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April 24, 2019

The Journey to Beautiful

The Struggle

I have the metabolism many people envy. Cakes, chips, pies? No problem! It’s just never been possible for me to gain weight. But despite the praise for my eating abilities, I have never thought of myself as ‘lucky’, as people might imagine. I was suffering from the misery of body dissatisfaction in other ways, I was secretly ashamed of my body hair.

It started in my early teens. The childhood days of living in natural care-free expression were over and had not long been replaced by a new-found awkwardness. This turning point resembled a tragic marking of a modern day ‘coming of age’. I washed up on the shores of criticism and judgement, joining the world in the search for perfection, and there was nothing more imperfect than myself.

The new world was fearful and seemed hostile towards difference. Here I felt starkly concerned by the thoughts and opinions of others, and what these thoughts and opinions might be of me! So, I eagerly joined the crowd, wanting nothing more than to blend in and be accepted. Luckily help was at hand, and the main stream media kindly displayed a variety of advertising techniques to guide and support me along the way. One day, an understanding began to arise. Somewhere, from deep within a sea of accumulated sensory influences. ‘As a woman, your body hair is unfeminine and unattractive, and here are the ways you may rid yourself of your hairy affliction’! I was struck by horror. What then was young and impressionable girl to do? Everything possible, to avoid the fear of ridicule and disgust. So, I borrowed my dad’s razor and set to work.

Now, my hair being quite thick and black also grew incredibly fast, making hair removal a continuous process. The reality of shaving wasn’t the promise of smooth hairless skin I’d seen on the telly, but having to put up with days of prickly uncomfortable stubble and irritating skin rashes. As I grew older, societies pressures only strengthened my insecurities, until I eventually developed a difficult emotional complex. Shame had turned intimacy into my greatest fear and rather than face revealing the extent of my body hair to anyone, I denied myself the relationships that I longed for. I lived with this anxiety for over a decade, always looking to release this pain in the next breakthrough product, but as my hair held fast, my hopes slowly faded.

This was the struggle. The pursuit to grasp an unattainable dream had only caused my desires to intensify, and the longer it went on, the more frustration and unhappiness I turned in on myself. But one day, I did find an end to my suffering. Not on the shelf of the beauty isle I had spent decades in searching. But I stumbled upon it, in a place I was never told to look.

Acceptance

Some years ago, I became interested in a philosophy I had heard in many great literatures. This was about the cultivation of universal love, encompassing everything and everyone. I was touched by these teachings and became inspired to try and find this ‘unity’ for myself. Perhaps it seemed like a tall order, but I thought it was worthwhile. Even if I made only a few steps towards this, then it would still be of great benefit to me and those around me. During my quest, I came across an idea of acceptance that said, ‘to accept others for who they are, we must first learn to accept ourselves for who we are’. I was shocked. On hearing this message, simple and yet so profound, I suddenly recognised the intense criticisms that I had held towards my own self over the years. In a culmination of remorse, relief and in my goal to experience unity, I decided to try and accept a part of me that had caused much hurt in my life. With great difficulty, I decided to stop shaving and put every effort into accepting my body exactly the way it was.

It’s been almost 3 years, and I have never looked back. Embracing my body hair has not been an easy journey but one that I have continued to believe in. I have used the simple method of cultivating thanks and gratitude to help transform my thinking from the habitual patterns of disappointment and annoyance. By ‘changing my mind’, I have learnt to truly appreciate my body for all that it endlessly gives, and now the struggle is over. Each day by contemplating the beauty and magnificence of the body’s workings my mind has rested in a state of more harmony and happiness then I ever thought possible.

The Rising

In my journey to acceptance, I have questioned the ‘why’ behind our prevalent culture of shaved skin. I have scrutinised why body hair, something so natural has become so vilified, while beauty images photoshopped to perfection are now the new norm. In reflecting this point, I failed to find any sense in branding body hair as wrong or to find the logic behind it. When this happened, the fear of judgement lost its power. I was no longer afraid of an opinion that didn’t hold any truth.

I have tried to capture an essence of the mental and emotional suffering that body shame had created in my life for over a decade. Sadly, the obsession of hair removal is a global affliction, which has spread to all corners of the world where the beauty industry and media serve to exist. By actively creating the insecurities upon which it profits and thrives, this multi-billion-dollar business has crept into the private lives of us all, serving nothing but to create a continuing disservice to womankind. I am waging a war on the beauty industry, to end the untold damage and to restore the true beauty, one that lives within us all.

Photo: Lauren Fleischmann

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