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

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Becoming a swan

Philosophers for hundreds of years have debated what is beauty; yet today any magazine, newspaper or website I open seems to think they know what it is and not always agreeing! However, the images they use are manipulated so much that the average Joanna or Joe look nothing like that and there is nothing wrong with them being how they look. Ironically, even the people in the images look a shadow of these images supposedly of them.

I’ve grown tired of the masks that they say we need to make ourselves beautiful they are but colourful chemicals, which may enhance but do not create beauty. I don’t spend hours doing make up (I next to never wear any) or manipulating images of me I post. As they are me at that moment in time, like the landscapes and nature shots I take, so why treat myself differently from the beauty I see in the world or alter me to be something or someone else?

So this is me on an early Saturday evening in June 2016, pondering from my bedroom window. I chose black and white as I prefer it to colour and at times as emphases not detracts. I have had many nasty and hurtful comments said about me in the past that I wore like scars and boils on my face. However, this is now, the me that doesn’t care; for I know as with ‘the ugly duckling’, a swan emerges and glides off into the sunset, leaving behind the past and on to tomorrow’s whispers wherever they may lead her.

© Fi S. J. Brown

World Environment Day (2016)

Open the window of the room you’re in right now, and take a minute to pause to take in what you see/hear/feel/smell/touch and how many different colours with shades/tones/hues/tints are there? Note down what you have experienced. How many of you said the sky was blue? Was it truly blue, one shade of blue or many colours? In Ancient Greece they said the sky was ‘bronze’ not blue; by this they meant it was dazzlingly bright, like the sheen of a bronze shield, rather than actually bronze-coloured. In Russia, there are two words for blue: goluboi and sinii, one word referring to light blue, the other dark, which to Russians are two different, distinct colours, not shades of the same colour as per navy and denim.
 
The world we live in is multisensory and multicoloured yet how often do we stop to acknowledge how diverse and infinite t it is? To me it does not matter who (if anyone) we ascribe as its creator as causes so many arguments that we cannot be just thankful it exists and we get to share it with a vast array of different species from tiny insects to massive trees that give this world an aesthetic that is truly remarkable. It is one we could only dream about if tried to remake it from scratch from our memories alone; as how we experience this world is as unique as we are. Today is ‘World Environment Day‘, so try spend a minute being thankful for what our senses take in each day that we do not always acknowledge around us.
© Fi S. J. Brown

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

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