self-image

How to glow up, in 10 easy steps.

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The author at sixteen.

A unapologetically narcissistic but hopefully encouraging guide to being good looking (like me!).

(…okay, that was embarrassing. Moving on…)

1. Get a good (phone) camera. Preferably one with access to beauty filters, because there will be days when your skin, like you, is in a bad mood and just wants to self-destruct. On those days, remember, “Pics or it didn’t happen.” If the pics don’t show it, IT NEVER HAPPENED. Also, download and USE the SNOW App. All your oppas and unnies do.

2. Know your angles. Let’s face it, millennials: we all looked heinous as teenagers because we were all trying to look tortured and beautiful like the MySpace/Livejournal/DeviantART pictures. Newsflash: not everyone can look tortured and beautiful. Learn your actual angles. Work with them. There’s a reason why Mariah demands she only be photographed from a certain side. (See above comment about pics.)

3. Find a look that works for you. Contoured and snatched? Sultry and seemingly-effortless? Pastel and pa-cute? Blooming and barely-there? Au naturel and actually bare-faced? The important thing is to have a look and own it instead of copying whatever is popular or even what people say “looks good on you; you should look like that all the time!” If you don’t *feel* like looking like that all the time, even if you do your face the same way, you won’t get the same level of gorgeous because it doesn’t. Feel. Right. So find what does, and stick to it until you find something else that works better, then go with that no matter how many people comment with, “You looked better when…!”

4. If you choose to wear makeup (goes for guys too: why should only ladies have the option to banish blemishes and disguise dark circles? COSMETIC SORCERY SHOULD BE FOR ALL!), don’t sacrifice comfort for performance. Your makeup might be flawless, but if underneath you feel your skin is suffocating and threatening to break out IT WILL SHOW, BECAUSE YOU WILL NOT LOOK COMFORTABLE. Find brands that work *for* you, because as any beauty girl will tell you, when it comes to cosmetics, YMMV: your mileage may vary. Lots of products work for MOST people, but no product works for EVERYONE, so if it doesn’t work for you, DITCH IT, even if everyone else loves it. Also, skin-safety first. Skin-safety second. Skin-safety ALWAYS.

5. Be gentle with your skincare. Fight the urge to nuke your face into submission! PUT THAT ESKINOL AND DALACIN-C DOWN AND NO ONE (especially you) GETS HURT. Instead, invest in a low-PH cleanser, a hydrating toner, and a moisturizer that fits your skin type (because, as Derek Zoolander said, “Moisture is the essence of wetness, and wetness is the essence of beauty.”). Add more products only if you feel you need to or if you’re curious about what they can do. Not everyone HAS to have a double-digit-step skincare routine. My mum was getting carded in bars in her mid-thirties, and all she does is wash her face and smile a lot. Just like with people, the kinder you are to your skin, the better it behaves. Most of the time. Because sometimes your skin just wants to be a jerk. (In those cases, see item number one.)

6. Don’t let crushes crush you; let them inspire you. While you shouldn’t change how you look just to please someone you like, it does no harm to give in to the natural urge to preen a bit when someone special has your eye (or has their eyes on you). Instead of thinking, “They’re so (superlative); I’ll never be good enough for them,” let their beauty conduce to your good, as the philosophers would say. And if that doesn’t work, then get a new crush who will make you want to look and feel good about yourself! I personally feel like I’ve gotten better looking since I started stanning for Kim Seokjin, because his Worldwide Handsomeness inspires me to be my most handsome self every day. We all deserve a crush like that in our lives. We all deserve a Kim Seokjin. Except he’s mine. (I kid. Maybe.)

7. Have good friends. Scratch that, have GREAT friends. Have friends who call you pretty. Have friends who will take nice pictures of you. Have friends who will literally get so enraged (with matching verbal and/or threats of mild physical abuse) when you call yourself fat/ugly/not good enough that you will be traumatized into liking yourself. Hang out with these friends until calling yourself “ugly” just feels like you’re fishing for compliments. Surround yourself with people you trust and who you know truly bring out the best in you, inside and out. While you should never let anyone else define how you see yourself, just like it’s easier to work out/eat right if you have a buddy, it’s easier to have a healthy sense of self if you have good influences surrounding you. So find those good influences. And make sure you stan for them as hard as they stan for you. (Shoutout to my friends Kristin, Esther, Cam, and Devyn: Y’ALL ARE MY BIASES. I LOVE YOU. YOU MAKE ME FEEL LIKE THE HANDSOME GIRL I AM EVERY DAY.)

8. Stop being “humble.” Note the air quotes. We’re so used to practicing “humility” by not taking compliments, by minimizing our achievements, by belittling ourselves. Humility isn’t saying you suck when you don’t; it’s admitting you’re awesome but remembering all the effort and love it took to BECOME awesome, not from just yourself, but from the people who were there for you. Because, well, see item number seven. Are you going to diminish their hard work and sacrifice? If you can’t do it for yourself, then at the very least, you owe it to them to own how awesome you are!

9. Be your own biggest fan, even if you are (at first) your ONLY fan. Again, I go back to my bias, BTS’s Kim Seokjin. Dude goes around saying, “Hi, I’m Jin, and I’m worldwide handsome.” He does this EVERYWHERE: award shows, interviews, THE BAND’S PERSONAL TWITTER. His fellow members were (still are) downright EMBARRASSED when he kept doing it, but he continued anyway and now you can’t search “Worldwide Handsome” on Google without a bajillion Jin pictures coming up in the results. This just proves that if you stan for yourself, eventually the world will follow. And even if they don’t, so what? The important thing is you think you are awesome, and that inner happiness with who you are and how you look will eventually manifest on the outside. While it may take a lot of external tools to feel that way at first, ultimately the glow in “glow up” really does come from within. So snap that selfie, even if you won’t post it. And if you do, and it doesn’t get likes, don’t delete it! Admit that you actually think you’re good looking, AND WHO CARES WHAT PEOPLE THINK ABOUT THAT FACT? The vain and narcissistic don’t actually like themselves; they want the world to like them. You don’t even need the world! You like you, and that’s all that matters. #LOVEYOURSELF💖

10. Finally, help others “glow up” too. Just like how people tend to look better when bathed in the warmth of natural light, so you will look better surrounded by people who are “glowing” just like you! Be there for people. Encourage them. With your new-found profile photography skills, help them find their angles, or recommend the beauty filter apps that worked for you. Swap skincare tips, and compliment them when what they’re doing seems to be working. Like their IG posts. Stan their #ootds. Or heck, why stop at looks: tell them their art looks great or their music sounds nice or their spreadsheets are magical! Just let them know when they’re being awesome, and that they should be proud of themselves! You’ll find that when the people around you are glowing up, you’ll feel all that light reflecting back on you, and you’ll glow brighter too.

#StayRadiant, everybody. (Yes, I will shamelessly find ways to insert my brand somewhere.)

*goes back to Solfeggio practice*

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The author, currently.

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Nobody Likes You When You’re (Not) Taylor Swift

It’s the 1,000,000,000th time *those photos* (You know which I mean. You also know, after reading this post, just who I’m a fan of.) have popped up on my feed.

This morning, I was devastated.

Right now, I feel nothing.

Ladies and gentlemen, the “Internet’s Boyfriend” is dating the “Internet’s Most Famous (Ex-)Girlfriend”. It’s another day in what Demi Lovato (to drop another boldface name) once called “The La-La Land Machine.” We could read into this and talk about how it’s always the pretty and popular girls who win, or how the ethics of dating are nebulous, or how celebrity culture brings out the internalised patriarchal instincts in us, or whatever…but let’s be honest: whatever these two rich and famous people do with their lives will have absolutely nothing to say about ours. 

About mine.

I started disliking Taylor for a very elemental reason, and I’m not going to be be afraid to admit it, because if we’re going to talk about “shaming” here I think we shame girls too much for opening up about their demons. For even having demons. So here goes: I started disliking Taylor because I was (am!) jealous. She is everything I will never be: pretty and popular, well-loved and successful. She is impossibly long legs and skinny waist and hit songs on the radio that I will only ever cover (shameless plug!). She and her model-squad of curated gal-pals stand as stark contrast from me, a girl who is constantly counting her few friends on her fingers, bending over backwards wearing masks to keep them, and, after everything, never truly trusting if they’ll stay.

I hate(d) her because she makes me feel like all the worst parts of who I am: unpretty, unsuccessful, unlovable, unimportant. She was (is) the visual representation of all my insecurities, and that slight veneer of production that permeates her every move does not help things. In Ms. Swift’s own words, “She’s cheer captain and I’m on the bleachers.” 

(I wonder, when she was writing that line, if she ever saw herself as becoming that girl who wears high heels and short skirts while her fans wear the sneakers and t-shirts.)

On the flip side, I loved (past-tense; after the backlash, I’ve decided that being a rabid celebrity fangirl makes me too vulnerable) Tom Hiddleston for a very elemental reason: he seemed to be everything I wanted. Smart. Articulate. Funny. Gentlemanly. Cultured. I’m a reluctant romantic, but when I’m hit I’m helpless, and I was helpless to the scrunched-up laugh and modulated voice and almost-inhuman charm blended with a perfect awkwardness. 

(Funny how, now that I’m describing him, I realise how much of a male Taylor Swift Tom Hiddleston is. Hmm. Maybe they are perfect for each other.)

I loved him because he gave me hope in high ideals. He was (is?) a visual representation of all my, to drop another Swift lyric, “Wildest Dreams,” because obviously a “wild” Frankie envisions hand-holding and cups of tea (I am a terribly boring, grandmotherly millennial, and not in the twee Swifty way either.) and reading poetry aloud and awkward laughing and bad dancing. How can a girl who has never been in a relationship resist this almost-perfect fantasy, especially when, where she is, she feels terribly alone?

I hated (yes, past tense; I’m done caring) them together because, well, you can do the math, right? The issue was never Tom and Taylor themselves—I don’t know either of them well enough to actually care if they’re in love or not—but what they symbolised: the perfect boy getting scooped up by the perfect girl I’ll never be. 

When I first saw the news, flipped through the pictures, and felt that strange stab of pain twisting in my chest, I wondered at my reaction. I tried to justify it as just fangirl grief. But the truth is, the problem is less of my grasping, delusional, fangirl self (a self that often laughs at how crazy I am, like attempting to steal the cutout of Hiddleston from the Coriolanus showing) and more of my raw, broken, inner self. A self that doesn’t feel beautiful, no matter how many times I take to the mirror to try and “self-care.” A self that, even after three months of teaching her face to read “I’m fine,” still feels the familiar burning behind her eyes when she holds back tears she promised not to cry at work, staring at the people she thought forgave her mistakes still snub her. 

A self that constantly feels she will never be good enough. 

Maybe—probably; I know I’m being a bad feminist—I am wrong about caring so much (though, in my defence, I never called out Ms. Swift’s boyfriend record or so-called “serial dating”). The truth is, though, caring about Tom and Taylor hurt a sight less than ripping myself open like this, examining the why and wondering if it ever gets better.

Does it ever get better? I hope so, but honestly? I don’t know. All I know is, you girls in the sneakers and t-shirts, if your reasons are, deep down, the same as mine, know you’re not alone, and that I don’t judge you for the violence of your reactions, or the fear that you’re trying to push down with every all-caps reiteration of old gossip. We will never be the girls brave enough to flirt and dance, to flutter and glitter and shine. But the world needs us just as much as it needs Taylor Swift. 

I don’t know how not to hate myself. Not yet. But one day, I’ll learn. One day, I’ll look at my body and I won’t see Taylor’s ghost. One day, I’ll bump into real love and forget Tom Hiddleston ever existed. Or that will never happen but I won’t care because I will have been able to let go of all these unreasonable expectations, and just be me.

Maybe instead of tearing each other apart, we can actually build each other up. Heaven knows, I need a hand to hold, and I’m not afraid to hold someone else’s. Maybe if we can just tell each other it doesn’t matter if we’re not the perfect girl—say it loud and enough times—we can drown out the demons that make this madness possible. Maybe.

Anyway, at the end of the day, just know that Tom and Taylor being with each other says nothing about you or your life or your prospects.  There’s no reason to cry.  You can leave them alone.  You’ll be okay.

~aRT~