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I’m tired of covering the dark circles around my eyes.
I’m tired of covering the pimples that pop up when my period is coming up.
I’m tired of being told to lower my voice when I get excited while telling a story in a public space.
I’m tired of being told that I gained or lost some weight.
I’m tired of being told that I look too serious and that I should smile more.
I’m tired of being asked what I did to be so strong or to have such wide shoulders.
I’m tired of trying to hide behind a brain.
Behind my creativity.
Behind my own body.
of not telling one of the biggest issues I had - and still have sometimes - with myself:
My own reflection in the mirror.
I was thought to be a good girl. To behave, to follow the rules, to smile and dress properly. I was always a good girl. Almost too good. I was this little blond cutie that smiled at everyone. I was always a good student at school. Same thing in college. Both performances earned me a few prizes on the way. When it came to sports, I could say the same thing applied. I was dedicated and disciplined. As a teen I got into the competitive teams of swimming, handball and tennis. In my free time I would still draw a bit of study. On the weekends I had trips with my family to the beach, where we all surfed, or to the country house where I would help out in the kitchen, play with my cousins, play tennis with my grandparents. I was always surrounded by amazing humans. Smart, sporty and beautiful. I was never too much of a rebel teenager. I slept early because I’d rather do sports in the morning. I had a healthy nutrition base. I never really dared to try drugs, although I did choose some weird companies from time to time. Maybe just me trying to get out of that “perfect” scenario. I had some fucked up friendships on the way. And I fucked up with some amazing boyfriends I had. Just because…
I didn’t really know who I was and what I wanted. Or was too worried about what people would think. Or I was not happy with who I “pretended” to be. Or I was just not strong enough to feel comfortable with my own self.
I could go on trying to figure out what it was - but the truth is I always put too much pressure on myself. I was too critical with myself - in all matters and layers. From physical, to emotional and performative. I wanted to be the best student. I wanted to be the strongest in the team. But not because I was a very competitive human (well a little yes), but because I was seeking some kind of approval. Well, I know this now! It was my way of “calling attention” - to be the “perfect girl”. Looking for external approval way before I understood I was the only one that had to do that for myself.
Of course that has good sides. It brought me to where I am now - personally and professionally - but we already know more about that. It’s the dirty parts in between the lines that I want to share with you today. There are always unsaid things. There are always many layers in between the lines. As I like to say - when I talk about my art - the voids that allow the fillings to form.
And this certain urge to write about it started to build up these last weeks and I had a few triggers that made me take this step:
#1 In midst of a Lunar Eclipse that happened in January, I was feeling a new phase approaching. I felt I was finally letting go of things that were stuck in here for a long time. I didn’t really know what it was, it just felt big. As part of my own healing process I started going through some old pictures. Family, friends, relationships. And me - there in the middle of all of that. Pictures that I didn’t like at the time. Because “I looked too fat,” because my arms “ looked too big” because my “face was swollen”. And then I just looked at them and thought - “what the fuck was I thinking? I look beautiful in this picture.” And this was such a beautiful moment. Oh this celebration, I was so worried about how my dress wasn’t falling perfectly that night, instead of actually enjoying what was being celebrated. I realized I was never really comfortable in my own body, with my own image, with who I was - in any of those pictures. And they were such beautiful moments. What the hell was happening? I looked at myself and it just felt something so far away. I couldn’t recognize myself - or rather - my thinking at the time. I looked so beautiful. I was always so beautiful… Why was I the only one that wasn’t paying attention - or embracing that?
#2 In midst of that digging - and also organizing of old projects and texts - I found so many expressions of the female body. Some projects where I always gave the incentive to other women to look for their inner beauty. To really love every little fold of themselves. I actually painted on women’s naked bodies and invited a photographer to take pictures of them, so they could have another perspective of themselves. I draw women. So many. They are always strong, they are always feminine, sensual and somehow pure. And then I asked myself - I’m already expressing this for such a long time - why do I only feel it in me now somehow? Why have I been putting so much pressure on myself? Why have I always been so critical with myself? I was telling that to other women but wasn’t feeling like that myself.
#3 I had a call with a friend that lives far away. We hadn’t talked in a while, we hadn’t updated ourselves in a while. And we had a not very long, but very profound conversation somehow. WE talk about the things that are going well and the things that aren’t going so well in our lives. No filters. We have a group with other two that has this premise. To use that space a safe space - to express, to just let things out that seem stuck inside somehow. So our call had the same premise. Midst some other subjects we also talked about our ways of always being the strong women who hold everything together. And how tiring that can be. I talked a bit about myself, how I was learning to ust be - to contemplate, to slow down. And she told me: You know, I’ve always admired you for the way you do things in life. How you are so dedicated, and how you get so much done - in just a day. This struck me right there in college when we met. When classes started early in the morning, you had already done your sport and arrived a little earlier just to get some papers done. I would always arrived half asleep almost in my pajamas. I talk about you here where I live, and people always ask me if you really exist? This comment stayed with me for a few days. This is how people see me for such a long time - even my closest friend. And I struggled for so long - they might not even know much about it - or they just don’t care, because in the end of the day - that’s who I really am, but I never gave myself the credit for it, because I was too worried about going a little bit further. I felt that comment. It talked to me now.
#4 I have been living in the mountains these past months, and have been going down from time to time to Zürich to have some meetings and run other errands. A few weeks ago I decided to go down again, but before I did go, I downloaded Tinder on my cell phone again (I did create my account last year when I arrived in Switzerland- had some social experiments but eventually deleted it again). I was always against this kind of approach to meet new people. And in the past I wouldn’t even dare to talk about this so openly. I still rather love spontaneous encounters, but back then I thought why not? And now again, I just said, why not? Have the chance to meet some new humans, maybe an interesting might cross your path. There’s always a 50 - 50 chance that I’d rather go back home, or maybe something more could happen. In either case, I had experienced it. I am always learning something new. Anyway, I can write more about those experiments some other time. For now let’s stick to this script. I started talking to a guy, we agreed to meet and go out for a drink. So there I was on the train, going down the mountains to some exciting days in Zürich. Work and pleasure. A good combination I thought - and then I realized I had totally forgotten to take some makeup with me. It stayed up there - in the mountains. My first reflex was to take out my cell phone and look at myself in the camera. “Shit, these little pimples again. Oh, and it’s clear my last night was not the best” And then came the thought, maybe I should go by at some store at the train station and just buy something to smoothen the marks. “Just a little, like you always do. I don’t like makeup anyway” - I told myself. And then I turned off the camera and kept looking at the moving landscape. And then it hit me: “Stop it Kalina - you are beautiful exactly the way you are. So what if you have some dark circles around your eyes. He probably has some too - and men, they can’t wear makeup. So why should I? I kept telling myself that the rest of the day while running my errands (fyi I did not buy any extra makeup). I went home, had a nice shower and got ready for my date. A washed face, my usual clothes. I looked at myself in the mirror and said - “oh hey, long time no see - you look beautiful - and just go have some fun - just by being yourself!” I had a fun night and hadn’t felt that confident in a long time - or maybe never?
Okay, I know these stories might seem very simple and “obvious” - or you might be asking yourself why you’re still reading this. Well, these little triggers might seem small for some, but they were huge to me - to finally let go - or rather to face my fear so it could become smaller. As I said, I was always “this almost too perfect girl” to the outside - but the truth is - inside I never really felt comfortable in my own body. My body was a big issue of my teenage and young adult phases. Well, I’m still young - but you know what I mean. I’ll tell you some of my stories, with no makeup - I promise.
The beloved sports in my life have many layers of health. To stay healthy, to stay fit, to channelize energies - yes these parts are all true - and were talking about many times. But sports didn’t always do me good. I thought it did, but it was many times too much. At some point in my teenage years, I realized all my free time was being dedicated to sports. In excess. And I was still worried about every little thing that I would put into my mouth. So this became a cycle. I would step onto a scale early in the morning, write down how much I weighed. I would go off my day eating as little as I could - I would eat from everything - even a little chocolate piece from time to time - but always with that little thing popping in the back of my mind. Next thing I knew, after school, I would go to all my sports activities, hitting it hard, especially if I had a little chocolate piece. I was healthy, I was strong. And I was still a good student. That was my normal life, which would start again the next morning. Then one day I was at biology class, and we were studying nourishments and their effect on our bodies. We had a task to write down everything we ate, so we could then analyze calories and other amounts of fats and vitamins that we were intaking. I jumped right in. This was a subject that always interested me. And I thought - oh cool I will give my aunt a call and ask her to help me out. She was a nutritionist back then. I told her about the project and she said, yes send me all the Infos, I have a program that calculates the in and outtake of calories based on your intake and activities. Well, right after I sent her all my notes she called me, with a worried voice. “Kalina, please come see me, I have to talk to you.” And so I did, all excited about what she was going to tell me. Maybe some interesting findings. The conversation started with - you are going over your limit. You are eating less than 900 calories and doing 3 to 4 hours of sport almost every day. When I saw your results I was a little worried and thought we should talk. We had a long talk so I could understand my relationship with food and sports. She told me it wasn’t serious….yet. But I was on the way to having a type of anorexia, related to sports. Athletic anorexia, or something like that. I just stared at her and said “What?” I think I never really talked about this conversation with my parents. I kept it to myself. I was ashamed. With her help, and in the future, the help of other professionals I looked for balance. Ate more - still did a lot of sports. This is still a bit of a challenge in my life. Well, not the food - I love eating and I love eating well. That is definitely not a problem for me. The guilt just sometimes comes up again. But I know her now, and I have my ways of talking with myself about it. Sports aren’t so drastic anymore. They did become too much again not too long ago, but not related to food or calories anymore - rather a way of trying to channelize all my emotions through that. A little pressure cooker that would just pop up if I didn’t use sports as a channel. That didn’t really do me any good either. But maybe that’s a story to tell another time. Sports. I still do them - I love them - and I need them. But I really use it for my body’s health, to channelize my energies, and well - to look good too - but in a healthy way. I like to feel good with myself - and health is part of it. A sedentary body is not healthy - and movement is just part of me, even before I could walk.
Since I’m a kid I was attracted to fashion - or rather aesthetics. My parents tell me nowadays, I always liked to observe people and even clothes in store windows. Instead of asking for toys, I would ask for hair accessories or little earings. Yes, a little vain since a kid. I wanted to look good, I wanted to look beautiful. But again, maybe a bit of an unconscious makeup outside to cover what I couldn’t really feel from the inside? Well, that’s just me philosophizing at this moment in life. But it could be. At some point in time, probably at that highlight of insecurity - puberty - all the beautiful girls around me “being prettier and more extroverted than me”. From my perspective only of course. Teenage years can be though. Especially if we keep it silent like I did most of the time. Girls and boys are mean. But the worst is - we are mean to ourselves. There was a time - when I was doing a lot of sports - and I started getting stronger - I started comparing to my friends. (who never did that, please say hello and tell me how that was for you?) They were skinny and had beautiful breasts and butts. I was this stronger version, not such big breast and well I did have a butt - as everyone does - but I was an athlete. And somehow I just couldn’t see the beauty in that. I come from a nordic family, we are all athletic - even if we don’t do sports. Most of us will never be little skinny types because we do have big bones and fast building muscle systems. I was trying to be someone I just couldn’t be. I was looking for approval from the outside but without even looking inside. Well, and what has fashion to do with that? I used clothes that didn’t always value the best out of my body. I used to cover my self way too much with the excuse that I found that sensual. Well, I still do - I don’t think super shirt skirts and tops suit me well - I’d rather use elegant and different clothes. Unusual is my sexy. Elegance is my mistery. But I did had some bad phases before that. I would not use shirtless tees, just because “my arms were too big”. This lasted for some time. I was ashamed of my own athletic looks - but yet I couldn’t stop doing sports. The good phases are more recent, where I actually learned to embrace every little part of me - big or small - athletic or not. It’s not what you wear, but how you wear it. As Dave Matthews sings “You wear nothing but you wear it so well”. That phrase always stuck with me for some reason. Now I know, after diving inside, that it’s not the hair accessories or little earings that make the difference, but rather how I use them. How I walk. How I talk. And smile. It’s just overflowing my own personality and embracing every little detail that makes me unique.
Oh well, that’s a word that took me a while to learn. Not only in the sexual sense - of self or shared pleasure. Yes, I didn’t think I deserved that for a long time either. Or rather I was ashamed of that - especially the self-pleasure part. I wouldn’t be a good girl if I did that. If I explored my own body. Well, let’s keep it short and simple. If you don’t get to know your own body - and every little corner of it - how can you actually learn to love it? And then, of course, that also reflected on many relationships I had. It took me a while to actually feel totally comfortable during shared experiences. I would hold on to the thought of that little extra belly fold that would form depending on the position I would put myself into. Well, let’s not get into details of my sexual life for now - maybe another time. But hey the things is, I really had trouble actually focusing on the exchange itself, because I was too worried about the shit that was going on in my mind. Dimmed environments would make it easier. Alcohol definitely made it easier. Why? Just because the little rational voice would quiet down. It took me a while to realize once again I was worrying way too much, even when the other person was saying I was so beautiful. After some digging I also found out this issue - besides being related to my own confidence with my body - was that I actually blamed myself when I had the pleasure. And I’m talking about all kinds of pleasures. To have a free afternoon, just walking by the beach - when everyone was working in-office hours. I felt guilty - and this had also a reflex on all layers of relationship I had with my own body and sexuality. This is still a little trigger I have - the pleasure one - but I have created other systems to go against it. I call them my little red buttons. Whenever I see these triggers arising inside myself I hit the red button and get out of that flow. I had help to create that of course - and they are working I must say. My red buttons and I are in a good and trusty relationship.
I could go on and on telling you stories about how I had a hard time with myself. Or rather that I have been way too hard on myself. From who looks from the outside I was always the good girl - beautiful, sporty, smart, talented, creative, disciplined… well, while you all thought that, I was trying to get rid of all of my shame. As Brene Brown says, shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we've experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.
Oh yeah - I totally relate to those words. And, of course, I had to cry like crazy when I dived into her studies about shame, guilt and vulnerability. I kept diving...and I found so many other flaws. Countless ones. In the past, I’d think I didn’t deserve love and pleasure because of that. Who was I to be gifted with a beautiful face, a healthy body and a fast brain. I have gone through a lot of self-knowledge, I have put myself into many situations in order to learn to see myself from other angles. To stand in front of cameras, instead of behind them. To get to know my body. To put my face out there. And today I’m not ashamed anymore, I know that the relationship I had with my body - and my self - in the past, were necessary for me to acknowledge who I am today. I also know I just didn’t know myself good enough. So how could I actually have the confidence to just be myself - rather than be worried about what others were perceiving of me?
...and there is still so much to find out. So many flaws, and so many beautiful things. The search is endless, but I’m tired of just being a good girl.
I am just undressing myself to my own - beautiful - naked truth.
I’m sorry to say that an idea is worth nothing, until you grab it by its tale - or head - and start designing it. You can write it down, you can draw, you can call a friend, you can start working on the connections between your idea and the actual development of that idea.
Through art, and through music, we are able to face the things that concern us. We find comfort and peace in their presence. Through the capacity of beauty we redeem our suffering. We amplify our joy and find consolation for our sorrows. We find harmony. A point between the real and the ideal.