* This post was written for and posted by me on the Huffington Post last week. I am also posting the article here too as the subject matter is one that means a lot to me and is a waving flag that I can look back on to see the progress I have made in my body confidence journey.
One thing that we are often told is that we always should strive to be better and in many ways, I agree. Working hard to progress your career, creating goals and attaining them; developing your personality and the way you treat others; all of these things are beneficial to you.
Sometimes however, that strive to be different is not a good thing. Sometimes, you are enough, just as you are.
When you look into the mirror, what do you see? Do you see yourself as a whole, or a sum of parts? For many people when they look into the mirror, the only things they see in their reflection are the things that they think, or have been told, need changing.
Whether it is your weight, the size of your nose; the freckles on your skin or even the way that you dress; for many people, these perceived imperfections are the only thing that they see. The person is lost in the image and only the flaws remain.
I cannot count the amount of times that I have looked into the mirror and seen only the things that I wanted to change. I would look at my face and only see the bright scarlet freckle flashing at me like a beacon from the end of my nose, my eyebrow which is far higher than its counterpart; my far from chiselled jawline; my smile that I thought made me look stupid. I would move past my neck and see the breasts which are the feature that most use to describe me "You know, her with the big tits", my short waist, my weight.
I used to see so much in that mirror but what I failed to see was the person looking back at me.
Even the most confident people in their day-to-day lives can lose themselves in their reflection in a mirror. One of the most confident women I know told me the other day that she wasn't attending an event where she was due to speak because "I am looking awful right now. I don't want people staring at me".
When I joined Instagram, I also joined the ranks of people that love taking a selfie. At first, I could not understand why people enjoyed taking pictures of themselves; particularly as I usually shied away from the camera, which records the mirror image that I so often tore apart. Then one day, a strange thing happened. Something that when the thought first crossed my mind; it was in the form of a whisper as it shocked me so much. I realised that I liked my face, just as it was.
By taking so many pictures of my face, I had started to look at it as a whole, rather than a list of good features versus bad. This carried on until finally today when I looked into a full-length mirror and realised that I liked what I saw. I saw my whole self and thought, "You know what, I look good today".
Liking what you see when you look into a mirror is not vanity and should not be dismissed as such. There is a vast difference between being narcissistic and simply accepting yourself for the way you are and what you look like.
I look exactly the same now as I did when I would analyse each part. My weight, my body shape, my messy hair, the innumerable amount of things that I thought wrong with my face, they are all still there. The difference now is that I look at my face, not my freckle. I see my personality coming through it. I look at my whole body, not at what is large and what is not. I see me.
If you can look into the mirror at yourself as a whole and not judge the reflection staring back at you, then you have won the battle against insecurity. If you can look in the mirror and see not just a collection of parts that you rate on a sliding scale, but instead, your personality and spirit shining through then you have not just won the battle, you have won the whole bloody war.
The truth behind our war with the mirror is that we have as a society separated the people who we are with the way that we look. You are judged on the way you look before people even know your personality. Every day we see airbrushed versions of celebrities in magazines where every flaw and blemish is erased and these images are held up as an example of what we should strive for.
From now on, I intend to strive for happiness. It is perhaps society itself that needs to take a long good look in the mirror.