The world is many things at the moment, and I won’t get into politics because that’s a whole other can of worms that just doesn’t suit a Saturday.
What strikes me is the vanity of our current world, and by that I mean of the people in it… and I am no exception. This is no new, groundbreaking claim- more technology, wider social media and rapidly changing fashions means that we are becoming pretty self-obsessed. The selfie has become the done thing. Have we really visited the Eiffel Tower if we haven’t taken a photo of our own face at the top? Have we really had a night out if we haven’t spent at least 20 minutes taking the same photo with our arms around each other until everybody is satisfied that they look effortlessly fabulous? Have we really been revising if we haven’t paused for a ‘procrastination selfie’ (which in reality is 40 minutes of wasted time taking photos from different angles with different facial expressions, different hairstyles, our hand in different places on our face, before deleting 49 to leave the one in which we look most like how we wish to be perceived)?
I am pretty sure that we all know our best angles, we know that a selfie on Snapchat won’t flip our face round, we know which way to contort our body so that our figure looks its best. I’ll go as far as to admit that I actually cried when all these assurances got thrown into question by my new hair cut– guilty.
With this vanity, comes an extreme self-consciousness. Throughout the day, generally when I’ve paused my work to eat, I scroll through Instagram. My feed is made up predominantly of food and nearly-naked women. These are the women that I strive to be like and the food that I wish I could afford to eat, when in reality I’m munching through a cheese sandwich and progressing further away from the desired body-type I mope over. As a result, in the past, I’ve become obsessed with what/how much I eat and exercising everyday. Yet still, I never look like Alexis Ren. And in truth, I know I never will, my build and genes differ from hers, we do not have the same body type, and yet, illogically, I continue to strive in desperation. This is vanity- reaching for the impossible. I am vain, and I’m not alone- self-consciousness and body anxiety is tied up totally with vanity, and I don’t know a single girl that hasn’t suffered this or still does. If the same goes for the other sex, they’re better at keeping it quiet, us girls seem to find relief in sharing our complaints all over social media.
Anyway, recent circumstances mean that I need to accept fully that I will never look like Alexis Ren. Getting to the level of fit this summer at which I might feel remotely comfortable in a bikini photo is looking pretty unlikely too. So I need to push past vanity, and I have my own wonky body to thank for that, and in some ways it probably is a positive thing. In other ways, self-consciousness continues to persevere and is likely to increase.
A few years ago I injured my back doing ballet. This isn’t unusual, most ballerinas suffer injury, but on visiting the physio, I learned the fundamental issue was my own body, rather the activity I was carrying out. I have one leg longer than the other. Now this is only by a few centre-meters, but its enough of a difference to cause my hips to be in constant rotation and my spine to twist in compensation. In other, less gruesome words, I have Scoliosis. I’ll take this moment to emphasise that I know I have very little reason to complain in relation to the issues of many others, but its my individual problem and thus affects me.
This wonky leg situation had been noticed by my dance teacher when I was about 14… apparently I walked into my ballet exam and she instantly noticed it for the first time, as though I’d grown asymmetrical over night. And since that day, I’ve never balanced out.
I’ve been conscious of my Scoliosis since my dance injury, keeping check on any knee or back pain caused by exercise, but generally it’s been fine. I adore working abs, and I do a lot of toning exercise (no one likes cardio, and I know I should do more). Looking back at vain photos of myself from the past, there are summers that, in hindsight, I think I looked good and I desire to return to.
However, a few weeks ago, my lower back suddenly kicked off, I have no idea what triggered it, but I was in serious discomfort. It reached a point where sitting for an hours lecture became extremely difficult, and lengthy car journeys were horrendous. My lovely physio told me that, due to my Scoliosis (weird twisted spine situation), I lacked the range of movement that most people have in their spine, and as a result any rotation was carried out at the point where my spine meets my pelvis. I had overstretched the spiderweb of mini muscles around this area, and therefore had near to no stability. Fortunately, it seems that we have caught the problem just in time, so I can prevent any serious damage for the future by working on it now.
When I say ‘working on it’, this entails doing nothing. Literally, cutting out exercise. At first this was just for a few weeks, though those have passed and doctors orders are that this abstention should continue. I mean, actually she said that I could do some cardio work from now, but abs, legs, etc need to be kept on hold. Instead, my workout has been limited to sitting on a blow-up cushion that resembles some extra large whoopee cushion, and lifting my legs alternatively, in order to focus on strengthening the mini muscles of stability.
I am a bit of an exercise-fiend usually, so while cutting out exercise may seem like a dream order to some, its my worst nightmare. The past two weeks have entailed in lethargy, self-hatred and for some totally ridiculous reason, increased eating!?! Perhaps it’s in my head, but I can visually see myself changing shape, any definition appears to be fading and my jeans are definitely getting tighter. The vanity within me is screaming.
Getting bikini-body-ready for summer, may well be out of the question this year. I mean, obviously I’ll do what I can, eat better (salads will become more appetising when the sun comes out) and join a gym for the low-impact cardio machines. But the most important thing for me to do now, is to push beyond the vanity that has previously had such an impact on my lifestyle.
Perhaps I should see my wonky problems as an excuse to care less- to accept my body type for what it is. And as much as my mum and I joke about how she produced a faulty child, I am who I am, and have no choice but to be comfortable with it. And as I’ve said, I am hugely lucky in relation to many others: I have caught my problem in time (hopefully) and can do something about it. I have to sacrifice my crazy obsession with looking like the many beautiful women I follow on Instagram, in an investment for my future health, and that is what I’ll do.
So I’ll embrace my wonky world, I’ll work with it, and my vanity will have to accept defeat. In fact, I feel like this might be a liberating occasion. Perhaps I’ll have a better appreciation for my summer travels if i don’t care about how I look on the beach. Maybe I’ll enjoy a night out without fretting over how it will look to those who watch my snap-story/see my over-posed Instagram. Maybe I’ll even do better in my exams for wasting less time on selfies.
These are all hopes however. Vanity is so conditioned within us, it is difficult to abandon it. It may well be overly-optimistic to hope for zero self-consciousness on the beach. But at least I’ll know I’ve made the right decision by choosing the health of my body over how it looks.
I’ll end by apologising for how long and potentially self-indulgent this post has been. But it’s something that is dominating my lifestyle at the moment, and has highlighted the vanity that underlies all our lives. I thought perhaps it was worth drawing attention to. Maybe I was trying to imply some kind of inspirational message about how we all ought to just accept who we are, that there’s so little point in striving for a look that we will never achieve, that we can just be comfortable with the hand the world has dealt us, even if that be a wonky one. Take from it what you will.