Although I've always been praised for having a youthful glow and pretty face, I never believed I was worth looking at for longer than a fleeting glance. I've always struggled with my weight and made the association between being slimmer and being more successful - like the size of my knickers had a direct correlation to the success I deserved and the opportunities life threw at me. When I was a teenager I put on a lot of weight, ballooning to a size twenty at my biggest and not being able to fit into the school uniform available in the regulation shop; there's nothing more embarrasing at the age of 15 than having a different skirt to the 5000 other girls in your school because they simply don't go up to your size. However, a year or two later I turned things around and slimmed down to a size ten; I couldn't be happier. I suddenly became worth talking to, worth hanging out with, worth inviting to parties and more importantly worth chatting up in a nightclub; it's like the weight I was carrying was an invisibility cloak that instantly lifted as the pounds dropped away.
My latter teenage years were spent making up for lost time, hanging around with the popular crowd and going to clubs on a school night. However, my association between my value and my appearance always stuck, leading to the next ten years being led by binge diets and blowing my early paychecks on new clothes and hair products. In my opinion, if I didn't look good, feel slim and have shiny hair then I simply wasn't worth talking to. This pattern continued for the majority of my twenties, not helped by the fact I worked in the image-obsessed beauty industry surrounded by stunning women that were about the width of one of my thighs. I can remember bouncing around after I had a horrendous case of the flu, as I'd been unable to eat for a week and dropped a dress size as a consequence. The temporary high it provided made me feel on top of the world.
In retrospect I had no idea that I was so driven by the need for acceptance and magazine-standards of beauty. It's just the way it was. However, the closer I got to 30 the more I seemed to reduce the amount of importance I placed on how I looked. Yes, we all want to look pretty and feel confident with our external appearance, but the hierarchy of importance seemed to fade away gradually to leave me feeling much more accepting of myself - flaws and all. It's a cliche but true, your thirties bring with them a more rounded sense of self and a lack of focus on things that were previously important. In the last couple of years I've put on a fair bit of podge around my tummy and bum, but I don't worry about it in the way I used to. If my hair isn't perfect, my makeup not flawless, my under-eye circles not free from grey tinges and my skin golden, then I really don't mind - because what comes out of my mouth and is in my head is far more important.
It's hard to put into words, but over the last two years my attitude has almost done a 360. I still love clothes, I still love getting my hair done and I still have an unnatural passion for makeup, but in the bigger scheme of things I'm really not worried about what people think - because I'm much happier with who I am. I used to dwell on rejection from men and think it was because I wasn't pretty enough or my bum was too big, assume my working life wasn't going to plan because my hair wasn't long enough and presume I didn't get invited out to an event because I just wasn't cool enough; a few years on and I couldn't give a rat's arse and my previous attitude seems ridiculous. We all have down days, podge days and bad hair days, but being slightly older has enabled me to care less when it comes to the bigger picture; it's like a switch flicks the morning after your thirtieth birthday and you feel all the years before were spent worrying over nothing.
I'm an intelligent, opinionated and successful woman, but I've been dogged by so many self-deprecating thoughts over the years that it seems like I wasted away my youth. As a soon-to-be-32-year-old I feel like I've finally found my place in the world and I've never been happier. My arse may wobble, my stomach may stick out and there may be fine lines appearing around my eyes, but I've never felt more confident. I know who I am and I've not got time for anyone who criticises me or attempts to put me down. As a blogger who's probably ten years older than your average, I know I'm no Cara Delevigne and would squash Zoella if I sat on her, but I have a lot more to offer than a big smile and shiny hair. I'm proud of what I've achieved, I have a man who adores me and friends that are incredibly supportive, so worrying about being able to fit into a size ten pair of Topshop jeans seems so trivial in comparison. There's never been a better time to be in your thirties (and forties and fifties,) so I can only give one piece of advice to any teen or twenty-something that feels worthless because of the size of their waist: stop worrying. One day you'll wake up and realise that you're awesome just the way you are.