My project Pretty Honest, is a book created about young women, students in particular, and their relationship with their bodies. Ashley shares her challenges with cultural influences, family, and ever present social media culture. The book includes a variety of different perspectives; some people had become comfortable in their own skin and others are very much still on their journey.
This is Ashley’s Story:
My self-confidence depends on how I’m feeling, what I’m wearing and whether I’m wearing makeup or not. I’m developing a more positive relationship with my body now compared to my teenage years. I do find that I’m still trying to work on the things I’m not happy with, but I am improving my mind set and becoming more positive so I can embrace who I am.
When I was younger, my priorities were trying to fit in with other people, whether that be with trends or just trying to be like someone else, whereas now I don’t care and if I want to wear something then I’ll wear it.
Typically, in my culture women who have my skin colour are not deemed the prettiest. In India, the fairer you’re skin colour is, the prettier you are and the better chances you have of getting married and being successful. My parents never put that pressure on me, but my extended family (for example my grandparents), would always make me feel like there was something wrong with my skin.
One time I came back off holiday from somewhere sunny and my Grandma said ‘Oh you’ve gone a lot darker, you should stay in the shade’. I always brushed these comments off because my parents weren’t like that but because I heard it from other family members, it does stick with me.
For years, especially as a teenager, I used to try and find ways to lighten my skin to try and look fairer than I am. I think as I’ve gotten older it’s become something that doesn’t bother me anymore because it was a problem someone else had with my skin, not me.
Social media has definitely affected how I look at myself because it’s another way of comparing yourself to others.
I saw an outfit on someone the other day and knew I could put that together with clothes I already owned but I just told myself it would look a lot better if I was skinnier and didn’t bother trying it on.
There are positive sides to social media though, there’s a lot more diversity in terms of female bodies when it comes to influencers which is nice to see.
I’m a lot happier with myself compared to when I was a teenager. There are still things I want to work on, but in a more positive way. It’s healthy to want to better your self and that’s something I’ve learned with age.