I find it hard to know how to relate to my body. There is a lot of conflicting information thrown at me.
It should be strong and sporty because ‘this girl can’. It should be thin and well-kept because why wouldn’t you make the most of what you have got? I shouldn’t give it a second thought because appearances don’t matter.
It is confusing.
And I am 37. Surely I should have got this one sussed by now?
I know how I look is not the be all and end all. And most of my life I have used this as my reason for not paying it much attention.
On the whole this has been a strategy that has worked well.
But recently I have noticed my attitude towards my flesh and bones changing.
I have noticed a new response has started to emerge when I catch sight of myself in a mirror, or see myself in a photograph.
I was only able to name it as such after re-watching Inside Out a few weeks ago. The green girl with the long eyelashes talks to me while she looks me up and down rolling her eyes and scrunching up her nose. She says;
You do not come up to scratch, lady. Your legs are too wide and your bum is too big. You are too short. You did not spend enough time putting together that look, and where is the make up?
At night as I collapse into bed I find myself going through the list of what I have eaten, feeling ashamed at my lack of self-control and angry about the unnecessary food I have consumed.
This is new to me.
I am not someone who has ever particularly struggled with my self image. My response to my reflection until recently has been, room for improvement but not bad. And I dont know where this new attitude has come from. It has no origin I can think of, no obvious starting point or trigger.
And as I have brought these feelings of disappointment into the light of day I have begun to see just how subtly and dangerously they have started to take hold. Food has ceased to be quite the pleasure it used to be. I enjoy a meal only to berate myself silently afterwards. I am spending far longer than I would like thinking about all the people who are thinner than I am, younger than I am, more attractive than I am.
I am wasting time and energy on things that dont matter, that aren’t even real.
But these lies have started to trickle through, interrupting me as I go about my day causing me to compare myself countless times. It is tiring and I have had enough of it.
I am making a stand.
I am exposing it and calling it for what it is.
A distraction from the important things of life.
And if this sensation of disgust, of not measuring up, of wishing I was different is a lie,
what is the truth?
You cannot replace a lie with a vacuum, it doesnt work, you have to replace a lie with something else. The truth seems like a good place to start.
My body is magnificent.
(And so is yours).
I have strong arms that have rocked babies to sleep. I have a back that has transported children up and down the stairs. I have eyes that can see the beauty of this season of the year and in my life. I have ears that can hear music and a mouth that can taste food. I have hands that can dig the earth, and braid my girls’ hair, and clean the bathroom and type these words.
My body is not disgusting, it is beautiful.
There is beauty in the actions it performs.
And (I say while blowing a raspberry at shame) there is beauty in the way my body looks.
There is beauty in the design.
It feels dangerous to say that I am beautiful. To love myself enough. To not censor myself through fear of how you will read this.
But I will say it. I am beautiful.
It is a truth I am learning to claim because this beauty is not in short supply.
This is not a competition.
I am beautiful and you are beautiful.
There is beauty in the design of all of us.
From the colour of your eyes to the breadth of my smile.
Beauty does not need to be viewed from the position of scarcity. Beauty is everywhere.
And, while I’m on a roll of truth-telling, I’ll tell you what else I know when I stop being distracted by the nonsense, the magazines and the internet and drip-drip-drip that values youth and unattainable weight goals and flawless skin and symmetrical features and models who pose with their mouths open like they are catching flies.
Beauty is not about dress size, or complexion, it is not about fashion or age.
Beauty is about the heart. Like the kids song we used to sing, it’s whats on the heart that counts.
Beauty abounds where there is kindness and acceptance.
Beauty is found where there is trust and a willingness to be vulnerable.
Beauty is about love.
Knowing you are loved and loving others. Risking love. Even loving yourself.
Especially loving yourself.
I deliberately posted the picture of me and my boy lying on the trampoline in the sunshine as this is not a photo I think of as particularly flattering. But I love it still because of what it represents.
Big love x