For years, I struggled with the idea of my own existence. I didn’t want to be alive and didn’t think I should exist. I preferred to be invisible and part of that meant to never wear anything too nice. I admired women that looked fashionable from a distance, whether they were wearing make-up, trousers, skirts, dresses and/or heels. They seemed so confident and at peace with who they were. I wasn’t anything like that, though deep down inside, I felt like I, at the very least, wanted to try.
I spend my entire primary school life playing with boys and during secondary school, my friends were also considered more boyish, less fashionable and a little weird. I missed out on the teenagers-want-to-start-looking-sexy-phrase even though my friends didn’t and I just had no idea other than knowing I wanted to be more like those confident-looking women. But by the time I finally started trying new things out, I very soon got discouraged as I didn’t have the confidence to pull it off.
I remember showing up to my internship with a handbag one day, and my boss said, “that’s so unlike you,” in a way that made it sound to me as if it was a bad thing and I should stick to being who I was. (My internship and boss was lovely though!) When I posted a picture of myself on a Christmas market on which I wore red nail polish, my mum’s husband commented saying that “he couldn’t believe what he saw” and when I was at home and asked Mum for some make-up advice he was practically shaking his head in disbelief that I developed an interest in such a senseless thing.
When I attended football training (only to watch during an injury) and came straight out of town in my daily clothes, which was a skirt at the time (no heels, no make-up, wearing just a shirt and a necklace), my trainer paused for a second and was like, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you out of football clothes before,” then mumbled a few things more as she seemed to try and come to terms with this revelation and said, “good on you for making an effort.”
When I came to a cafe to write with two of my friends and wore a skirt with winter tights instead of trousers one of them commented saying, “why would you wear a skirt?” in a very judgy sounding way. This same ‘friend’ said something similar when I showed up in a normal (not especially sexy!) skirt for a movie night and thought it was unbelievable I found tights more comfortable than trousers.
Reading over this, I guess it wasn’t that strange that I felt insecure about dressing up nicely considering the feedback I got wasn’t very encouraging. If I dressed up nicely, the first response seemed to be rejection or judgement. Dressing up nicely either meant that I was, in their eyes, trying to be someone I was not or that I was trying to show off. But all these responses is either a testament to how not feminine I used to be before I ‘changed’ (prob true lol) and/or to how much people like to push others into boxes (prob also true).
I felt paranoid about changing. If I changed everyone would notice and say something about it. I didn’t want attention; I liked to be invisible. I wanted to be normal and fit in but I felt anything but normal; I had no idea how to act. Once I dissociated (wrote about dissociation a bit more here) when I was thirteen, it was as if I had to manually tell myself to do anything. It felt like I’d forgotten how to be a human being and I didn’t have any emotions. Friends hugging friends, teens enjoying parties, laughing when someone made a joke, it all seemed alien to me.
For years I pretended and played along. I turned myself into a perfect mould. I never made a noise or complained. I was always on time and had fine grades. I disappeared in the crowd when I was unwanted and appeared as soon as someone needed me. I observed and listened but didn’t participate. I was some sort of shadow.
If you’re invisible, you don’t have to interact unless it is safe. You can’t do anything wrong because you’re not doing anything. No one can judge you because there is nothing to be judged. No one could say I didn’t deserve to exist because I had already concluded that I didn’t. And so the deeper problem, truly was that I didn’t think I deserved to exist.
Dressing up nicely then would make me visible. Wearing heels, as you might have already read, terrified me. I was terrified of making a noise and turning heads because of making that noise. I guess I kind of felt as if I’d be noticed in the way that people notice the sirens of an ambulance. And wearing anything like a skirt or a dress felt the same way to me. In a way, this comes down to thinking I didn’t deserve that spot in the world. I didn’t deserve to have anyone turn their head at me. In fact, I didn’t think I deserved to receive a single compliment from a friend.
Over the last one and a half year, but this year especially, I started to learn and recognise that I am allowed to exist. For years, my dad told me that I should look at myself in the mirror and tell myself that I love me every day. I suppose it is no surprise I never did this. Instead, my self-acceptance started during my training with Miss Lois. And rather than looking at myself in the mirror, she made me take pictures of myself (with consent, of course).
At first, taking pictures was just a thing I was told to do. It became a part of serving Miss Lois as she was trying to teach me how to be more feminine and confident. The first time we had a photo session, I had no idea how to pose and she showed me pictures of how-to. During the entire session, I was thinking, ‘This is exhausting… I’m not good at this!’ I sent them to her, thinking I didn’t have to look at them but she sent them back one by one, asking me how I felt about them. I could barely look. I felt so embarrassed until this one that made me pause. Suddenly, I saw something I hadn’t seen before. I saw someone feminine. Nice legs. Nice figure. I was amazed. That was me?
(I had a thumb injury due to basketball, hence the thing on my hand.)
The picture didn’t show my face as I’d taken it without. It’s why I was able to like it in the first place. Miss Lois wasn’t worried about my insecurity or inability to pose or dress up nicely. She said I’d simply never had anyone to teach me. Anything can be learned. This was the start of my slave journey.
She taught me that this was part of being a slave and that learning it would increase my value as one. This made it easier for me as it didn’t feel like it was directly for me. Since I didn’t think I deserved anything, I needed a different kind of focus.
We had many, many photo sessions under loads of different circumstances (and I am not talking about the pictures that are accompanying the posts now. I am talking about a whole other array of pictures in which I am trying to pose, attempting to smile and look attractive, or something, lol. “Twist your hip a little more. Head straight up,” – “More of a dynamic shape in your body,” – “You have a sexy body, show it!” Miss Lois said (post about this here). At random, she’d sometimes show me a picture of me and ask me how I felt. She made me a Fetlife profile and curated which pictures would go up (with permission, of course) and told me when I was getting likes or comments. Slowly, these pictures started revealing my own beauty to me.
In order to accept compliments (about which I wrote here), I also needed some detour thinking. She told me that a compliment to me was a compliment to her, which made her happy and the thing I wanted most was to make her happy. Slowly I started being able to accept compliments and eventually I started feeling happy too and accepted them for me.
Inside the walls of my bedroom and while talking to Miss Lois, I felt more and more okay with myself. Still, I didn’t dare to take this outside and eventually, Miss Lois started giving me tasks to do so or, even ‘forcing me’. The first such task was when she told me to wear a thong (I’d never worn that in my life!) and a skirt outside for a day (wrote about that here). For the ‘forcing me,’ the best example is when she gave me the choice to either wear heels for a day or stones in my shoes until I would wear the heels for a day (wrote about this here). It didn’t stop with the heels. There were a lot of outfits I felt afraid to wear, which she eventually pushed me to wear. The more I wore them, the more normal it became. Some things I instantly liked and some had to grow on me for quite a long time and by ‘forced’ outings.
I recently wrote a post that is supposed to be up soon-ish, in which in one instance, Miss Lois replied the following to my worries when she told me I was to wear a skirt with a normal shirt and high heels. “Sounds like a really hard day for you then, walking around anxious that someone might find your heels and completely opaque tights offensive,” she said.
She told me it made her laugh- these kinds of worries. And yet, she was patient. The time it was going to take didn’t matter and the hurdles it was going to take didn’t matter either. She knew I was able to do it and all I had to do was start believing too.
She made me look at myself and find the beauty that had always been there. She tried to help me believe that I have a purpose and a reason to exist and the right to be here. And I believe that now that I enjoy wearing heels and skirts and dresses – and can choose what I want to wear, rather than have fear choose for me, is a testament to what has been accomplished.
While I am still working on feeling confident enough to wear make-up or to wear longer, fancier skirts and higher, fancier heels, I don’t need someone to ‘force’ me to go out and look good anymore. I want to do these things because it feels like me – it’s a part of who I am and always wanted to be. I have learned that I can have emotions and opinions and that the world won’t end because of it. I can wear dresses and heels and the day will continue as normal. The only difference it makes is that I am living a happier life. I am living my truth. I exist and the world can know that I exist.
I got a new pair of heels the other day that I was so excited about that I shared it with a friend. She didn’t like the colour as much but it didn’t bother me. I said something like how I should have chosen a different profession and she asked if this was so that I could afford fashion, to which I said yes. “Who ARE you? lmao,” she said and it didn’t touch me at all (though she of course, also didn’t mean this negatively but past me would have felt insecure reading it.)
I have learned that I don’t need other people’s validation to feel confident and good about myself. I have changed and I have learned that the world will adjust to me just fine. So now, hearing the sound of my heels makes me feel confident and sometimes a little proud. I feel happy when I open my wardrobe, pull out those bright yellow trousers and look at myself in the mirror. I’m happy. I am happy that I exist.
Inspired by SB4MH week 49’s prompt Personal Growth (though I didn’t take the prompt of looking back at the writing I’d done for SB4MH very literally)