I’ve just spent the past few minutes laughing at ridiculous Instagram posts. “Be yourself, be true, be natural” one says with a girl wearing make up, clad in tight leggings, long hair carefully placed over her shoulders and a top clinging to her bust. With, of course, a slight trout pout. The comments are equally as hilarious, “OMG, I just love that you are so natural and don’t care.” They are kidding, right?
The posts get even better: “Women can do what they want with their bodies… blah blah… empower women…” another photo shouts as a female stands there in a crop top with toned abs blazing. How does that photo ’empower’ females? Oh wait, it empowers the chick in the selfie photo as she clocks up ‘likes’ from strangers. Seriously girls, you can do better than that.
An unclean slate
I’ve been hiking and camping through Britain for the past ten months without a care in the world as to my appearance. (As you can see from these dreadful, yet real, photos.) No mirrors, not many washes (about one a week in winter), I forget to brush my hair and I only ‘wash’ my face if there is water to spare. I wear mud-clad clothes, I shove a buff on my hair to keep my ears warm and to cover my greasy roots. I most certainly have not shaved my legs; hell, we were born with hair to keep us warm, and doing this through winter I need all the warmth I can get. I don’t use moisturiser, I simply smother Vaseline on my face (when I remember) to keep the wind at bay.
This is what a week of wild camping, exhaustion and no showers looks like. Not those fake photos on Insta!
And ya know what? I feel more confident now talking to people than before. The reason? I have far more important things to focus on than caring what other people think about me. Which is just as well since I’m wandering around the country with a buggy attached to me. Plus I have no mirror and therefore no idea how I look. In my mind I’m fresh-faced, wide awake and tanned. In reality, I probably look shattered, mud-smeared and wind burnt. But I really don’t care. I’ve been told I look exhausted and older than I am, but why should I let that bother me?
Made up to not faff with make up
At a campsite bar the other day I happened to catch a bit of trashy TV. Z-list celebs were whinging about wanting to look younger and going on some weird camp thing to do so. The woman behind the bar I and I rolled our eyes and she turned it off. “I used to wear make up when I started working here. Then I thought, I can’t be bothered. Who am I even wearing it for?” she told me.
“Yeah, in London I never used to leave the house without mascara and a hairbrush,” I admitted. “But as you can see, I’ve gone the other way now,” I laughed as I pointed to my unbrushed, bumpy ponytail.
“The girls who slap loads of make up on would look so much better with hardly any or none,” the barwoman said.
“Yup,” I agreed, “especially all those ‘plastic face’ girls with a trowel full of crap on their faces!” I added.
Face the realisation
Ladies, the wrinkles you hate, your non-made up face, that mole that you think is huge, no one gives a shit about them but you. The girl across the platform who looks immaculate has probably spent absolutely ages perfecting that look, while she could have had an extra hour in bed. (I bet she never does anything outdoorsy, either, it would chip her nail varnish.) And the model-esque creature with long limbs standing next to you was simply fortunate in the gene pool.
If you wear a smile and have a cheery outlook, your imperfections fade into in the background. And at the end of the day, why do you care what people think about your appearance? I have thighs riddled in cellulite (not even hiking 3,500 miles will get rid of that). I have wrinkles all round my eyes. Spots still visit my face (‘adult acne’ I was told it is). I’m not a fan of my hair scraped back off my face but it always is. And, as the evidence shows, I am most definitely not photogenic. But I have far more important things to concern myself with than posing with a fish-face pout to get as many ‘likes’ as possible. And under some stupid guise as ‘women should be themselves’ or ‘I’m really into the outdoors’ (with my face full of make up, wearing the tightest clothes possible and my hair looking immaculate). Such as finding water to drink, somewhere safe to pitch my tent, hoping some freak weather front won’t get me (again) and that my body holds up to what I’m putting it through.
Time to reflect. Or maybe not.
If you obsess about your looks, especially for social media accounts, (don’t even get me started on women and men posing in bikinis and swimming shorts) maybe try this: remove all the mirrors in your house and see if that changes your outlook. Even if it doesn’t, at least you’ll have less things to clean with that bottle of Windowlene.
Let’s see how many of us put a ‘real’ photo up on our next social media posts. There are a good few here to give you some guidance!
Jane Batchelor hiked 3,500 miles through Britain finishing May 2018, often looking shattered and mud-smeared. And she didn’t give a shit.