There are a lot of opinions out there about how to be a feminist.
To be totally honest, it drives me up the wall.
The foundation of feminism is to empower women and men to feel equal. There is no "right way" to be a woman or a man (that's just what the patriarchy wants you to believe). So no woman should be ashamed of being a stay at home mum, being a wife, being career-driven or wearing short skirts and outlandish clothes.
I often feel the pressure to be "low-maintenance" when it comes to my appearance to be taken seriously as a feminist. Which is so wrong because I personally feel empowered when I'm expressing myself through my clothes, hair or make up. Even more so when me being "low-maintenance" is sometimes symptomatic of low self-esteem and depression.
I had this realisation sat in the bath browsing through Urban Outfitters (yes, I'm an awful human being who can't be apart from her phone even for the length of a bath).
Along with my Bipolar diagnosis came a load of medication with well-documented side effects of an increase in appetite. I was lethargic and constantly hungry, which was really difficult to adapt to. With increased appetite came the living nightmare for someone who has suffered through Anorexia Nervosa - weight gain.
I went from a size 12 to a 16 and basically buried my head in the sand.
I found I couldn't shop from the same places anymore because the clothes were not made to accommodate a little bit of curve. Shopping was way less enjoyable, so I stopped altogether. The only clothes I bought last year were for pure comfort or absolute necessity.
And I convinced myself that's what I wanted. I thought I had finally grown up and realised that trying to express myself through my appearance didn't make me happy and I was only doing it for others.
It's amazing what you can make yourself believe when you're in denial.
Not only did my self-esteem take a hit, but it made me want to exercise less and less. I've always had to work hard to persuade myself into exercising, but this became a losing argument daily.
Not only was I not comfortable in my own skin, but I wasn't doing anything to help myself. I stopped exercising. I ate complete junk food every day. I bought clothes simply because they covered my belly or helped me to fade into the background.
I don't know how well you know me yet, but I am not a background person.
Before I can remember I was setting myself goals that marked me out as an extrovert: as soon as I started nursery I set my sights on passing the 11+, I wanted to start my own theatre company, then set up a feminist marketing company, start an illustration company and well, now we're here.
My many, many life plans all have one thing in common: me communicating myself and the things that are special about me to the world. And you can't do that in the background.
This last year I have discovered the wonders of ASOS Curve, been exercising regularly and eating healthier foods. I've listened to The Guilty Feminist so much that I figured out my own "I'm a feminist but..." (I'm a feminist, but my eyeliner is my identity).
I am finally starting to have fun again. I bought a coat that is bright and vibrant. I cut my hair short so I could do more fun things with it. I have built up a little wardrobe that I am very proud of, and that most importantly makes me feel like myself.
And I shoudn't feel like a shit feminist for that.
No, I shouldn't have to change anything about my natural self to feel beautiful, but it's not about that. I don't believe that I am worthless if I don't wear make up. I don't believe I'm unattractive if I wear ugly clothes.
But what I do know is that being a little bit "high-maintenance" can do wonders for my confidence going about my day.
So it is totally valid to be a feminist and spend time on your appearance. Just as it is to not spend time on your appearance.