we ourselves are not perfect. This idealisation of being a specific body mass index as in some way it’s a number to show we are within ideals, but it is only a number, like our weight or height, that says nothing about a person’s personality…it really is comparable with shoe size in that respect! By chasing perfection we’re trying to catch a fish with a hole in the net, it is flawed and unrealistic. Looking at a meadow of flowers in spring to the leaves falling from the trees in autumn, all are different shapes and sizes as even within nature nothing is perfect, should that not be telling us something?

We look in a mirror ,sometimes conjuring up images of someone we want to be if only this outer shell was different…if I lost weight, had bigger breasts/muscles, or was a bit taller, I’d be happier…but happier how? Have we actually stopped to think that this shell is just that as it is within that the beauty really is? Some try to say it is “only ugly people say that”, which I think is bollocks, it is only ugly people that say it is about looks only as cannot see beyond the image they see. A person’s beauty shines from within to the outside, but narrow-mindedness and prejudice eats away at this so twists their view of how either gender should look. Happiness is not something we can buy, yet many think by creating a new version of themselves via a surgeon’s knife or buying certain things like “diet” drinks or pills we will be. We’re being brainwashed into believing this image of beauty is the norm and achieving it will bring us happiness, which many wonder why they are failing to find this happiness. Some spend money on “beauty” products but is like adding glitter and stars to a tortoise’s shell, it adds nothing but a bit of colour or a mask to hide the real us from the world.

For the last five years I have been on a journey of not just self-discovery but self love, appreciation, respect and understanding. I thought I truly was ugly compared with my peers and the world around me, being laughed at and mocked. I had thought since I was 18 I was the love child of Frankenstein and the Hunchback of Notre Dame, but I never resorted to surgery or pills to change it as I could not look in the mirror and I realised I was “stuck” like this for the rest of my life. However, between 2008-2009 I had lost weight to the extent I looked ill, I had people at my work place concerned for my well being, and I knew deep down the key to happiness was not my weight, it certainly had not helped my self confidence in feeling sexier or prettier. With the advent of selfies becoming more and more the norm, I turned the camera on to myself, and asked “is that really what I look like!?” I realise now I am not ugly or unloveable, I am just me, which may not grace the covers of magazines or newspapers, be a famous musician or movie star, but who really wants to be with people constantly judging your every bad hair day and weight gain.

When we make the image of ourselves in our heads it is not what to outside world sees, in fact as I learnt many are just hoping that nobody is laughing at them. Anyone who imposes how another should look be they are magazine or partner deserves a slap on the face, only we truly know what our shells of a body can and cannot do and these are not representations of the people we see about our streets. Furthermore, if someone is slimmer or larger than normal we should not be jealous of the slim one who maybe trying to gain weight just as the larger one maybe trying to lose it. We should not change who we are to fit among the “cool” gang by altering our personality, this also applies to our outer shell. By chasing these ideals we’re trying to throw off our shell like it was a layer of an onion and reveal a new one but humans the layers are inside not outside.. Equally, we’re not robots that are programmed to be one thing, we’re filled with emotions that different things trigger different ones, we’re pieces of art that our behaviour and actions paint the person we are beyond the initial image of our shell. Finally, we are part of the natural world, we are beautiful because of our imperfections not despite them, think of a four leaf clover that is said to be lucky but the majority have only three, its beauty is in its difference and imperfectness.

© Fi S. J. Brown

The Physical Form

It is said if we met ourselves in the street we would not recognise them as our twin. Every morning, afternoon, or evening in general we see our reflection in a mirror at least once, does a it really reflect who we are? To me it is like a silent mime act mincing our actions for a few moments in time. The visual it shows is a representation of us but not who we are as a human being lives in a world of words and sound.

A photograph does similar, it takes a representation of us at that moment, but no matter how many selfies we may take or edits we make on Photoshop, they can only speak for us so much. We form a representation of our physical form based on these, this can be both positive and negative, but what we need to remember this is only a brief representation in time of who we and how we look to the outside world.

When a stranger on the street or in a bar stops to tell us we’re beautiful or handsome it again is only a representation of ourselves they find beautiful as they do not know the mind and soul of the person within or our history. Accept it with a thanks. If we had never seen a banana or pear before, what would we think of their shape and colour, would we judge them like we do other people or how we see ourselves?

Beauty shines from within not just from the physical form, we’re like flowers in a meadow or a piece of art. Decorating with “make up” or other “beauty products” is like decorating a with glitter tortoise shell, pointless. Make up creates a mask to the world, perhaps we have been brainwashed for so long to believe it gives us confidence and/or makes us more attractive, when they are colourful chemicals to paint us.

A surgeon’s knife or injection may be used to change our physical form, but why do we spend money on vanity and ego, is it from believing our own voice or that of an industry built to give us poor self confidence? Accepting who we are is hard, it is sometimes call self love, I call it acceptance; it cannot be bought, sold or made, as we are the only ones who walk the full journey of our lives and nobody can change that.

Also our behaviour demonstrates who we are; for example do we help others because we want to, it looks good or our mate does it so we will do too? If someone suddenly became interested in helping others, like volunteering at their local hospital with sick children, at the same time they were starting internet dating to find a partner, are they connected and does the first really show their personality or a tool?

Knowing someone at a friendship level tells us far more about a person, their likes and dislikes, passions and hates, so the representation they have of us is the real us. They accept us for who we are as see beyond the tortoise shell and/or mask we wear, it is through their love and friendship we see ourselves better than any mirror or selfie can ever show. So if a friend says we look beautiful, we wear it with a smile.

Our physical form comes in all shapes and sizes, a variety of colours too, no one size, height or colour is better than the others, we are all human sized, one size does not fit all. Next time we see ourselves in the mirror, or a photograph of another, do not judge them or ourselves on that image as only a representation of physical form for a few seconds of their or our lifetimes nor the story behind the image we see.

© Fi S. J. Brown