Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Outfit Post: Let's Talk About Confidence

London fashion blogger Reena Rai shot in Shoreditch

A quick scroll of my blog and social media channels may show you a happy, confident woman. Someone vibrant, who is out a lot, perhaps has one too many pairs of shoes and seems pretty outgoing. That's not far from the truth. On the whole, I'm pretty content with my lot. I have a great life that I've worked hard to create and I'm fairly confident in myself. But my self-assuredness has definitely been earnt after years of lacking confidence and anxiety. I'm proud of myself for overcoming hurdles to accept and embrace who I am. I truly believe that this is one of life's hardest lessons, especially for women, and it is only becoming harder with social media, Facetune, filters and photoshop. 

For me, confidence is a funny thing. Often it comes down to how you physically look (or feel you look) rather than accomplishments or achievements. I would much rather be judged for my career or work than how I look but that is the way society operates. I am the first person to put my hand up and admit that I'm fairly blessed when it comes to looks - my features and build are broadly in-line with what society deems as "attractive". I can see and acknowledge my privilege in this respect but it doesn't mean I haven't spent years uncomfortable with how I look. 

In my younger years, I was painfully thin. I ate. I still feel like I have to jump to my defense and tell you I ate, most people made jokes that I didn't. During my teenage years, I was just tall and skinny with a super fast metabolism. It marked me out and people would always ask if I ate, whether I was anorexic or worse. I hated how I looked and hid away in baggy clothes - I practically lived in my three-stripe Adidas tracksuit. Add to this awful 90s glasses, braces and a mane of frizzy hair.  I managed to hit every single "awkward phase" stereotype. 

London fashion blogger Reena Rai wearing a pink Topshop suit

Nothing lasts forever though. Eventually, the braces came off and I discovered contact lenses. I chopped all of my hair off and started straightening it. By the time I was heading to A-Levels, I had started to blossom and for the first time in a long time, I started feeling comfortable and even confident. 

For women, I think confidence is something that fluctuates daily. There are so many contributing factors. The media, and increasingly social media, plays a huge role in how I feel about myself. The media loves to pit women against each other, just look at all of the "who wore it best?" articles or cast your mind back to YEARS of the media pitting Jennifer Aniston against Angelina Jolie. This mentality is so ingrained into our collective mindset and it's so toxic. 

I used to scroll through my feed and see a bunch of beautiful women who looked incredible. Rather than being happy for them and celebrating their beauty, I felt like it highlighted my own lack of beauty. I'd see a beautiful curly hair that I wish I had or someone with fuller lips or a more defined, feminine jawline. The worst was if I saw someone with a gorgeous hourglass figure which only highlighted how boyish my own figure is.

It's so easy to get sucked into a negative cycle of thought. But something I realised is that another women's beauty does not mean the absence of your own. We are all beautiful. It took me a while to understand it's human nature to want the opposite of what you have; if you have brown eyes you'll want blue ones, if you have dark hair you'll want blonde hair and so on. It also took me a while to realise that I am who I am. I was created like this. Try as I might, I will never have blue eyes or ringlet curls or an ass that just won't quit. And that is ok, because I have lovely brown eyes, naturally thick hair and a slender frame. These are all things that make me me and unlike anyone else on the planet. Isn't that something to be celebrated? 

Now when I scroll through my social feeds, I'll double tap a beautiful woman or tweet her. I feel happy for her and confident in myself. It's so easy to slip into old habits but I've slowly trained my mind to see myself in a positive light. Having self-confidence is a beautiful thing and because I'm comfortable in myself, I feel like I need less validation from others. As long as I'm happy, who cares what anyone else thinks? There are so many much more important things to be thinking about than that. 

London fashion blogger Reena Rai wearing a pink Topshop suit

I'm conscious that I've dedicated so much of this post on physical confidence. I guess this is the easiest way to unpick confidence. When you start taking into account how a person actually feels in relation to family, friends, past experiences and work, things get a little complicated. Confidence stems from different sources and fluctuates daily. While I'm confident in many areas of my life, blogging is where I still come unstuck.

As a "Blogging Elder", I was an early adopter of blogging and social media and I've seen the landscape change so much. It started out as the antithesis of glossy editorials in magazines but over time has evolved into the thing it was a rebellion against. I came from an era where you didn't have to put yourself out there to a new world where you have to be front and centre, laid bare in your writing and looking perfect in front of the lens. 

I spent a lot of time feeling unhappy with my content and I lacked the confidence to get in front of the camera. I ummed and ahhed about working with a proper photographer. Then I had a fortunate stroke of serendipity and started working with an old friend and photographer, Adorn Girl. From our first shoot over 6 months ago, we just clicked and our images have gone from strength to strength and with that my confidence in blogging has soared. We work so collaboratively on the looks we shoot and where we shoot them; I'm happy having my picture taken and it shows. My images inspire what I write and to write better.

Pink Topshop suit worn by fashion blogger Reena Rai

And the best thing about Ashanti is she keeps pushing me to be more creative. She has convinced me to dip my toe into YouTube with a little lookbook video. I was so blown away by how great it looks that this is now going to be a regular feature - it's such a fun way to bring my personality and clothing to life. I hope you enjoy this little video, if you do please subscribe to my channel! 

Suit jacket - Topshop
Suit trousers - TopshopBralet - Oysho
Sneakers - Vans

Photography and videography by
Adorn Girl

Pink and white Vans worn by fashion blogger Reena Rai
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