How Paris Made Me Love Myself
Before I start, I'm not going to lie to you, there are days when Paris is high stress. Everyone seems to be immaculately groomed, with such put together outfits, shiny hair and manicured nails. Parisian girls are beautiful and ooze confidence. Paris is fashion capital of the world. French women are known as lovers and for their 'sex appeal' and 'je ne sais quoi'. It's a lot of pressure.
Yet, I feel way less pressure appearance wise here than I do back in the UK, which is odd, and I'm only just now figuring out why. Things started subtly enough at first, I stopped tweezing my brows weekly, stopped wearing lipstick and eyeliner, then I stopped having my nails painted red 24/7, for the first time in years my nails have been allowed to breathe. Most shockingly of all, I gave up my comfort blanket of wearing foundation and concealer daily, I genuinely cannot tell you the last time I wore a full face of make up and my skin is thriving off of it. Then I realised that I didn't freak out so much when my skin flares up (I still get self conscious about it) but I didn't cry, or think everyone is staring at my awful, awful skin, I didn't feel the need to cake on my foundation until my skin was covered within an inch of it's life. There was something liberating in showcasing my acne covered, no make up skin, it was just me, I wasn't hiding. I hadn't realised how much I depended on make up. That isn't to say you shouldn't whip out the foundation when you get a flare up, just that for me, I hadn't realised how much I was hiding behind it and how much it affected me emotionally. I am definitely not the best at make up, and when I was trying to cover up my red, spotty skin and my foundation would go patchy and caky, I felt like I didn't even want to go outside. I couldn't even hide my insecurities with make up because it looked just as bad.
It is such a relief not worrying about if my make up will go on well or not, and not having that impact the rest of my day. I was given a book for my 16th Birthday (which was, naturally, celebrated with a trip to Paris) by a friend, 'How to be Parisian' and in it was written that "a Parisian would never wear make up on a first date". At the time I was horrified, I couldn't imagine going to the supermarket without make up on, let alone on a date, but now it doesn't seem so crazy. If they ask for a second date after seeing me without make up I must be doing something right, and it also reminds me that personality is far far more important. Something I've realised living over here, is that Parisian women don't strive for perfection, they believe they already have it, they embrace their flaws. They don't lose sleep over a bump in their nose, their crooked teeth or bent finger, they are aware of them, but they never obsess. This philosophy of 'au natural' being best, and embracing yourself gives me the confidence and the knowledge to love my body how it is, to know that hiding my flaws and trying to look like a person I am never going to be only makes me less of a woman.
It helps, that heavy make up isn't really 'done' and so there isn't that feeling of inadequacy when you're barefaced on the metro looking across at a girl with perfectly contoured cheekbones, defined eyebrows and bold eyeshadow. Not because it's the status quo to go 'au natural' per se but because you are pushed to embrace your own body for how it is, not to conform to Hollywood's impossible standards.
French children are taught from a young age how to be healthy. They know what health is. A typical lunch at a French school has four courses: starter, main with vegetable side dish, dairy and dessert, alongside a baguette and water. For example, they will eat, a piemontaise salad, omelette and spinach, comté and an orange for desert. They learn how to eat well and keep fit, and they learn it from a very young age. I was never the healthiest eater, I'd either eat nothing or lots of processed food. Now I am aware of what's going into my body and I know that I eat well, which has stopped me obsessing over my body and being hyper critical over the way I look. Even if I am not a size 8, I know that I am healthy, and that is all I need.
There are billboards with girls in bikinis with cellulite and not photoshopped, there are women embracing their grey hairs, there are more girls with bare faces and bare nails than I've ever seen before and it is incredible to see. I enjoy putting make up on now instead of relying on it, I enjoy putting together outfits and being 'casual' instead of obsessing over the latest fads. It is all because of Paris, and how Paris has taught me to love myself as I am.
Could it have happened if I hadn't moved to Paris? Of course. However, here it is not laudable or unusual or inspirational to love and be comfortable in your own body, it is normal. However many articles I read on the '10 ways to love the real you', they made no impact, it is not until you live and breathe alongside women who celebrate their own bodies and the bodies of each other that you really understand it.