‘Even on a bad day, I’m still at least an 8 out of 10’

Having been self-conscious about my looks all my life, a throwaway remark by a boyfriend has become my mantra

Rachel O’Neill: “There’s no point being good-looking if you’re not sound.”

Rachel O’Neill: “There’s no point being good-looking if you’re not sound.”

 

I have a very strict morning schedule. I get up at 7am to turn on the water for the shower. I then go back to bed, drag mys elf up a half-hour later to shower, dress and scramble out the door to make my train to work.

I don’t put on any make-up, not for any feminist reasons, more that I am too lazy to do so. In fact, apart from a bleary-eyed glance at myself when I’m brushing my teeth, I don’t really look at myself in the mirror at all.

Why do I need to? My face is still there, right?

I’m being slightly facetious, but it hasn’t always been like this.

In a bid to put me down, boys would comment on my features, calling me a man

I’ve been self-conscious about the way I look since I became aware of my own face. I remember being in second year of secondary school when several Spanish students joined our year. It’s so shallow but looking back all I remember is being jealous of the Spanish girls and their dark brown hair, beautiful, tanned skin and perfect teeth. I, on the other hand, had inherited my dad’s pale skin that burnt if I even so much as stepped outside, I had braces stapled across my teeth and hair that would become greasy at the slightest touch.

And when all the boys chose those girls over me, I began to dislike myself.

This dislike intensified as I moved through school. Every teenager is awkward about how they look, but my extraverted personality brought with it more attention, not always in a good way. In a bid to put me down, boys would comment on my features, calling me a man. As a 16-year-old with breasts the size of golf balls, this wasn’t exactly good for my self-esteem. It also didn’t help that as a goalkeeper in hockey, I was covered in 4kg of padding while the rest of my team swanned around in skorts, showing off perfectly tanned legs.

Stuck with myself

Jealousy is never a good look on anyone and it took me a long time to accept that I was stuck with myself. In a rebellion against a teenage break-up, I decided to cut off all my hair, a move described as “brave” by more than a few people. I arrived back in school the following Monday to mixed reviews, with the girls telling me it looked great while the boys chanted “Ellen” at me throughout chemistry class.

I realised that I was much more than just my looks and that while looks may grab attention, it’s your personality that keep people around

Now I can laugh at their lack of imagination but back then it just added to my worries. In fact, during my sixth year holiday, I had two different boys come up to me at the bar. One told me my hair looked great while the other told me I looked like a lesbian.

You can’t please everyone I guess.

That being said, my luck with boys changed in the last few years. I can’t say it’s all down to the hair but it maybe it had something to do with it. Then again, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve begun to lose my inhibitions a little. I realised that I was much more than just my looks and that while looks may grab attention, it’s your personality that keep people around.

There’s no point being good-looking if you’re not sound.

In fact, it was my first serious boyfriend that made me see things in a different light. One day in passing he said: “Rachel, you’re always at least an 8/10.” It was one of those sentences that’s said without thought but has stuck with me ever since. I wrote it down and stuck it to my mirror in my bedroom so I could look at it every morning when I was getting ready.

It’s still there.

Self-esteem issues

I don’t believe that one sentence cured my self-esteem issues, it’s a lot more complicated. But it became my mantra, something I repeat to myself when those doubts come creeping into my head. It’s allowed me to flip the perception I had of myself as a teenager, something I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do.

My hair still gets greasy at the slightest touch but it’s soft and people running their fingers through it brings me sheer joy. Yes, my skin is pale but putting on fake tan makes me look I’ve been dipped in Nacho Cheese Dorito dust so I’ve just accepted that I was never supposed to be tanned. My golf-ball-sized breasts haven’t grown since I was 16, but at least I can’t knock myself out with them when I’m rowing. And yes, my teeth aren’t straight but I can still smile without being afraid of how they’ll look in a photo.

Even more than that, I value myself on my qualities as a friend. I’m a good listener, loyal, someone you can rely upon to make you laugh and give you straight-up advice when you need it, even if you don’t want to hear it. Most importantly, I am someone who values myself and my time.

And while I may never be able to swan around in a skort with perfectly tanned legs, that doesn’t make me any better or worse than anyone else.

Because even on a bad day, I’m still at least an 8 out of 10.

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