Things that are absolutely, definitely normal about women’s bodies

Trigger warning: much of the language used in this post refers largely to cisgender women’s bodies. While I completely support and am an ally to the transgender and non-binary members of my community, I can only speak from my experiences as a cisgender woman. 

We all know how the media and societal beauty standards impact on how we see ourselves, and the way we choose to present ourselves to others. It impacts what we buy, what we wear, and can really get right into our brains until we start to truly believe we aren’t good enough as we are without buying into all the diet crap, cosmetics, clothes, fitness regimes etc etc. I had the idea to write this post after a conversation I had with a friend about this sort of thing. We were talking about things we thought weren’t normal about bodies, and how much it can control you. She said she always thought until very recently that nipple hair wasn’t supposed to be a thing on women’s bodies, and she always felt very self conscious about it. So, first on the list of things that are absolutely, definitely normal about women’s bodies is nipple hair!

In fact, hair in general is normal. We are mammals, after all. Yeah, some people have more than others, and women especially are taught to believe that we should get rid of all our body hair so we can appear visually appealing to men (and not at all like a baby alien). Whatever you choose to do with it is completely up to you, as long as you’re happy. But just remember, it’s there for a reason and if you decide to let it grow wild and free, that’s totally okay. Body hair that is normal includes:
1) Armpit hair
2) Leg hair
3) Butt hair – on the outside and in the crack
4) Stomach hair – women can have happy trails too
5) Chest hair – not just limited to nipples!
6)Arm hair – this is something I used to be embarrassed about because I have such dark hair, which is more noticeable on my arms and hands
7) Hand hair – we all have it, lil hairy hands and knuckles
8) Pubic hair – gotta stop censoring this and acting like it’s disgusting and wrong
9) Foot hair – which extends to yer toes too!
10) Back hair
11) Facial hair – something which is very embarrassing for a lot of women, cuz god forbid you don’t look “feminine” enough. I have this one chin hair that always seems to appear over night. It’s jet black and grows to like an inch long. I don’t know who it thinks it is or where it comes from, but it’s normal too.


We are not symmetrical. Our faces and bodies are naturally asymmetrical, because that’s just how it is. I have a slight underbite and crooked teeth despite having had braces. I also have wonky eyes if you really pay attention, but it doesn’t affect my life in any way.

 

Fat, and all the different ways it sits on our bodies, is also totally normal. Belly rolls, back rolls, cellulite. They are ALL FINE. Try to remember that lots of tiny, insignificant things that are seen as flaws, are photoshopped out of ads and other photos. Even the models in all the ads we’re bombarded with daily don’t look like models. I’ve seen them on the catwalk, and they do actually have cellulite and jiggly bits. And they’re made to feel just as bad about it as we are.

 

Stretch marks are meant to happen, whether or not we’ve been pregnant. They are a sign that our body went through something, and adapted to accommodate the changes. The opposite of stretch marks is not smooth skin, it’s ripped skin. Your body is protecting you all the time. Stretch marks are frickin fascinating and beautiful, and EVERYONE has them.

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Boobs come in so many shapes and sizes, just like people, and yet we’re still led to believe that one very specific boob type is the “perfect” type. It’s extremely rare that they’re actually round and perky, no matter the age or weight or circumstances of the person they belong to. Believe me, as a bra fitter I’ve seen all the types of boobs you could imagine. They are as unique as finger prints, and all are good and normal. On the subject of boobs, may I remind you that nipples are also completely normal. There’s nothing sexual about any part of a boob, whether or not we’re forced to hide or censor the nipple in photos and in life. Nipples again are just as varied in size, colour, shape and placement. Yours are fine the way they are.

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My boobs are long and low and my nips are at the bottom – which is totally fine!
The last thing I want to mention real quick is the dReAdeD vulva. Learn your anatomy, cuz the vagina is on the inside and you can’t see it from looking at a woman in her underpants unless something has gone very, very wrong. Some women have what has been termed a FUPA, or fat upper pubic area. Ya know the way Cosmo magazine has solutions to all your gross, fat body problems. They even have ways to reduce the size of your FUPA. JESUS CHRIST. Please don’t think this is okay. Please don’t feel like the size of your vulva somehow dictates your worth as a person. PLEASE DON’T READ THESE MAGAZINES. The size of you FUPA and the length of your labia are both perfectly normal, and if you’re worried about what someone you’re dating might think when they see it, chances are all they’re thinking is how excited they are to see it. There is nothing wrong with it. Please leave it alone.


There are so many other things about your body that are normal. Freckles, moles, scars, birthmarks. Try to see the beauty in your individuality and reject the narrow beauty standards we’re expected to live up to.

 

 

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Learning to love me more (again)

Disclaimer: I’m not gonna write this like an academic article with great paragraphing and points that flow smoothly from one to the other. This is a way to process my brain stuff from the last couple of months to figure my shit out, but I think it’ll still be a good read and hopefully help other people deal with some shit too. So, if you don’t like stream of consciousness stuff and random paragraphs, *shrugs*.

 

A few weeks ago I had a photoshoot in a forest beside the river with my friend, photographer and fricking inspirational goddess, Dalyce Wilson (here and here). I only met Dalyce in March of this year. I think I desperately needed someone who understood that I wasn’t getting over my broken heart, and we bonded over the sadness while laughing through the ridiculousness of it all. Do you ever meet someone and like, ten minutes into your first conversation with them you’re just thinking, this is going to be an Important Person? Dalyce is one of those people. I just instantly felt so comfortable with her, like I could say anything and it wouldn’t be judged, but that I’d find some sort of answer or solace or understanding through talking to her. She left last week for Thailand on a one way ticket, and I never said goodbye to her even though I meant to. It was my typical anxiety-ridden, talk about doing stuff then drop off the face of the earth thing that I do quite a lot. I’m pretty sure she’ll understand, and also that she was probably too busy getting ready to worry about it too much. I’m also pretty sure that I’ll see her again some day and we can just pick up where we left off.

Anyway. We’d talked about doing a photoshoot for ages, because we were both craving some sort of creative collaboration. I had all these ideas and visions, but when it came to the day all creativity seemed to have left me with my confidence and self-assurance (which have been in hiding for a little while), but I felt like I was in good hands with Dalyce. Also, it’s really fucking weird getting your photo taken in your underwear by an actual person when you’re used to just propping your iPhone up and taking selfies in your room. Not weird in a scary way. Dalyce wouldn’t make you feel like that. But it’s easier to do dumb poses by yourself than to try and do them in front of someone else and act like that’s totally normal. Dalyce was good at directing me though, and once I warmed up it felt pretty good. I didn’t even try to hide when families and cyclists were passing by.

I felt so energised and inspired after the shoot, which is kind of a normal feeling after being with Dalyce cuz she just exudes that woman magic – I hate myself for saying that but it’s the best way I can describe it. I was more motivated and felt slightly more equipped to keep pushing through the shit that is being unemployed and trying to become self-employed and being 26 and living with my mother and feeling like a lost 16 year old and losing all confidence in myself and trying to ignore the dark, negative thoughts I thought I’d pushed away forever years ago and trying to remember how to deal with hating my body when I only just learnt how to love it and feeling sort of worthless and pointless and pathetic but not wanting to give up. It’s kind of embarrassing to admit stuff like that when you’ve created this online presence and preach about body positivity and believe so strongly in the message that all bodies are good and beautiful and normal, but then one day look at your own and suddenly it’s changed and this time you don’t know how to accept it and be positive and love it. I’ve been looking at my body lately and the immediate thoughts I have are so negative and destructive and just SAD. I haven’t felt this way in such a long time. I got used to being pretty happy, and confident, and self-assured and really believing in myself. I got used to looking at myself and loving what I saw, and not giving a shit what people thought or said about me. I guess I kind of forgot that I’m still just a human. Things change. And especially when you’ve already dealt with the good old depression, and “got over it”, you feel like you’re cured somehow and that you couldn’t ever possibly feel bad again. It super sucks, but that is just not how life works. Mental health is a journey in itself. It isn’t something that stays one way forever. And sometimes a bunch of stuff happens all at once, so it makes everything seem so much worse and harder to deal with. But hey, I’m still here and I’m pretty sure I’m doing the best I can, which is all we can ever ask for.

So, a couple of days after the shoot, I got the photos from Dalyce. I was so excited to see them and the first couple I looked through I loved. Then I started seeing things I didn’t like. Things I wanted to change. I should’ve stood differently. Angled myself that way, sucked that in, hidden this, worn something else. I noticed how much weight I’d gained and all I could think was that it was bad, shameful, disgusting. But then I saw this photo:

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I know it doesn’t show an awful lot of me or my body, but, it also kind of does show a lot of me. I saw a bunch of little things all at once that would have made me sad the day before. Seeing it did make me cry, but it was happy cry. It was relief, and love, and release. I saw stretch marks, hairy arms, scars, fat that wasn’t there a couple of months ago and fat that has always been there. I saw some breast tissue falling out of my bra which as a bra fitter makes me cringe but as a human, I can accept it and see past it. I also really fucking love my tornado tattoo and what it means to me. And this is just such a beautiful photo. I looked through the rest of the photos and still picked out the things I didn’t like. About myself. The photos are so gorgeous, because Dalyce is super talented and sees beauty in so much. But no, the photos are also gorgeous because I’m in them. I had to keep reminding myself that when I was standing in the middle of those trees where anyone could pass by, I wasn’t thinking about my fat or stretch marks or boobs or anything else. I was barely even conscious of my body or how I looked. I was just having a really good time with my friend. It was peaceful and relaxing and so badly needed. I want to share a load of the photos from that shoot, because I really do love most of them. But even though there are ones I don’t like as much, and in most of them can pick out things that bother me, I’m going to write something I love about myself in each one. I’d highly recommend everyone do something like this for themselves with their own photos.

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I like how in the first photo, I’m making the exact same face my great-grandmother is making in a photo I only recently saw of her. I like how dark my hair is, and how my skin looks in this light.

I have terrible posture from years of trying to hide my body, but that’s part of who I am now. I’ve put on weight and my belly is bigger, but that’s one of the most human things to happen and if I was looking at a photo of anybody else with this body, I wouldn’t see anything bad. I like my hands, and the side profile of my nose which I have never liked before.

My lips have a natural pout, which friends have made fun of but it looks pretty good. They are such a nice shape. I have a great smile, and even when I’m taking the piss it still makes for a pretty good photo.

I have a great pair of legs. They work, and they keep going even though I’ve had trouble with my knees for over ten years. They respond to different types of exercise, and heal and get stronger.

My freckles are really pretty and my eyes are amazing.

My face is good and kind and interesting.

I love my cheekbones and my dark eyes. My eyelashes always seem to stand out and my hair is shiny even if I haven’t just washed it.

My back rolls are cute, and so are my front rolls. My face is super cute too, and I know it makes people happy when they see it.

I’m just a person. It’s impossible to love myself all the time, but when I’m not feeling it the best I can do is to not say negative things about myself and try to remember what is good about me. Body positivity, just like life, is a journey. There are setbacks, and obstacles, and bumps in the road. But it’s how we deal with these things and what we learn from them and the kind of person we become through this that is important. And if we really can’t see how beautiful we are, sometimes it’s good to remember that we aren’t our faces and our bodies. We are people with unique and interesting qualities.
I’m kind, caring, passionate, intelligent, ambitious, introverted, funny, anxious, loyal, hardworking, warm, friendly, curious… I’m so much more than my body. But when I remember how to love it and be kind to it, it makes life a whole lot easier.

 

 

(Bra is Clara by Panache, briefs are by Marks and Spencer, suspender belt is by What Katie Did and stockings are by Charnos)

Bra Fitting Part Two: The Truth is Out There (now…thanks to me)

I wanted to do a quick follow up to my first bra fitting post, as there are a few things I should have mentioned. And splitting it in to two blog posts makes me feel like I’m being super productive! Do you like the title? I wanted the whimsy you’d expect of a 90s sci-fi/fantasy TV show nerd, with a side of loveable bigheadedness. I recently saw an Instagram bio which stated “humble with a hint of Yoncé”, and I think that’s how I’m going to live my life from now on.

MOVING ON. One of the main important points I missed in my previous posts is that boobs are uneven. ALL BOOBS ARE UNEVEN. They are asymmetrical, just like most things about our bodies. It is TOTALLY normal. As a bra fitter, it is one of the many things you repeat twenty million times on the daily. Some women seem to think it’s a huge deal, and that their lives are ruined and they’ll never find a bra that works for them (I’m not making fun of these women, society (and poorly trained ‘fitters’) has induced this state of panic in them). All ya gots ta do is figure out which boob is bigger and fit to that side. Yeah, if it’s quite a sizeable difference, you may notice it, but it’s just another one of those bra compromises you have to make. Of course, if you’d rather have a lil double boob on one side so the smaller boob isn’t swimming in a cup slightly too big, you do your thang, boo. Some bras will disguise the difference quite well, and some will emphasise it. I’ve found that heavily moulded/padded bras make it more noticeable as the stiffness of the cups won’t mould to your shape. The stretch lace styles from Panache however, seem to work well as the stretchiness moves with you instead of catching like a normal non-stretchy bra cup.

While we’re on the subject of uneven boobs, I want to share a horrible story about a young woman I fitted WAY BACK in the early days of my fitting career. I’d got over the nerves of my first couple of weeks fitting when I wanted to be really technically perfect every single time, and was still getting my head around the fact that not every fit will be perfect or life-changing. I was realising my passion and wanted to give 100000% to every single woman I fitted (WHICH IS HOW IT SHOULD BE). But I was still sort of in this mindset that as a fitter, I should also be a “fixer”, and felt like it was up to me personally to be a body coach, life coach, motivator, therapist, best friend etc to all my customers, and it was exhausting, but also meant I usually spent way longer than I needed to which meant other customers had to wait. I wish I could just be a freelance lingerie consultant (this is honestly something I’m thinking about seriously and in the very SMALL BABY SEEDLING stages of STARTING to THINK about PLANNING) so I could give each customer as long as they want of my time (within reason). BUT ANYWAY OKAY. This gal came in and she was in tears because she’d just been “fitted” in Ann Summer’s. Normally, I would not name and shame places cuz nothing bad has really happened to me personally (except all those times I was fitted incorrectly in my formative, tender, teenage years and had to suffer the judge-y eyes doing a quick up-down over my body, BUT WHATEVS) (SO MANY TANGENTS), but this just really took me to the fair (hey, Fiona xo). This young woman, who was also the exact same age as me so I think that’s partly why I got so involved, was devastated because the assistant at  Ann Summer’s told her they “couldn’t fit her” because of her uneven boobs and that the only way to “fix it” would be to GET PLASTIC SURGERY. It’s been over two years since this happened and it still makes me shake with anger to this day. I took her into the fitting room and she immediately whipped off her top AND bra and pointed at her chest crying and saying “look at them, they’re awful”. And I was like, sweet baby girl there is nothing wrong with you. To be honest, I was expecting her to have a noticeable difference, because some women do have a difference of a couple of cup sizes so it can make fitting a little but more difficult, but this girl was practically perfectly symmetrical. I couldn’t understand how the person who fitted her at Ann Summer’s could have said something so disgustingly, dangerously unprofessional. Even if she did have a big difference between her boobs, HOW VERY DARE YOU??? It is so not the place of someone like that to comment, it’s not anybody’s business to point something like that out and then to suggest something as drastic as plastic surgery. Especially when somebody has gone to you because they trust that you’re going to be able to give them the right advice. They’ve chosen to take their top off and be very vulnerable in front of you, a stranger, and all you can say is “can’t help, soz, get plastic surgery”?? I never have and never will shop at Ann Summer’s because of this (and other reasons like they don’t do my size and it’s just not my jam), and also because when I got home from work still in a rage, I phoned their customer services to complain and the person I spoke to said “oh no, I’ll put it on file” but basically said they couldn’t do anything because I wasn’t the customer, but that she’d certainly make a note of it. NAH, RETRAIN YOUR STAFF TO FIT PROPERLY AND HAVE A LITTLE EMPATHY. Long story short, I fitted the woman perfectly with the first bra I put on her (I still remember exactly what it was, size, colour, everything), but she had such bad body image and probably dysmorphia that she just couldn’t see that there was nothing wrong with her and had decided that she was already going to get plastic surgery. Which is fine, I don’t judge anyone who wants to do that. But there are so many factors which contributed to this beautiful young woman reaching this point, mainly society and it’s massively fucked up beauty standards. I still think about her a lot and hope she’s okay and that she’s found some sort of peace with herself. Man, just DON’T TALK ABOUT PEOPLE’S BODIES.

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Niamh says NO to bodyshaming (wearing Andorra from Panahce, an example of one of the stretch lace styles mentioned below!) So smooth, so balanced.
SECONDLY. And sort of related and I can’t believe I skipped this one out too -BOOB SHAPE. Finding the correct size is sometimes the easiest part for the fitter. Just because you figure out the correct size though doesn’t always mean you’ve immediately found the perfect bra. The shape of your boobs plays a big part in what style of bras will work for you. For example, I’m shallow on top due to my “drastic” weight loss (I say drastic because it was quite a lot, I guess, and it happened relatively quickly). This means that I no longer have a fullness on top which is generally expected of boobs (again, those dratted beauty standards). This is why I love Cleo bras so much. The shape of their wires does something magical to me and lifts everything in just the right way so it looks like I have full, round boobers again. I therefore tend to find it hard to stray from these styles, as I never like the shape just as much. I do own some Freya and Bravissimo styles, because they’re pretty and I’m a fool with money, but I never wear them as often as I don’t love the shape. The wires are wider so they give a more east-west look which just doesn’t do it for me, and because the lift isn’t as good, I just sort of “sit” in the cups and don’t have the same round shape on top. It’s just personal preference, yo. There’s no reason for me not to wear other styles if they’re comfortable. I just prefer certain shapes over others. Figuring out your boob shape can be more awkward, but I’ve found through trying on loads of different brands and styles, it becomes more obvious after really analysing the shape they give me and how my breast tissue sits in the cups and is lifted and such.

 

Thirdly, I think it’s important to briefly point out that the way you put on your bra can help significantly with making sure all dat boob is in the right place, but also with prolonging the life of your bras. I am fully aware that for some people, there is no way to change the way you put on your bras. Issues such as arthritis, frozen shoulders, and mobility problems associated with different disabilities mean that it makes it more difficult to put your bra on a certain way. But, if you are able, do try and put it on front ways. Put your arms through the straps and lift them up to your shoulders, lean forwards as far as you can holding the bottom of the cups so your boobs fall into them, stand up and hook up the clasps, then make any other adjustments you need to. Yeah, it looks weird and it may be awkward if you’re not used to reaching back to do up the clasps, but this is the best way to protect the elastic and wires in your bras. Clasping a bra at the front and swivelling it around can actually twist and distort the wires. I may make a really awkward video of me doing it if you really, really need to see it. How else am I going to get famous?

 

Finally, and very quickly, please please please pleasepleasepleasepleasepleaseplease handwash your bras and airdry them away from direct heat aka NO RADIATORS OR TUMBLE DRYERS. Hot hot heat is a bra’s worst enemy, as it can wear out the elastic and distort the wires. Do you ever have a brand new bra which gets destroyed after the first wash and dry? Yeah, it’s cuz you shoved it in the washing machine EVEN THOUGH THE LABEL EXPLICITLY SAYS HAND WASH ONLY. Those labels aren’t there just for the craic. It’s very easy to handwash bras too. Just use whichever detergent you would normally use, swish it around in some water, give a lil extra love and scrubbing to the bits that might get more gross aka armpit area, and either hang it up on the washing line or dry it flat on a towel. Mmmmmmkay?

 

You know you love me,

XOXO Bra Girl

 

 

Beach Body Gal Pals

I know I’ve already shared a lot of photos from the “Beach Body Ready” collaboration with cutie Megan from Vent Threads and the amazing photographer Ciara, but I just wanted to say  a short bit about what a great day it was (and to have an excuse to share a bunch of photos again). Megan approached me a few weeks ago, asking if I would join in as she’d seen my posts about body positivity, and I was so excited to say yes. OBVIOUSLY. I was even more excited to hear that two of our friends, Helen and Colette would be joining us.

The location was perfect for the shoot – an empty Victorian pool in Templemore, Belfast. I felt like a real life model, and I remembered all the lessons Tyra Banks taught me (I’ve recently binge-watched about 12 seasons of America’s Next Top Model, so if anything I’m over-qualified). Also, there’s a lot to be said for standing in your room and taking photos of yourself in your knickers and how empowering it is, but it’s nothing compared to doing it with a group of fun, intelligent and positive friends. I love playing with my lingerie in my room and doing silly poses in front of my iPhone on selfie mode, but there’s just something about being with a group of like-minded women that really puts you in a good mood for the rest of the day! Surrounding yourself with positivity really does help you feel more positive about yourself.

Anyway, here are a load of photos that I love looking at. There is a mixture of Megan’s, Ciara’s and my photos (mine are the rubbish quality iPhone shots!) Maybe you’ll love looking at them too and feel confident enough to rock your own beach body!

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Megan is wearing Promenade Vintage and I’m wearing an old Britt bikini from Panache

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Colette is wearing high waisted bikini bottoms from Unique Vintage
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Helen is wearing a bikini top from Unique Vintage

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The Body Confidence Revolution

As some of you may already know from my Facebook and Instagram, I have been chosen by Leyah Shanks to be an official ambassador for the Body Confidence Revolution. There are so many reasons why this is an exciting development for me, one being that Leyah has been a personal role model for me for quite a while now. She was also one of the major inspirations for starting this blog. A few months ago she posted a photo of herself wearing the Lottie set from Cleo by Panache, and I suddenly thought “hey! I could do that!” I took a couple of photos of myself in some of my bras, thought I looked pretty good, sent one to a friend who agreed, and my mind was made up!

 

Look at us being twins! (Leyah –  we both have such good taste in lingere, I think we need to do a matching lingerie shoot some time!)

I try to make my feelings on body positivity very clear. For one, I’ve decided to share photos of myself and my body, a body which many others would deem unattractive according to the unrealistic beauty ideals which are drilled into us from all angles everyday. I have addressed it more blatantly in my older post Am I still fat? (let me be clear here: I do not mean “fat” to be anything other than a descriptor, but unfortunately we are supposed to think of it as a negative attribute and that if we are fat, we are worth less). While it’s always been implied on my blog and Instagram, I didn’t think I was doing enough and thought I needed to be more vocal about it. I posted a clear photo of my belly, where the after effects of weight loss are most evident. Although I have generally not tried to hide much about my body, some of the photos I’ve posted may have been too thought out, and I’ve angled myself in certain ways until I’m completely happy with how I look. This didn’t seem honest enough. If I’m describing myself as a “body positivity enthusiast” I need to do more than just saying “all bodies are good bodies”. Of course, that message is true and something I’ve believed in for a long time, but I felt like I needed to give something back to the community which helped me so much, and hopefully in turn inspire others to find the courage to love themselves too.

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My body tells a story I’m proud to share
In that weird way that life seems to go sometimes, an opportunity slapped me right in the face when Leyah posted about looking for ambassadors. It just struck me as the absolutely, perfectly right thing at the right time. I applied and didn’t really think much else of it, but was of course delighted when Leyah got back to me saying I’d been chosen as an ambassador. Clearly she could see something in me, some inspiring little light that could do some good in the world. When one of your own personal role models can see something similar to what you see in them, it feels freaking fantastic! Also, seeing the flipping AMAZING people I’ve been chosen to join just blows my mind. For real, when I saw the other beautiful ambassadors Leyah had chosen, I got a little emotional. Check them out here.

What it all comes down to is this: I am beautiful, no matter what bra size, dress size, weight, sexuality. Whether I have long hair or short. If I’m feeling low, and anxious and sad, or if I’m confident and happy and dancing in my unda-pants, I’m beautiful. The body love journey is not an easy journey to embark upon. There are set backs, and hurdles, and millions of people trying to tell you you’re wrong. But honestly? Fuck them. You are the most important person in your life, and if I can inspire just ONE more person to realise that about themselves, I’ll be happy.

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xx