A writer knows only to write because words are often easier put to paper than say them. Being able to truly say that you are living your best life spiritually, emotionally and physically often comes with lessons – some easy and some hard. At the root of it all is the greatest lesson you will ever learn and once you get it, you are forever changed – self-love is the best gift any woman can give themselves.
I was never the popular girl at school. I was always the odd one out and I was bullied a lot, probably because I didn’t fit the box that so many are put into, and also because I grew up in the country. I grew up differently. I still call my elders aunty, uncle, oom and tannie. I treat everyone I meet with kindness and an open heart, and those country values are all still instilled in me; they’ve made me who I am.
My experience at school made me retreat during my varsity years. I didn’t have boyfriends, I had no self-confidence, didn’t wear makeup a lot, and a lot of cousins referred to me as a nerd because my love of books and writing was more important to me than partying every night. My scale on the self-love meter was practically non-existent.
The one person who lifted me up each time was my grandpa. We were best friends. We just got each other. We shared a love of books, writing and crossword puzzles. He moulded me into the writer I am today, and when my very first article was published, he bought every copy of the publication at the SPAR down the road from where he lived. He read the article over and over again and put one on his wall, where he could see it every single day.
I’ve always said I was a late bloomer and this is true for so many of us. Only after I started my own business and entered the entertainment and beauty industries did I really start to flourish and thrive. I finally found my place in the world. I started to feel more confident, and I made an amazing group of friends and I felt accepted in a world where being ordinary wasn’t an option. But being extraordinary and being different was celebrated. I fell in love with makeup in a way that I never thought I would; the science behind it, things that some people wouldn’t even think of when actually buying a lipstick and skincare products, such as undertones and ingredients.
I fell in love with myself and found me again. I have gotten healthy and fit, and strong. I’m the fittest and slimmest I’ve ever been, and looking healthy makes me happy. I’ve always said that you need to be and feel like the best “you” possible so that you can give your best self not only to yourself but to everyone around you.
“I am unapologetically authentic. I’m comfortable in my body, in my skin, in my face. That’s who I am.”
Self-love for me is also about looking in the mirror and seeing my “best me” looking back. If I need to apply some tinted moisturiser and mascara every day or a full face of glam, so be it. I know that some people don’t enjoy wearing makeup every day, and that’s totally okay. It’s all about what works for you and what makes you feel the best you possibly can.
Another lesson in gifting yourself with self-love is learning to have a thick skin. I’ve come to realise in the last few years that when people are quick to make fun of you, it’s really their own insecurities at play. It’s a tough pill to swallow that most people would rather see someone fail than to see them succeed. Bullies exist not only on the playground, but in offices, classrooms, friendships and families.
I heard a quote a few days ago and a lightbulb went off in my head: “I can tell you one thing; most people are bullied because they are better than the people who bully them”. This is where women can truly shine. Let’s lift each other up, let’s celebrate each other’s successes and be there for each other in our failures. Self-love is also about loving others, too.
I am unapologetically authentic. I’m comfortable in my body, in my skin, in my face. That’s who I am. We can’t change what people say about us, but we can change how we react to it. And sometimes, no reaction is the best reaction. We can’t allow other people to change who we are; we can’t give them the power to belittle us and make us feel small.
So, I will continue to be brave and ambitious in the pursuit of all my goals. Most of all, I will continue to walk with confidence, not arrogance. And I will lift others up, even when they choose to put me down. I will drown out the noise and be better because I know better. I hope you will too!
I’ve changed for the better. I’ve become the woman I was always meant to be, I fought like hell to become her – selfies, contoured cheekbones and all – and I wouldn’t change a thing because at my core I still treat everyone with dignity, respect and kindness. Love who you are. Be who you are. Find the person who loves you for who you are. Know that you are enough, and if some people make you feel that you aren’t, then those are not your people.
Mandi Strimling is a South African-based journalist, blogger, social media influencer, and media personality. She owns the website, Rave Review, which has fast become South Africa’s favourite online accessory. Mandi is also a content creator, has an addiction to makeup, sports and has a soft spot for a good cheesecake.