For Claire Christian, getting older came with an unexpected benefit: increased self-acceptance. The Brisbane-based novelist, theatre director and youth arts worker – who describes herself as ‘a sparkly lady on a quest to change the way the world feels about itself’ – spreads her self-love message through her joy-filled, rainbow-bright ‘Claire and Pearl’ Instagram feed, and she shared her experiences in Issue 35 of Peppermint.
I have spent the last 13 years of my career working with teenagers, which means I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my teenage self and all of the things I wish she knew. Important things, such as: twisting your hair and securing it with a plastic butterfly clip is not really the kind of fashion statement you think it will be, and drinking Fanta and Bacardi is never going to end well.
Mostly though, I wish that my 15-year-old self knew that she was OK, that her body was OK, exactly as it was. When I think about the hours of time, the infinite amounts of energy and the countless dollars I spent on potions and wraps, quick-fixes and bandage-like-undergarments, as well as caring about what my body looked like, caring about it being different and wishing it was better than it was, I feel really sad for past Claire.
We waste so much time hating ourselves because we’re not <insert whatever value judgement you feel you’re not enough of here>. Not pretty, thin, smart, funny, confident, successful, exciting, queer, sexy, different enough – I have felt all of these, and then some. But, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve also been fortunate to have been blessed with an inherent self-esteem that is able to swat away the bad thoughts and wear a clashing pattern with pride.
I had the self-love revelation at the age of 19, when I got the words ‘exactly as you are’ tattooed on my body as a reminder that I was enough, exactly as I was. But I know this isn’t the case for most people. I know I am the anomaly. In fact, I know that when you even mention the words ‘self-love’ most people find it butt-clenchingly awkward. I wish there were some easy how-to guide to not caring about what other people think about us, or to loving ourselves better, but there isn’t, all we have is the trying – and as we’ve been told since we were little, as long as we try our best we’ll be okay. We’ve got to start trying our best at self-love because the simple fact of the matter is that not loving ourselves is quite literally killing us, medicating us, making us miserable, making us live unfulfilled lives in unhappy relationships in jobs we don’t care about because we don’t know there’s an alternative – or we do, but we don’t know what to do about it.
I like to imagine that self-love is over here throwing the raddest party and a whole heap of people are choosing not to come because it’s a fancy dress party. And they hate fancy dress. But we forget that parties are fun and the point of a fancy dress party is that you can wear whatever you bloody well please.
I love this brilliant Mindy Kaling quote: “I always get asked, ‘Where do you get your confidence?’ I think people are well meaning, but it’s pretty insulting. Because what it means to me is, ‘You, Mindy Kaling, have all the trappings of a very marginalised person. You’re not skinny, you’re not white, you’re a woman. Why on earth would you feel like you’re worth anything?’” I always get asked this question too and it reads exactly the same way to me. How can I, a fat, blue-haired lady who basically looks like a grandma who’s rolled around in a vat of glitter on any given day, possibly be so bold to love herself, go forth into the world and tell stories for a living? The way I see it is one of the only things that we can be sure of in our lives is that we have to hang out with ourselves for the whole of it. The average lifespan of those of us so privileged to live in the first world is around 80 years old. Eighty years is a long time to hate something.
We’re so driven by the goals we set and how we think achieving them will make us feel that we dismiss the most important thing of all – how we want to feel right now. And how you feel is completely within your power. Even in the moments when it feels like it isn’t. You have the agency right now, in this given moment, to impact the way that you feel. It might be as simple as wearing lipstick, going for a walk, paying someone else a compliment, wearing that thing you only wear on special occasions (which means you never end up wearing it) or eating the goddamn chocolate brownie. Your very existence on the planet makes you powerful. Your humanity and your capacity for choice are your best qualities – so how are you going to use them wisely?
Our time is finite. I’ll be damned if I’m going to waste it being a deadset dickhead to myself because I don’t look a certain way. The best way I can honour past Claire and the awful way I made her feel is by being the most glorious, sparkly, self-loving, bad ass I can be. Your past self deserves it too. Start small. I dare you.