I spent a lot of years really hating myself. Like a lot of other people, I started this downward spiral when I reached my teenage years. In fact, I felt incredibly confident before middle school. I identified as a girl, but I still loved sports and liked to play with my twin brother.
When I entered the sixth grade though, my family moved across the Atlantic ocean. I entered puberty and made some toxic friends, which caused me to feel more and more insecure. I often felt incredibly invisible because I never really received any attention from my crushes. Since I felt ugly and fat, I wore baggy clothes to hide my body. When my parents finally allowed me to wear makeup, I felt too insecure to even try.
By the time I reached high school, I didn’t feel like I fit the traditional views of femininity, so I decided to explore my gender identity. I cut off all of my hair, I rarely wore makeup, and I avoided skirts or dresses of any kind. It was terrifying, but amazing.
For a while, I thought maybe I identified as non-binary and even got a friend to call me by a different name for a bit.
Eventually I realised it wasn’t so much that I didn’t feel like a girl — I just didn’t think I could “do girl” correctly.
When I got to college, I threw myself into school and work. Although I started treating my depression, I still didn’t fully love myself. I still didn’t embrace typical feminine things, and I even shaved my head completely. I also told my classmates that I identified with both “she” and “they” pronouns.
Then, at the start of my sophomore year, I nearly died. While the details of that are an entirely different story, my near-death experience completely changed my outlook. I stopped caring what people thought about me, and I started to take better care of myself. Most importantly, though, I started allowing myself to explore my femininity more and more.
I started wearing makeup and steadily improved my skills. I started to introduce more colours and traditionally feminine clothes into my wardrobe. By the time I reached graduation, I wore a white dress and a beautifully red smokey eye and lip.
Like most other people, I ended up with a lot of free time on my hands last year, so I used that time to start exploring my femininity even more. I started sharing makeup tutorials on Instagram and YouTube, and I even let my hair grow out for the first time in almost ten years.
For the first time in a long time, I finally like myself.
In fact, I now realise that being feminine isn’t a bad thing. I think because I felt so rejected as a teenager for being a girl, I denounced traditional femininity as a reaction. There are still aspects of traditional femininity I don’t ascribe to. What it means to be feminine looks different to everyone, and that’s what makes it so beautiful.
Femininity in itself isn’t an inherently bad thing. Not only is femininity much more fluid than we are led to believe, but it’s also okay to want to feel pretty. Whatever femininity looks like to you is fine. Choosing to put on a dress or wear makeup doesn’t make you weak, stupid or vapid. It makes you human.