Shannon Lawson: How I Found My Self-Worth as a Model, Woman and Wife

POPSUGAR Australia is dedicating the month of September to featuring the next generation of inspired thinkers and courageous individuals who are building and manifesting a brighter future — because the next gen is unstoppable. We will deliver personal essays from young Australians who are making a name for themselves, as well as inspiring thought pieces and interviews with rising talent across different industries throughout the month. Find all of our pieces here, and if there’s someone you think is missing, email our editor so we can share their story — [email protected].

As I hit 30 I look back at the last 15 years of my life and I realise that I’ve only truly come into my own skin now.

Throughout school, I trained as a dancer — for two hours a day every day — for most of my teens. I had innocent ambitions of travelling the world and dancing my way through life on cruise ships, or in costume at theme parks or backing a superstar artist on stage. Oh boy, I was wrong. After a few years of auditions, I got my first real taste of rejection and found myself stuck on the age-old question: “What do I do with my life?”.

As I applied to universities for tertiary education, I realised I had a few options to stay in the arts while getting a degree. I thought: “Perfect, I’ll get a Bachelor of Media Production, still be able to work behind the scenes in media and then all of that hard work in my teens wasn’t for nothing.” I told myself if I couldn’t be in front of the camera, then I’d be behind it and make my parents happy by being the first person in my family to graduate university.

As each year of university progressed so did my appearance and self-esteem.

My “glow up” took some time. My face full of acne slowly disappeared and, suddenly, I had boobs and a reason to stand up tall. By the age of 21, I realised boys had finally caught up to my height.

I was 6 feet tall, long-limbed and mixed-raced. I was frequently told: “You should really model” and after years of putting it off, I realised it was another ticket to travel and have an opportunity to be centre stage once more.

Navigating my way through modelling was tough. I knew with dancing I was being judged on skill but here, I was being judged on my looks. It took years before I got a serious foot in the door and even then, I couldn’t live off of it. Instagram became a platform for me to market myself in ways my agencies couldn’t. I got sick of waiting around for work and soon realised that I could actually get the work myself.

I started to treat modelling as a 9-5. If I didn’t book a job then I spent my time improving myself with fitness, networking, emailing brands and travelling. I didn’t wait for the opportunity to go overseas but instead, I made my own way to London where I knew I could tap into an international market and leverage my knowledge in media along with my natural ability to move on-screen and, in turn, really own my swim/commercial look.

Ultimately, I backed myself. I wouldn’t take no for an answer. Most would say it’s my genetics that led to my success but really, it was my work ethic.

As I started to travel, I fell in love and began juggling my 20s, work and a relationship. I was dating a lawyer six years older than me, who would constantly question my freelance work and ultimately challenged me in ways I had never experienced before. I became squeamish meeting his friends as I felt judged for being a model and not having the required high-powered career they were all accustomed to. This was how I unearthed my drive to prove people wrong.

By my mid-20s, I was a hustler fuelled by a competitive nature within myself. I enjoyed socially disarming people by proving I was more than my looks and I, too, was successful in my own right. I realised my measure of success is different from others and I didn’t need to compare it to anyone else but me.

My work was thriving, my relationship was blooming and all of a sudden, my life started to look a little different. The idea of settling down and having kids was suddenly on my doorstep and I realised all my life experiences up until now had helped create a healthy sense of self-esteem but not a true sense of self-worth.

I realised I was running away from my humble beginnings and my single mum who never had a healthy relationship in her life. I was numbing myself by developing a thick skin to help me justify what I was doing with my life.

I suddenly had to become vulnerable again and identify a new age of values and beliefs in association with my relationship and ask myself if I was worthy of being a wife and future mother. I had to let go of wanting to please others and instead, accept love and learn to work through life with a partner.

My favourite quote is: “We accept the love we think we deserve” and I truly believe I’ve now embodied what that means at the age of 30 and having been married for two years. Yes, I still ask myself “what do I do with my life?” but I remove self-doubt when I pat myself on the back and give myself a break.

Self-worth isn’t about our looks, education, work ethic or relationships but instead our ability to love ourselves. In no way is it easy but the journey you are on will allow you to appreciate yourself. We are the instruments that measure our happiness and in turn, make us unique.

You can follow Shannon Lawson on Instagram.

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