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Alma, 27

I had a dark period in my life a couple years ago. I got endometriosis, and suffered from horrible pain every day. It felt like my uterus was trying to murder me. At the same time, I had troubles in my relationship, and my mother’s cancer relapsed.

So I was going through several different crises simultaneously. For some inexplicable reason, they turned into self-loathing. All of sudden I was bothered by my face being asymmetrical and acne I’ve had since my teenage years. My nose and my teeth seemed crooked, and at times I felt like I had no neck at all.

The combination of all these imperfections felt just like a mess.

Theater has been a dear hobby of mine for ten years. Ever since I moved to Tampere, I have devoted almost all my free time to the local student theater. I would often take on strong, comedic roles. Now I couldn’t tell anymore if people were laughing because of my acting skills or because of the way I looked. I didn’t want to perform anymore, I was too embarrassed.

Right around that time I saw that Outi was looking for photo subjects. I wanted to see myself through someone else’s eyes. I thought that another person would view me more compassionately.

In my opinion, this topic is not only about personal tragedies but also a bigger societal issue. I think the majority of Finnish women have been carrying self-loathing within themselves since their teenage years. It should be discussed more openly, but there’s a lot of shame related to personal appearance. But why? It can’t be that when a girl reaches puberty, she starts to hate herself out of nowhere. It’s something that comes from the outside world.

Sometimes I feel like worrying over one’s looks is a problem of the privileged. But even if it was, as long as women’s energy and time is wasted on hating themselves, it needs to be addressed and dealt with. It’s the only way to channel that energy into something else.

A lot has happened since the photo was taken. We’ve started to talk about body positivity in Finland, and I feel like it’s made a difference. My little sister and her friends talk about each other’s looks in a much nicer way than me and my friends used to in our teens. Back then, my friends could make remarks about my acne or my weight to me.

My looks don’t bother me as much as they used to anymore. I’m more comfortable in my own skin, and sometimes I even consider myself kind of attractive.

My priorities in life have also changed since then. My mom died a few weeks ago. I’m grateful that I am healthy again. After the funeral I also got a strong feeling that I will need to stop underestimating myself and instead appreciate what I’ve got from my mom.