Hi everyone, Renee here from Love, Renee Hannah! I wanted to share a very personal post with you, in hopes that it may help some of you think a little differently about yourselves and others.
I started my blog back in August of 2016. I had (and still have) big aspirations of becoming a fashion blogger full-time. I want this because fashion is a huge part of my life. But, real talk: I see myself and my body very negatively. Surprising from someone who shares photos of themselves every day, right?
It’s true. I don’t like what I see in the mirror. I’m a style blogger, and I weigh 158 pounds. I have stretch marks, scars, cellulite on my thighs, and tiny spider veins on the backs of my knees. When I try to talk to people about these feelings, I usually get the “but you look fine!” response, or “I mean, you could probably lose a little weight, did you think about toning up?” But, neither of these is okay!
More often than not, I compare my body to other women (something I know we are all guilty of). You know the ones: tall, gorgeous, no bigger than a size 2- and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. I was jealous of these women, who seemed to be born with everything I didn’t have. I always hear people complain about style bloggers or models not being “real sizes” or “real women” and let me tell you, that makes me angry. They are real women; real women come in every shape and size. They are beautiful human beings with feelings, hopes, and dreams, and yes, even insecurities. I know there’s a stigma that surrounds these women that they must not have insecurities, but everyone has them; everyone is a little insecure about something, and there’s nothing wrong with this. Too often, we find ourselves comparing our bodies, our faces, and our lives to others. For me, all that ends up doing is making me feel bad.
However, I’m finally getting to a place where I’m learning to accept my body, while still making healthy changes after many years of abusing it by not exercising and eating poorly. It wasn’t always this way. In elementary school and middle school, I was average. I was no bigger and no smaller than the other girls in my classes, and size wasn’t something I really noticed back then. I was pretty fit in high school; I ran cross country and track, running 8 miles a day, 5 days a week. We had meets once a week and pasta parties the night before to fuel up with carbs. I think it’s partially why I don’t enjoy pasta much anymore!
When I was in college, I hit my heaviest weight of 175. I was so embarrassed, so miserable with the way I looked and felt, and severely depressed. Even my complexion was horrible from all of the terrible food I was eating. I had stopped running too; I was so stressed all the time and never exercised. I was way overweight for my 5’3” frame. Yes, you read that correctly. I still clearly remember the day I stepped on my doctor’s scale, feeling completely hopeless and ashamed. My weight has always fluctuated, but I’d never come close to this heavy before. I was more upset with myself for letting this happen. I knew I was eating poorly, I knew I needed to work out, and I knew my clothes were getting smaller and smaller. Still, I did nothing. Seeing that number just made me feel worse about myself, like I was worth less because I weighed more.
It’s extremely frustrating when you don’t feel confident in yourself. It’s been a long journey, and it’s a journey that will continue for quite some time, but I am learning slowly how to love myself. I adore fashion; it makes me happy finding that perfect dress that highlights all of my assets, or the shirt that looks flattering directly off the rack, without any additional tailoring needed. I have followed fashion bloggers on social media for years, and it always saddened me that they all seemed to be gorgeous, rich, and the same size (teeny tiny!) No one was my size, and there were not many plus sized bloggers either at the time. I was always worried if I was too big to be a fashion blogger, not pretty enough, or not having enough money to always be buying these expensive items and jet-setting all over the world.
I dreamed of the fabulous life, and I still do. But in reality, I know I don’t have the means currently to do that, and neither do most of the women that follow these accounts.
Finally, that mindset seems to be changing. We are all beautiful in our own shapes and sizes, and I am trying to learn that for myself. I want to look at myself less critically in the mirror. I want to be able to say “this dress looks gorgeous on me” instead of “this dress would look way better if I was ten pounds lighter.” I know that I am not the only woman who feels this way, or struggles with accepting themselves. There is also a new wave of influencers out there who cater to women on a budget; how to shop and travel without spending a fortune. We’re not perfect looking, and most of the women you see behind these blogs are not always confident in themselves either. It’s easy to fool people online, to make it seem like life is easy and perfect. It’s not, and that’s something I am coming to terms with.
So I chose to start my own blog. I wanted to share beautiful outfits that you can wear every day. I wanted to show other women how they can learn to feel more confident in their own skin using an impeccable wardrobe as an outlet. How the right pair of shoes can change your entire attitude because let’s face it, rocking those killer heels is a huge confidence booster! But ultimately, my goal is to teach other women how to completely love themselves, with or without clothing. I have a very hard time with myself in photos, especially when they are taken by other people. I am not confident in front of a camera. I prefer selfies, because I can control the photo. But when others take it, I have less control. I see myself the way others see me, flaws and all. Slowly, I am learning to see myself the way others do. My husband is my photographer, and he is my greatest fan. He pushes me every day to be the best person that I can be. To chase my dreams and dream big. To see myself through his eyes. When I see myself through his photography, for a moment I can see what he sees, and I love it every bit of it.
I choose every day to push myself outside of my comfort zone, and am learning to embrace being ambitious to achieve my dreams. I put myself out there, for millions of people to see me every day, because I’m hoping I can help even just one woman learn to love herself a little bit more. I started my own campaign, Styled by Confidence, so I can share my story and help to inspire other women to be their best. It’s my dream to one day be able to not only blog full time, but to start my own personal styling business that focuses on teaching you how to feel confident through clothing.
So please. Don’t tell me I “look fine” when I am trying to open up to you. Nor is it okay to tell someone to hit the gym (unless it’s a serious health concern). We all get insecure about our looks. But when we do, don’t just tell us we look okay, or where to improve upon. Dig deeper, and tell us we are confident, ambitious, strong; powerful, big dreamers, successful, or kind. Beauty is only a small part of feeling truly confident in your own skin.