I don't know how it happened or when it exactly happened. Was there a particular moment that sent me down this path, or did I slip into it gradually?
I have flashes of memories of random events. As the youngest child often dismissed by everyone, I would ask my mum in tears if she thinks I am pretty and she would reply "You are just average." I also remember me standing in front of our building with the guy I was in love with and him saying, "I wish your best friend had your awesome personality with her beautiful looks." Because, you know, I was ugly.
My biggest wish, my secret desire all my life, was to be pretty. It was my biggest regret and the only thing I couldn't and will never be able to change. So I hid myself. Hiding my face behind my hair. Hiding my body in baggy clothes. Blaming every negative thing that ever happened to me on the fact that I was ugly. It affected my whole life. I never really had a normal relationship. I slipped in and out of eating disorders. A whole life of body dysmorphia and a huge amount of self-hatred. I am sure this is quite relatable to a lot of girls.
The change came in steps. I started going to the gym because my doctor ordered me to ( not because I was fat but because I was fainting on buses). Working out became my escape from my problems and real life. I started obsessing over it. It was just another form of my eating disorder manifesting, but I thought this was at least the first step to a healthy habit. This was the first time that I started making friends with my body. After a great session, I would thank my body for what it just did. I was flexible, had stamina, and was great at this. I was every personal trainer's favourite. I was proud of my body. But to be exact, I was proud of what it could do. I started saying, 'Maybe I don't like how it looks, but I am proud of what it can do.' That was my new self-love. Or so I thought. I loved my body but only on the condition that it could do things for me.
Around this time, I also met a guy. I thought "Finally, it is my turn to be loved." I thought this was meant to be after so much time being single. I thought someone loving me would make it easier to love myself. But this guy was a narcissist and an emotional abuser. I didn't know he had multiple girlfriends and a wife simultaneously and that he was lying about who he was.
Why did this happen? Because I was ugly, I thought.
My big dream of finding love was shattered. And, of course, I was blaming myself, but then, one day, out of the blue, in the middle of this whole drama, it dawned on me that I had enough. I had enough of feeling like this about myself.
I am done hiding. I deserve to feel good about myself. I don't want to wait around for other people to value me; I want to love myself. So I decided never to cover myself again, wear skirts (I had never worn a skirt in my life before because of my chunky legs), wear low cut tops, and finally, be free of this heavy self-hatred. I bought at least ten bikinis (I've never owned a bikini before). I was opening up myself to the world but mainly to myself. I started travelling and discovering who I really was under all that shyness. I became my own role model. I stepped into the person I was supposed to be.
This was my success story! I accepted my toned athletic body and finally came out of my shell; I was super proud of myself. This was a massive step in my self-love journey. But it is easy to love yourself on your most perfect day in your most ideal state.
Fast forward to now. A pandemic happened. My 40th birthday happened. I quickly gained some "pandemic weight". I couldn't travel or distract myself from my own negative thoughts. My self-love started to disappear. At first, I was super patient cause I believed I could get back to where I was before. But I was struggling with everything, so it went downhill.
I realised that my self-love was very shallow. It is easy to progress and keep growing when everything in your environment supports you. But it can quickly come crashing down when things get challenging. And when your mindset or body can not keep up with the challenges, you are back to square one. I know now that my self-love was very conditional. I loved myself when I reached something close to perfection, but requiring perfection all the time is not realistic and definitely not self-love.
Do I love myself now all the time? No. And that is ok. I came to terms with the fact that this will never be easy for me. That it will always take practice and work. It will come with A LOT of ups and downs. I have to love my body when it's unfit and full of cellulite, wrinkles, and saggy bits. I will have to love myself when I feel on top of the world and also when I am super depressed. It is a learning curve; it is a process. But this process makes me feel happy and proud. Even though sometimes I think I'm back to square one, I have to realise how much I learned. I learned to address my issues instead of escaping them. I learned how to open up and how to let life in. I knew this was not a destination but a journey.
And this journey is getting easier day by day. I KNOW me and my body are a great team even though we are still building our relationship. It is the best relationship I have ever worked for. Nowadays, I often manage to love myself even when I hate myself, and I think that is really awesome and worth the journey.
Andi x the anti-casting
All the womxn featured on the underargument have been selected based on the personal story they shared with us which was inspired by one of our collections' themes. We only receive stories, no photos and no measurements. This is what we call the anti-casting and it is our way of reclaiming the representation of women's diversity and utilising the power of storytelling to empower ourselves and others. Find out more and maybe submit your story too here.
Andi is wearing collection no.01 For awesome // Against perfect.