To the Man Who Helped me Learn to Love Myself

by Phil Hill
self love

“It must have come from somewhere. Nobody just feels ugly” someone once said to me. But I did. In fact, I didn’t just feel like I was, I accepted it like it was fact. The way I used to see it was you had the good-looking people, the OK looking people and the ugly people and I was just one of the latter. 

I can’t remember the very first time I started thinking about my appearance in that way, but I do remember being at primary school and during an argument my best friend telling me I had fat legs. Was that first experience of body shaming where my insecurities began?

I got bullied a lot as I moved onto secondary school; predominately for being a tomboy, however, my appearance was also subject to ridicule. Whether it be for the colour and texture of my hair, a wart that sat visibly on my leg, or my tiny A cup breasts, the kids at school were constantly telling me that my body wasn’t good enough. In fact, one boy in my class regularly felt the need to ask me if I was ever going to get a boob job and his comments about my excessively hairy legs were the reason I started shaving them at the tender age of 12. Sadly those weren’t my worst memories though. Being called “A fucking ugly bitch” by a girl in my English class probably takes home the trophy. 

As I left school and entered adulthood I learnt that my appearance was still under scrutiny, except this time it would be in the bedroom and from potential sexual partners. This was evident after an experience at 19, where a boy didn’t hesitate in pointing out an oddity regarding my nipple as soon as I took off my top. Left feeling conscious and embarrassed, I felt the need to give any man I thought I might end up in bed with pre-warning about it from then on. I was effectively apologising to men in advance for my body. 

As time went on I developed other insecurities including body hair and the temporary scars I had given myself in the attempt of removing it. I spent years plucking my snail trail which turned into obsessive-compulsive behaviour. Not only would I pluck it multiple times a day, but if a couldn’t grab the hair because it wasn’t long enough yet, I would gouge the tweezers into my skin just to pull it out. My stomach was often left red, saw and slightly bloody. Eventually, I felt so ashamed of the way it looked I would hold my hand in front of my midriff every time I took my top off in front of a man.

By the time I reached my mid-twenties, I put on around two stone as well and went up to a size 16. I saw there to be no shame in being a larger gal, but after spending my whole life sporting an athletic figure and at my smallest being a size 6, seeing this new and unfamiliar version of myself as I looked the mirror made me feel depressed and penitent. 

As for my face, I always felt I was trying to make the best of a bad situation so became fixated with my hair and eyebrows looking ‘perfect’ at all times. 

I fell into the evil trap of consumerism too, compensating for my feelings of ugliness by buying clothes and shoes on a regular basis. At least if I was happy with my outfits, I would feel somewhat better about the way I looked to the rest of the world. 

A combination of these insecurities along with the years of comments I’d received from my peers inevitably took its toll on my self-esteem; especially in the bedroom. 

But last summer I reconnected with a friend and around that same time I had had a major epiphany about my gender. As my friend and I engaged in a three-hour catch up on the phone one day, I explained to him that I no longer saw myself as a woman and that although I didn’t see myself as a man either, I did take comfort in being masculine. He was great about it.

After a few months of chatting and having a reached a point where we were both now single, we decided to add sex to the equation. As we started to sleep together I was amazed at how comfortable I felt being naked in his presence. Granted, losing around a stone and a half that year definitely helped! But what helped more than anything was him.

I had explained to him how coming to terms with my true gender identity meant I suddenly had a need for my outside to reflect how I felt on the inside. With that in mind, I desperately wanted to ditch my top knot and trade it in for a more masculine haircut, however, my fear of other people’s reaction meant I was struggling to find the courage to do so. But after talking it through with him one day in the pub his words of encouragement gave me the confidence I had been looking for. After six months of deliberation, I found myself sat in the hairdressers within less than a week of our chat.

His opinion of my body hair was refreshing and reassuring too. Although realising that I wasn’t a woman meant I no longer felt as if I had to shave, I was still under the illusion that to be desirable to a man, you probably wanted to! But I was wrong. This man didn’t care if I was hairy or hair free, he just wanted me to be myself.

As I cut off my hair and quit shaving I finally began to recognise the person staring back at me in the mirror. I was beginning to look more masculine and it was making me feel more in tune with my body. I couldn’t remember a time where I felt this good about my appearance and unbelievably, despite the years of bullying, I had reached a point where I no longer felt ugly. 

He reassured so much about my nipple too that I started to forget and no longer care about its slightly odd shape, and I finally reached a point where stopped plucking the hair from my stomach. 

Sure, the sex is great, but this man has done so much more than just pleasure me. My counsellor helped me figure out that I was queer, but the man I am sleeping with has helped me embrace it. For the first time ever I have someone telling me my body is good enough and you know what? I believe them.

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