In a world where there is a crazy amount of pressure on women to look a certain way, to be super glam at all times, to be skinny, to be completely hairless, to have thigh gaps and a flawless complexion, and a million other crazy, unrealistic expectations, I challenge you to defy them and love your body as it is.

When I was in my early teens, like most people, I followed whatever the latest “trend” was and I was certainly influenced by other people, the media and the pressure of keeping up with dominant, yet sometimes silly or unrealistic ideas of beauty. I wasted most of my evenings clogging my pores with fake tan and my mornings spending hours straightening my already straight hair. I became somewhat obsessed with plucking and shaving and removing hair from all kinds of places where hairs were barely even visible and I mastered the art of drowning my fresh young skin in unnecessary make up.

When I think about this now, I can’t comprehend it. I wish I could go back in time and ask my younger self what was the exact reason behind doing these things? Was it to follow a trend? Was it because this was what most of my generation did and I just went along with it? Was it because I thought it looked good or because I was insecure about my natural appearance? Or was it a mixture of all of these things? Unfortunately, I’ll never truly know. Unless time travel becomes a thing..

Now that I’m into my twenties, I am completely comfortable in my own skin (shortness, stretch marks, flat hair and all). I choose to go makeup free most days of the week, generally only applying a facial moisturiser and pencilling my brows in slightly, because I want to, not for anybody else. I don’t waste hours of my time each day trying to change the tone of my skin or the texture of my hair, because I have accepted that they are how they were naturally meant to be. I don’t aspire to have a thigh gap or be the “in” size, I aspire to be healthy and strong and confident in my own skin. I choose not to conform to anybody else’s expectations or ideas about how my body or appearance should be. I choose to appear how I want to, when I want to and I do it entirely for me.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t do any of these things (applying make up, following beauty trends or whatever else you do) if they make you happy, it is your choice after all. But what I am saying is that you should consider the reasons why you do these things. Ask yourself whether you are really doing it for you? And if you are then fine, because you should do what makes YOU happy. But if it is because of external factors; for somebody else, purely to keep up with trends which will always come and go, or to conform to somebody else’s ideas or expectations of beauty, then I challenge you to make a change and love yourself and your own natural appearance.

Why should we change who we naturally are? Because we are continuously told what beauty is through the media and various beauty industries? Because from a young age, we buy into somebody else’s ideas of beauty and are convinced that materialistic things will help us to achieve the appearances that others desire? No amount or type of product will ever truly change us. Of course they can provide a temporary fix, a cover up or a way to express ourselves, for a short period of time (which in itself can be an excellent thing by providing a confidence boost etc.!) but this should be an addition or an enhancement, it shouldn’t prevent us from accepting and loving our natural selves.

Take a moment to get every dictated idea of beauty that you have ever come across out of your head (difficult I know, we are surrounded by them all day everyday!) and just consider your own opinion. What do you think is truly beautiful? What is beauty to you?

Rather than focusing on materialistic ways of changing your appearance, or conforming to somebody else’s idea of beauty, why not put your time and effort into something much more meaningful? Why not try to be the healthiest, strongest, most confident version of you in your own skin? Because ultimately, that is the only beauty that cannot be taken, removed or wiped off at the end of the day. And to me, that is true beauty.

Embrace your natural self and love your body. After all, it is the only one that you will ever have.

Speaking of defying expectations and loving your body, you might also like this post about breaking gender identity expectations and the Girl Boss phenomenon.

Being body confident on the beach in Albufeira, Portugal.

What does beauty mean to you?

What are your top tips for loving your natural self and being body confident?