A pointy chin, a squishy nose and squinty eyes are not fashionable body features. Being in possession of all three, I spent years acutely aware of this – of the fact that, instead, a dainty chin, a thin nose and Bambi eyes are much more in line with what we're taught is "beautiful". But finally, at the age of 27, I've learned to love every feature that makes me who I am.
I spoke to 11 women about the physical feature of theirs society has told them to be ashamed of, but they adore anyway.
Amy – My Strong Thighs
I remember being younger and never sitting down properly because my thighs would "spread" and look larger – and I'd be so embarrassed, because all my friends and the girls in magazines had skinny legs and thighs.
Now, I fucking love them. My legs and thighs are one of the things I love the most and show off the most about my body. They carry me round all day, every day. And they're fucking strong! They've allowed me to squat 70kg.
Mel – My Little Bum
As a teenager growing up in a world of "does my bum look big in this?" I was blindsided when big butts became "a thing" in mainstream global popular culture. I absolutely love them, but I'm definitely not blessed in the derrière department. No matter how heavy I lift, my little peach just doesn't want to grow.
In a world full of beautiful booties, my teeny butt just does not compare. I didn't even realise I needed to be self conscious about it growing up, but now, at 28, everything I buy, I'm like: will this make my bum look better? Bigger? Should I feel bad that I have a thigh gap? Do butt implants feel weird when you sit down? What about those weird butt enhancing knickers? Or how far can I stick my butt out in a photo before I look like I'm going to need a chiropractor to rearrange my spine?
But good things come in small packages, and little booties matter too, so I'm happy with my little butt, even if it isn't to industry standards.
Delphine - My Birthmark
I have a few "unconventional" things about my body that I grew up hating about myself, but now really love. I've got a port-wine stain birthmark on the side of my face that people used to constantly mistake for a cut, but I'm happy to wear with pride now. I don't even avoid wearing my hair up anymore, like I used to as a teen.
And I have an outie belly button, which someone once commented on with, "You mustn't have had a very good doctor deliver you," like it was a surgical mistake? But I'm now the first person to wear a crop-top when it hits over 20 degrees.
I also have a few scars on my body, which go against all the flawless bikini bodies that Victoria Secret catwalk shows and Instagram influencers never seem to have.
I'm finally starting to love my quirks, and to see them as truly beautiful parts that make me me – but it is hard going against the grain of "flawlessness" that the media encourage you to strive for. I read once that comparison is the thief of joy, and I couldn't agree more; self-love is where it's at.
Kay – My Ginger Hair
I could talk to you for a long time about being yelled at from across the street literally every single day, until I was 16, about my red hair.
"Dirty ginger slag" or "fucking ginger bitch" were the kind of words shouted at me, literally every single day, as I was growing up. I didn't react because it was just a normal part of my day.
Now, when I see someone with red hair, I think, 'Wow, that's gorgeous and different,' and then remember that I have it too.
Louise – My Nose
I used to endlessly google celebrity nose jobs in my late teens, and before that, in the analogue days, rifle through gossip mags – and my question was always, "What is the ideal nose?" According to the media, certainly not mine.
My nose has a distinct "Rossy de Palma" ridge, a genetic thing amplified by falling on my face and breaking it a lot as a child. I've always found it quite charming, different, something that makes my face stand out among the other mousy brown, young white women.
I find that, if the topic ever arises, I can joke about it and start conversations about childhood. I never spent hours in front of the mirror moving it this way and that, trying to mould it into google's "ideal nose" – although I'd never say aloud to friends that I was happy with my so-called imperfection.
Nikki – My Lips
My lips are a huge part of my identity, but the media used to make black girls like me think that our lips were too big or unattractive. I didn't used to like my lips, because they were huge [compared to] my friends'.
In today's day and age, where people are getting lip fillers, I'm proud to have my big lips. Black girls with big lips are basically trendsetters.
Jess – My Stomach
When I was younger I always felt like I was too big, that I didn't look like my smaller, skinnier friends. I wanted to have a flat belly like Rachel in Friends. I was surrounded by messages that told me "fat" was bad, and to be happy I needed to be skinny.
This became an obsession and led to suffering with bulimia for seven years. No matter how much weight I lost or how many compliments I received about how "skinny" I was, it was never enough. I still wasn’t "perfect".
It wasn't until I decided to get help and wanted to recover that I had to face my worst fear: gaining weight. That was my biggest challenge. I had to learn to block out the noise of our body-obsessed culture, unfollow accounts that made me feel worse and actively practice to love and accept my belly. I love food again and I'm the most comfortable in my skin that I've ever felt. I want to enjoy all life has to offer, pizza and all!
I now run a course to help others who suffer with eating disorders, helping them overcome the hurdles of self acceptance.
Jenny – My Curly Hair
I have naturally curly hair, and most hairdressers love to straighten it. I was teased at high school for my hair – boys would call me "ginger-minger" and "ginger ming", so when the GHDs craze began I jumped on the straight hair bandwagon. I invested in GHDs, tried straightening shampoos, conditioners, serum, hairsprays, anything that said it worked.
I couldn't afford chemical straightening, so an hour hair-prep in the morning every day had to suffice. After ploughing through all the sprays, conditioners, creams and waxes to tame and tailor every ringlet to perfection, I decided to embrace the curl. I haven't touched the straighteners since, and I can honestly say I'm so proud to have a mane of ginger curls.
Rachel – My Height
I'm 5'11" – or 6'3" in a good pair of heels. I remember, as a teenager, this huge pressure of being tall and looking like a model. I remember feeling that would be the only culturally acceptable way to be tall, but I wasn't the skinny, lanky tall; I was always the normal sized tall – and I think that's a bracket that isn't spoken about.
From dating experience, men are quite limited about height – as are women about short men. As a tall woman, you're seen as overbearing; you're supposed to be delicate and small framed.
I used to shun heels when I was younger, but now I love bouncing around all my friends' heads – but equally it's nice not to ever have the pressure of wearing a high heel. Another benefit is that you don't get claustrophobic on the tube!
Becky – My Nose
I like my nose! I look at it and I don't see it as a problem. I'm aware that if the sides weren't so broad it could dramatically change my look, but I love it.
It's broad, it holds my glasses up, it smells everything functionally and it's mine. I don't need to fit any standard. The standard should include me.
Lucy – My Scar
I was born with a hole in my heart, and I've had a scar since I had an operation as a baby – and then I had more surgery in that area as an adult. I was very insecure and never wanted to show it. I've also been self conscious of my figure, but over the years I've learnt to embrace my flaws and scars and just love myself.
This is hard, as there's so much pressure on women to look a certain way, but I've learned to not compare myself and see that I'm enough the way I am, and embrace all I am. Comparison is the thief of joy, as they say. My heart scar shows what I've been through, and when I see it I tell myself I'm beautiful, and I feel stronger for going through this.
This article originally appeared on VICE UK.