Growing up in the house I did, raised by a bra burning, anti-leg shaving feminist of the 80s who never wore makeup and never for a second suggested that beauty was something seen in the mirror, I was taught that beauty was a concept to be felt.
To be beautiful was to be kind, empathetic, passionate and to stand up for what is right. The most beautiful thing in our household was the way we loved and cared for each other and the most beautiful thing we could do as individuals, was to carry this love and care out to the wider world.
While I was incredibly lucky to grow up with this kind of internal beauty held at the highest value, I was also left naïve to the importance that physical beauty held for a dominant part of our society. So when it was thrust at me as what felt like the number one goal for girls in adolescence, I was unprepared.
As a teenager, in realising that the value of ones worth could be so heavily weighted in the presence or absence of this new kind of beauty, that I was coming to understand as a certain dress size and breast size – and where I lived in Cronulla, it also seemed to lie in a certain hair and eye colour too – I was terrified to a point where I hid from it.
I tried to follow in Mum’s footsteps, not wearing makeup and refusing to shave my legs, not because this was what felt most natural to me in my body, but because doing the opposite of what my high school peers were telling me I had to do, felt the best possible way to avoid being brought up in those ‘who’s the prettiest’ conversations and to dodge the answer to the question I dreaded most: am I beautiful?
As I grew older, while the haze of hormones faded and so did some of my discomforts and worries, that unanswered question continued to follow me around. Even when I finally succumbed to those norms of makeup and other attempts to ‘beautify’ myself, I didn’t feel beautiful and wasn’t sure I ever would.
But then I found my voice. Whether it be by chance or the powers that be, I fell into view of the right people and was given the support and a chance to express myself and be heard.
It was there, in the spaces where I got to share what mattered to me and spread the stories of the people who inspire me and have made me who I am, that I found self-love and felt truly beautiful for the first time.
Why? Because I came to understand my worth and the fact that my mere existence was what my ancestors had dreamed of. I realised my beauty lie in the thousands of generations of resilience that run through my veins and across my skin – and suddenly I started to see that beauty in my reflection.
What is a more beautiful part of human existence than to be the product of the hope, love and sacrifice made by those before you? My body and its beauty is the keeper of not only my story, but my ancestors, so I treat it with the care it deserves and hope one day for it to be carried forward to the next, even more beautiful generation.