I'm wearing a dress... with bare legs. It's a nice day, a little muggy and grey but very warm, so why not? Donning a short dress on a summer's day is not a significant statement on face value, but for me, it's a pretty big deal.
Last summer, I think I got my legs out a grand total of... once. Okay, I went nude-legged on holiday in Lanzarote (it was too scorching to be self-conscious), but back home in England, my "legs out tally" was shameful. And last summer was a good one too, with plenty of sunny days, but I was sat in the shade with a pair of jeans on, feeling pretty sad about it. Why did I not dress appropriately for the weather and let my legs be free? Well unfortunately, with age comes more awareness of ourselves. Ten years ago I wouldn't think twice about pulling on a pair of cut-offs. I wouldn't even notice the scabs on my knees and unshaven shins. But over the past few years, I have thought that my legs should be perfectly toned, smooth and clear of any sort of blemishes, and if they did not comply with this, they were ugly and unacceptable.
I believe that teens have felt pressure to be "perfect" for generations, however, I also believe that this pressure is intensified for today's teens, mainly because of the internet. The majority of young people see countless images of models being "perfect" on Instagram, Tumblr and Twitter everyday - and avoiding comparing yourself to these photographs is tough.
Last summer, in an attempt to make my skin more smooth and "feminine" like the girls on my Instagram feed, I tried epilation. Ripping the hairs out of my legs with a noisy, tweezer-laden device that resembles a torture instrument, so that they would be stubble free for a couple of weeks, sounded like a brilliant idea (crazy I know). Having the tiniest amount of hair on my legs, even when only I knew it, made me feel unattractive and unfeminine - because society teaches us that women should have zero hair below their eyelashes. In contrast, eyelashes should be long, thick and luscious... social conventions are often so strange when you really contemplate them.
I spent hours yanking the hairs from my long legs and thought it was fab. At the start, it was kind of fab, I had smooth legs for a month and there was no need for rushed and clumsy shaving jobs in the shower. However, when the hair began to make its inevitable return, the fab-ness upped and left. I got scores of terrible ingrown hairs which have left me with scars that are proving hard to shift. I was too embarrassed to get my legs out for the rest of the summer. How ironic - a product that was meant to make me go nude-legged more often, caused me to cover up for months. And this was all down to my quest the become more "perfect" in society's eyes.
Fast forward to this summer... I have got my legs out on multiple occasions, and I'm looking forward to going bare-legged for the rest of this boiling week! Admittedly, I do have less ingrown hairs now, but some scars and blemishes remain. However, this is irrelevant - I'm not going to let that stop me donning my summer wardrobe during the sunny months. My mindset has changed: I've been trying to remember that what is noticeable and embarrassing to ourselves personally, is probably not at all obvious to our peers. Everybody is too busy thinking about their own lives to bother about the spot on your chin, graze on you knee, or cold-sore on your lip. My lovely boyfriend, Tom, does not understand it when I say I'm embarrassed about my legs. He doesn't seem to care about my blemishes and they do not affect his opinion of me. His support has given me more confidence and helped me to realise that what's a big deal to me, most likely isn't even registered by others... so what's the point in worrying about scars?
It's by no means simple or easy to overcome body confidence issues. It takes time and effort to learn to love and accept yourself and to disregard society's image of "perfection". I'm so pleased that I've begun to see how pointless it is to compare my appearance to others and understand that my personal hang-ups are not of importance to my peers.