Monday, 25 June 2012

You Are What You Are (Beautiful)

I'm writing this post in the hope of inspiring some body confidence in you. It's not an easy task and something that's taken me years to come to terms with, but at the same time it's not all that difficult and you can definitely do it. Some would say I'm the last person who should be giving out advice on this topic, but I'm finally happy in the skin I'm in and it's been a long time coming! I've been the already 'thin enough' girl who wanted to "tone up", I've been the calorie-counter, the strict dieter, I've eaten 5 Creme Eggs one after the other (boak) and entire packets of Maryland cookies all to myself in one sitting, only to feel completely overwhelmed with guilt and want to throw-up afterwards. I've never had an eating disorder, but for so many years I've restricted what I've eaten or gone the opposite way and binged-I'm an emotional eater, a comfort eater and for a lot of my life I've felt like I should be working towards being something else rather than appreciating what I do have. This post isn't entirely ground-breaking stuff, in fact it's pretty simple but I'm hoping that by sharing my own experiences and thoughts on it, someone will get something out of it and we'll all stop this vicious cycle of trying to attain that "perfect body" which doesn't exist. There's no diet tips or how to tone up or exercise away that flab, it's about accepting who you are and being happy with what you have.  I wanted to only include images of myself here (at various stages of my life), because I don't think a post littered with toned (and hugely photoshopped) celebrity bodies is real evidence that you or I can relate to. If I'm going to preach about being comfortable in your own body then I have to practise what I preach right? Some of the images you'll have seen before, but I unearthed some old photos this week when clearing-out which I thought were great for this post. A warning now that this post does contain some images which may be deemed unsuitable for work/public viewing (ooh, you're all intrigued now!). Look magazine this week was a special edition 'Love Your Body' issue (last day to get it today) with inspiring stories from 'real' people, celebrities and bloggers.  Now after 20 years of reading glossy mags, the  'get your perfect bikini bod in 5 days'/'drop a dress size for Christmas' type drivel, really starts to get on your nerves.  Thankfully the magazine wasn't geared towards that type of story and felt more 'real' to me.  Actually I completely stopped taking notice of those 'crash diet/exercise' type stories shortly after my illness began 10 years ago. Not only did beach holidays and glam Christmas parties not apply to my life anymore but I just came to the realisation that there were more important things than fitting into a specific dress for one party or looking amazing in all of my holiday snaps. Nobody wants to look bad in a photograph but everyone, whether you're 7 stone, 6 ft or a celebrity will at some point take a bad photo, it's nature. No amount of dieting or exercising will stop a double-chin or belly roll, seriously it won't! Is it really worth putting yourself through a little bit of hell for one night or a week in the sunshine only to 'ruin' that 'hard-work' at said party/holiday with an 'all you can eat' buffet and as much alcohol as you can hold down? It's a constant vicious cycle and one that you'll never win or get out of. How about if you were already happy with yourself before that holiday or party? Wouldn't you enjoy it far more and I'm sure that alone would come across in the permanent reminder (photos) and a little bit of double chin or belly flab wouldn't bother you. The first set of images above were taken in my late teens on a family holiday. I just found them this week and looking back I'm totally shocked at how thin I was. I can't recall being unhappy with my body but I doubt I was happy either and I could yell at my teenage-self now! The images below were taken in my early 20's at different times. What comes across to me (in the first four) is how happy I am in them regardless of whether I was a little heavier or not or whether or not I took a particularly flattering photo. They were great times, when I was having fun and I would've hated to look back and say "that's the night where I felt fat in that dress", so I'm glad I don't. The very last pic shocked me most because I don't think I ever realised I was that thin-I'm pretty sure those upper arms are the size of my wrist now! Plus, look at it...it's an unflattering photo!  Bordering on a double chin and yet as my friend would say "there's not a pick on you!" It's the thinnest I'll ever be and I still took a bad photo, because anyone can no matter what their weight.  
So how do you get to that place where you're happy with what you've got? Well I have to be honest and say it's taken me a long time-I'm not sure it's something you learn overnight but it can be achieved. Maybe it's my age (32) or what I've been through in recent years that has given me some perspective, I don't know.  For years I've hoped that when my health improves, I'll lose the weight and go back to what I used to be, but I have to say it's only very recently that I've stopped thinking like that.  If I have to be this weight for the rest of my life then so be it.  If I do lose the weight, then that's fine too, but I'm not going to make myself unhappy and pour all my focus into doing so.  It'll happen or not happen when it does.  All I do know is I'm content with what I have. Sure my boobs are massive and bug the hell out of me because they are damn heavy/uncomfortable and force me to go up at least 2 dress sizes! My thighs are wobbly with deep stretch marks which have been there since my (thin) teens. My boobs have stretch marks too, as does my bulging belly and my waist-size ain't what it used to be. My outer thighs show signs of cellulite and I have a double chin from (most) angles. There's a whole list there of things I don't like, but there's also plenty I do. I like my decolletage, my arms, my lower legs and my waist (even if it isn't as thin as it used to be). Those stretch marks to me are a story of my life, my battles with my weight and my 'will they ever stop growing?' boobs. Cellulite on my thighs, who cares? I mean really who is ever going to be looking at my thighs right now? (Eh nobody)! Some girls would and do pay for boobs as big as mine and I wouldn't feel like "me" without them. The things you hate are the next girls desires; different people see beauty in different things, it's subjective and not black and white beautiful or ugly.  Also the body insecurities I have now are pretty much the same I had with the gaunt face and bony shoulders above! Losing weight didn't tackle them at all. I still had stretch marks, my boobs were still far too big for the rest of my body and I had wobbly thighs! I can't imagine I'll ever lose any of those and could spend the rest of my life dieting and exercising in an effort to, so why don't I just learn to live with them? It's not something that stops me from doing or achieving anything in life is it? A guy isn't going to dump you because of a touch of cellulite (and if he does, he's an idiot) and you didn't lose that job because the interviewer noticed a stretch mark on your body. Put it into perspective, it's not the end of the world. Back to Look and Kelly Brook was covergirl and interviewed in the magazine and I thought she came across very well. She admitted that even although she has a body most women would die for and men would die to be with, she has insecurities about it like any other girl and guess what? That gorgeous model or actress you think is 'perfect' probably hates her tummy/legs/arms too, no matter if she is taller/smaller/thinner than you. Do you think in those first set of images as a thin but curvy teenager, I felt entirely comfortable with myself? Did I heck! Kelly even said she has done the odd photoshop job to an unflattering picture or deleted them altogether and I don't think there's anything wrong with that, it's natural. What we have to remember is to keep it under control and not let it get us down, like Kelly. She has never tried a faddy diet, cut out a food group or exercised excessively and thinks we need to learn to have a healthy relationship with our entire lifestyle, make the decisions and love ourselves with it. You may think it's easy for her to remain confident with her toned, curvaceous figure and you might be right, but it's also part of the reason I've written this post and taken these pictures (because I'm "real"). But if our body were that of our best friend or boyfriend, would we be that hyper critical? I don't think so. We're so hard on ourselves, after years of getting to know our bodies inside out, we pick out flaws that many others wouldn't even notice. Through all the close-up FOTD type pictures I've posted here over the years, did you ever notice one side of my lip has a higher curve than the other? Should I hide the dent next to my eye from when I split it open on the corner of a coffee table as a toddler? Should I conceal the scar by the side of my nose from an operation to remove a lump 15 years ago? Do they make me ugly? Should I feel bad about them? Does my big stomach and ripply thighs affect the outfit images I post on TSGD? I'm sure many of you would reply "no" to all those questions and tell me I'm perfectly fine the way I am and you'd be right. So you need to ask yourself the same questions and believe it when I say, nobody else will care about your stretch marks or scars if you become comfortable with them; they're just a part of who you are. You'll remember it took me a good few years to pluck up the courage to post full-length outfit shots of myself on TSGD (although I have to add my lack of an unobstructed view for a full-length shot or camera that would take light enough photos without a flash in the mirror were also contributing factors). In the 10 years I'd been ill, I'd gone up 4 dress sizes, 5 cup/3 back sizes and put on 5 1/2 stone-I was in a completely new body and at times didn't quite know what do with it. It was hard and I struggled to feel comfortable in the way I dressed and how I thought others saw me. The harsh truth is, you have no control over how others see you and their opinions, good or bad. Either they couldn't care less like I said above or you'll never win with them. My own sister thought I was 'disgusting' and 'fat' years ago when I was a size 10/12, so God knows what she makes of me now! That isn't my problem, that's what's going on in her own head and nothing I ever do will change that, so why should I strive to change it?  If people who used to know the 'thin-me' are discussing how much weight I've put on, then so be it. I no longer feel the need or want to explain why I'm the size I am, it's none of their business and too shallow to even comment on. I'm still the same girl they liked or hated back then and I won't let what anyone has to say about me get me down.  Back to TSGD and when I finally put up that first image, there was no big yuck or yay moment from me, no hateful comments and no fanfare, it was just another day that both you and I accepted (thank you). What had the fuss been about? I looked alright and wondered why I'd had such difficulty committing to do it in the first place. Now I rarely give the pictures a second look, I just edit them the same way I would any other image and pop them up on the blog without fear of someone saying my stomach sticks out or I look top-heavy. And if I did hear anything like that, I can honestly say it wouldn't concern me. I'm happy with the pictures or else I wouldn't put them up there and nothing anything one else says can make me feel bad about them or stop posting them. I'm happy with me. It's with that confidence that I can post these images where I'm not hiding behind clever styling or confidence boosting clothes. I wondered whether it was right to add such images to a fashion/beauty blog, but they are so honest and I feel help illustrate the point I'm trying to get across. I'm not perfect, but nobody is, nobody. I told you the things I hate, but I also find a lot of things I like in these photos and I feel the same way I did with my very first TSGD outfit-shot, it's all ok.  Plus the more I look at them, the more I like them. I don't see cellulite and stretch marks, so it can't be as bad as I thought.  I'm actually rather taken aback by my lack of apprehension and calmness about posting such images, it feels quite liberating and I would hope I don't change my opinion once I hit the 'publish' button!  There's no way I would've posted nearly naked images of myself when I was skinny, yet I don't have a problem with it now.  I'm sure not everyone will feel they could do such a thing, but a few years back I wasn't able to post a fully-clothed picture, so it's amazing to see how far I've come and that it is achievable.
I don't consider myself as someone who pushes my opinions onto other people as that's not what I would like to hear from someone else. Certainly this post wasn't intended to be overly preachy, so I hope you've not taken it as such. I don't think there's anything wrong with wanting to look good and I'm not saying ditch the diet, pile on the pounds, let it all hang-out and be proud, not at all. I just want us to be more accepting of who we are no matter what size or shape we might find ourselves. Of course you get that little thrill when you lose 3lbs one week or fit into a smaller dress-size. I still feel like that now and likewise feel gutted when I put on 3lbs or go up a dress-size! That said, I've forgotten the thrill or disappointment 3 minutes later and carry-on like normal and that's the way to deal with it!  I've stopped letting it rule my life. The biggest thing for me is that I'm not in a particularly happy place in my life in general and haven't been for years, yet my weight isn't at the heart of it any longer. I've finally realised that if I were 5 stone lighter, I would still have exactly the same problems I do now. Losing weight isn't going to get me a job/husband/house/children, it's my ill health that needs to improve. It's actually a weight (!) off my mind, to not have that as a constant worry and to be at ease with it.

As always I would love to hear your opinions on this, nothing said here is right or wrong and I won't take offence at anything. Finally here's my summary or checklist of confidence boosting tips!
  • Realise that your success in life and happiness is not dependent on your weight. 
  • Look back old photos, was your happiness or sadness in those images anything to do with the size or weight you were? Most probably not. If it didn't concern you then, don't let it bother you now.  
  • No matter what size you are, you will always have insecurities about something and that's ok, so long as you keep them in check, even the most 'perfect' person doesn't feel fabulous all the time... 
  • So learn to live with and love those insecurities, they're not going anywhere.   
  • For everything you dislike about your body, see something you like (write it down if you think that'll help).
  • Consider how judgemental you would be if it weren't your body/gain perspective. 
  • Do what I did and take photos of your nearly naked bod. You don't have to post them or share them anywhere, but I'm sure by 'studying' them, you'll find the things you thought were terrible aren't actually all that bad. 
  • Delete or edit: Have photographic evidence that you look like a beached whale on that holiday?  Is it really horrendous? Then delete it or rip it up, nobody else has to know and you can forget about it and move on.  Remember it's just a bad photo, bad angle or bad lighting, it's not you that made it a bad picture.  If it's only partly hideous, is there a chance a filter or effect could improve it?  My 'naked' images above were only resized and a filter applied and I'm happy with them.  If that's all it takes for you to feel good about it, then your body wasn't really that terrible in the first place was it? Remember those photos of that gorgeous celeb in her bikini on a beach in the magazine are most likely staged and edited to within an inch of their life, so nobody is perfect.   
  • Play to your 'strengths'-love your itty bitty waist? Belt it and make a feature of it. Like your big bust? Wear v-necks and rock that cleavage. Love your small bust? Wear strapless tops and dresses that bigger girls can't. 
  • Disguise your 'weaknesses'-hate your legs? Get out the maxi-dress. Wobbly upper arms? There's plenty of cover-up or sleeved options. It's not rocket science and if it totally confuzzles you, there are plenty of 'dress for your shape' type help books out there. 
  • Realise that the grass isn't greener. Maybe it's my Gemini personality seeing two sides to everything but I always remember the anecdote about straight haired girls wanting curls and curly haired girls wanting straight hair. It's just curiosity and likely not any better than what you have. Someone else loves that bum you hate and you love the legs that someone else tries to cover up, it's subjective. 
  • Don't get hung-up on numbers. Ok, so you can't take every size into the dressing-room but so what if you need the next size up? Some 20's are tight on me and I have 16's that are roomy, sizing is different in every store and every style (in Primark it can be different in the same size/style!), so don't let it bother you. Likewise don't get too upset at putting on that pound, you'll lose it next week and if not, it's not going to completely change your life anyway! I can gain 3lbs just by eating my breakfast and lose it by peeing, nobody is going to know or think you look 3lbs heavier than usual, trust me! 
  • Celebrate your FFP (fabulous focal point): Do you think J-Lo always loved her big butt? I bet Nicki Minaj curses the fact hers doesn't fit into some trousers. What about Christina Hendricks with those big boobs? Cameron Diaz with her athletic figure? In Look it stated Kelly Brook was considered too fat for modelling years ago, but she's sought after now. It's taken them (and us) years to 'acclimatise' ourselves to their FFP and see that big bums or hourglass figures are beautiful. Consider what your FFP is and be proud of it, no matter what anyone else thinks and what happens to be on trend. If it helps, find a friend or celebrity with a similar FFP to your own, that is body-confident and take inspiration from them celebrating that feature. Does anyone ever consider J-lo wants bigger boobs or Christina Hendricks wants longer legs? We don't know what they don't like about themselves because they celebrate their FFP's with such passion that it overlooks the negative...
  • But realise you are not a trend: The media can often berate and celebrate a 'trendy' body feature. Curves are in vogue for now, there's a hatred of 'size zero' and J-Lo and Beyonce changed the way we look at big bums while I can remember the waif era, when stick thin was in. It's constantly changing like everything else so don't take much notice of it. You'll only feel good about yourself one minute, to be deflated when the next trend/celebrity pops up. If you can't for the life of you put weight on or lose those big thighs, then stop trying to change yourself and be comfortable with that, it's who you are.  Can you really see Jennifer losing that bum because it's no longer fashionable?  Don't lose sight of why you loved that celebrity FFP in the first place.  
  • Stand tall and smile.  It sounds so simple, but if you're happy with yourself, it's kinda contagious and hard for others to knock.  Not quite there yet? Then fake it 'til you make it!
  • Be realistic and get a grip. My legs will always look terrible in hot-pants, but in all seriousness, did I ever want to wear them in the first place? No! So why cry about it?  My future boyfriend/husband is quite possibly the only person who will ever see my inner thighs and I can't see him having a problem with them, so why should I?
  • Laugh it off:  Friends are a wonderful thing: mine used to constantly joke that my boobs were big enough to produce milk for an entire village of children and that I'd have two black eyes if I ever went jogging.  They're the same friends who would have knocked the guy out that had been staring at my chest all night and asked me if I was a stripper.  Had I broken down in tears during either of these situations, it would have been extremely embarrassing.  At the end of the day, it's a bit of flesh and a bit of mocking, if I'm comfortable with it and make light of the situation, it's all good.  And if you can't, your friends will be there to act sassy for you!
  • Love yourself. If none of the above works and you're still struggling to see beauty in yourself then you need to turn everything on it's head. Those big hands you have will one day cradle your baby, your thunder thighs are in perfect working order and you can walk anywhere you want on them.  My boobs are cancer-free and will (hopefully) one day feed my child, I'm damn lucky to have them!  There's people with much bigger problems or deformities and if they can accept themselves, so can you. You're alive and healthy, the world does not revolve around your weight/body shape or a little bit of cellulite. 
  • Still struggling? Do you need me to kick your flabby butt? Listen to the wise words of Christina below.  You can do it, believe! Get too confident and I may just kick your flabby butt into touch again though!  

25 comments :

  1. Wonderful Post! I applaud you for taking the time to write it out and the courage to post your own pictures instead of just 'copy/paste' celebrity images!

    I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum (too thin) but still have the same problems. I still remember 'chicken legs' from growing up! Haha. But that is all okay now.

    Again, great post!
    <3
    adornedinhollywoodlace.blogspot.com

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  2. Amazing post from a truly beautiful lady <3 Thank you for writing and posting :) and I admire you for your confidence to do so x x x x

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  3. Great post! Thanks for sharing!

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  4. Very inspirational. Thank you for sharing your heart.

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  5. Fab post!

    I too am blessed with the ol' big boobage...but I wouldn't be me without them so I tend not to "see" them anymore.

    I'm currently going through a "does not photograph" well phase but (I think!) I look ok in real life...so for now I avoid pics! Although if I ever send a friend a pic for her advice on something (I once asked her about tucking a blouse in or out, heh!) she always points out that I look fine...and when I look again objectively I can see that I'm not as horrific as first thought. LOL!

    You're right about image/size, whatever not having a bearing on life in general...I'm pretty grumpy these days but I don't think being any less big would make a difference...

    ....now if only I could stop seeing my dad in my face as I get older!!! LOL!

    Oh and it's funny that you say all the bits you don't like about yourself because I, as a viewer/reader, (viewer sounds a bit pervy actually...sozz!) think you always look fabulous and gorgeous. (ok...still sounding pervy! Sozz again! LOL!!)

    I've gone on a bit too....oops!

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  6. Thank you Gemma, this is a brave and wonderful post. It has certainly made me stop and think about how hard I am on myself and my size. You're a fabulous inspirational lady, not to mention gorgeous and extremely stylish! Once again, thank you :) x

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  7. Wow. I honestly think you have the perfect figure! I guess we are all a bit too critical of ourselves. Brave post - good on you :)

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  8. Just wanted to say firstly, thank you for such an inspiring post (you've really given me some food for thought there), and secondly that you really do look and come across in your blog as so glamourous and fabulous! I always love reading your blog, it's a really positive read. :)

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  9. This is such a beautiful post <3 I'm 23 and finally figuring this out myself! I wear what I want ( within reason), and I realize that nobody else will see the flaws that drive me crazy. We are so much harder on ourselves than we should be! You are a lovely lady, on the outside and inside! And if people think you are "gross," then boo on them, you are a gorgeous woman!

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  10. This is a fantastic post Gemma, you are truly inspiring with this honesty and all the care taken over it! I always think you look wonderful in your photos and think you have lovely shapely legs, a lovely figure and look so so pretty!
    I am a size 6-8 on top,10 on bottom half and even I have times where I am not keen on what I see, so you are right, it's not always being 'smaller' that makes you happy. But in general, I don't worry about my shape and yes, I try to enhance my favourite bits!!!

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  11. This was a very brave post. It must have taken a lot out of you to write and put together. I personally think you look great the way you are. You looked fine before but your style and presence is so much more interesting now. I love seeing your full length outfit photos. You really have nothing to be concerned about. I've just followed your other blog to see more of your fab shoes and outfits x

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  12. Beautiful post! You are beautiful and wondelful woman!!
    I really think you look stunning!!
    I'ts nice to see how much confidence you've gained over the years!
    We are who we are, that really should be enough! Because everyone is beautiful!!!
    x

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  13. Thank you for this post. Truly.
    You're beautiful! xoxo

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  14. Such an awesome and inspiring post! I admit I struggle with my figure but there are things I do like, the fact that despite being super-fat my boobs are small, I like my face, my hands because they are creative :)

    One thing I'd like to like more and seems to be improving is my huge feet! A UK size 9 means I am limited about what I can buy but shops are getting better.

    Clothes... Well a size 32 is rather limited, but I'm limited more by budget than what's actually available. I see certain pieces on the Evans or Yours sites and I can see exactly how I'd style them to my Goth-ish tastes, it's just affording them being unemployed.

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  15. Such a brave and inspiring post Gemma! Well dome for having the guts to do this, I have no idea if I would ever be that brave but I like to think that I would be one day. You look fabulous with clothes or without them! x

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  16. You look bloody fantastic mrs! Wowzers! And props for posting that Xtina song - love her :D

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  17. Such an inspiring post! I really loved the messages you were sending out. I think part of it is also dressing for your shape, and wearing clothes that make you look and feel fabulous, which you always do =]

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  18. VERY LAUD APPLAUSE!!!!!!! Gr8 post. I think you look amazing.I've struggled over the year and still cant come to terms with my fatness....but this day will come. FAB FAB dresses.

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  19. Brilliant post Gemma! I'm a size 8 and I have body issues so it just goes to show that everyone has hangups about something! x

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  20. love this gemma! so honest daring and just you!!!! thanx!!!!!

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  21. Fabulous post - very brave and inspiring - I for one think you have a fab figure so why not flaunt it! Well done on a great post - I would rather see a curvier woman than these 'thinspo' pictures you see online any day :)

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  22. Every part of you looks awesome, lady!

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  23. Gemma, this piece is fab! I'm an avid reader of your blogs and always think you look beautiful. I never even think about your body (which is also fab, great pics!) but how stylish you look, how pretty and unique you are. Im a convert already. I love my size 16, 34G figure, yes it may be hard to dress sometimes but I look good when I do! I stay healthy and go to the gym 4 times a week but I pity people who may look at me like there's something wrong with me. As you say, everyone always wants what someone else has so make the most of your best bits, someone out there would kill for them!
    Keep up the inspirational work!
    Stevie

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  24. I had seen this post and really wanted read since that time but finally read right now because I don't know so much english also don't like reading too much...
    but I was really interested in this post of you since you posted

    well,first,I honestly had thought about you just like other (and many) peoples that dressing up with fine clothes,accessories,makeups like kind of importance about those things more than inside of who they are
    not so much,but I had thought...
    and here I finally read this post of you and I really felt you're not like that
    and most,you know who you are first to accepting who you are
    that's really important thing too love oneself
    and I think more know oneself makes oneself much more beautiful too
    so I think...
    the peoples who to hating oneself or wanting to be someone else is just don't really know how they are
    because if they knows
    they'll love themselves
    because they're beautiful right?

    whatever
    I still keeping the last part of this post (checklist) for another day!!

    whateverwhatever

    you are beautiful<3

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