It’s taken me a long time to get to the stage where I can look in the mirror and not be bombarded with intrusive thoughts of self-hatred.
Perhaps not always hatred, but critique or a desire for things to be different. Years of my life have been spent tending to my insecurities, helping them to grow until they consume me.
It took time, persistent work and constant set backs. A lot of which needed to be done in the comfort of my own head space, as I found that most external forces were counter productive. Society, unfortunately, needs insecurity. Consumerism demands a lack of self confidence and a ‘desire to improve’. Pete the personal trainer will go out of business if we all stop caring about the way we look. Separating yourself from these things and setting the re-set button, with no standards, no comparison and no ‘normal’ is like detoxing from the most destructive of drugs.
Eventually, however, one must emerge from the comfort of a self-loving cocoon. Unless you fancy hopping on a plane to a remote island, which to be fair I do contemplate most days, you do need to function in the ‘real world’. Holding on to your new found self-love is suddenly far more difficult, as though someone has put butter on your fingers.
I have to remind myself that I don’t actually care about the things that I am made to think should be at the top of my worry list.
I don’t care!
I don’t care that from certain angles my nose looks a bit like a penis. I don’t care that my vagina doesn’t look like the ones you see on porn sites. I don’t care that my boobs are different shapes and my nipples aren’t the size of a 10p coin. I don’t care that my thighs meet in the middle, (until it’s summer and I want to wear a dress but can’t because of chaff, I care a little then but talc was invented for a reason.) I don’t care that I can’t afford a wax this month, slash can’t really be bothered so don’t have a vagina that feels like a polished surface. I don’t care that my stomach bulges over the top of my jeans when I sit down.
They want you to care. I’m not really sure who they are, but I know that they exist. People are so shocked when self-confidence exudes from a person who does not fit tightly into the edges of societys mould. ‘Wait, you love yourself? Like you’re completely ok with THAT body? Why?’
Why? Well let me tell you Susan. I love it because it works. I love it because I’m lucky to be able bodied, to smell the roses and feel the rain. I love it because hating it is exhausting and it makes me miserable. It also stops me from doing things that I love; like eating a slice of cake every now and again and having sex. So, yes, I love it and you don’t have to.
There are Susan’s everywhere. Stacey Solomon will back me up on this one. A Susan, as I’m sure it will state in the dictionary, is someone that has an opinion on everything, especially when you have not asked to hear one.
There are also people who do not realise that they are in the depths of a difficult relationship with themselves. They don’t want to trigger you, it is not their intention, but because they represent a place in which you used to be, they become hard to be around. People who still care and who still have those intrusive thoughts that make their vocabulary fixated on physical appearance and self-loathing. It can be impossible not to slip into the dialogue that you used to be fluent in. A dialogue which surrounds diet and perfection which does not exist.
It’s a fucking rollercoaster. One day I have it all under control and the next I have to muster all of my might to defend myself from over whelming feelings of darkness. I catch myself slipping into self detrimental habits, commenting negatively on the way I look, often to form the butt of a joke.
Tackling this kind of triggering behaviour is complicated and extremely difficult; especially as it can often feel like it’s everywhere. You can even be in the comfort of your own home, scrolling casually through Instagram and bam, there it is.
When it’s people that I love, I struggle even more. I see only beauty. I see gorgeous goddess women. It makes me furious that they don’t see it, because their ideal is so far removed from what beauty really is. I also feel so guilty for not wanting to be around them, or for allowing my own defence mechanisms to snap at them or to shut down their valid feelings. I had the same feelings for so long and all that helped me was kindness and patience.
Boundaries are mentioned a lot in self-help speech, but finiding the babalance between being a good friend and protecting yourself can be difficult. I’ve realised that when I’m on top form and have extra energy to give, I can pour love and advice into those I love without draining any of my own worth or slipping back into negative patterns.
When I am feeling vulnerable however, I can’t help but feel incapable of keeping the negative thoughts at bay. So I am slowly learning to separate the words of others, in relation to themselves, from myself. It’s difficult because it’s a mindset I used to be in, phrases ring in my head like a song that I can’t stop singing.
‘I just need to cut out carbs’ – This is a demonization of carbs – vegetables can be equally as problematic for your health if consumed in high quantities.
‘I just feel really fat at the moment.’ – You’re a size 6, fat is not a feeling it’s an adjective.
‘I hate my…’ – Fill in the gap, hating anything on your body that helps you to move, breathe, jump, love is problematic. There is nothing to hate becuase it stems from comparrison to an ever-changing ideal.
I often say this to myself. It is not you. It is your environment. You are inhabiting a body which is your home. There is no reason why you should feel uncomfortable in your own home. You are ever-changing and that takes patience, understanding and acceptance. Most people on this planet will be able to admit that they have felt insecure about one thing or another at a certain point in their lives. Even if it’s something tiny. I think what we need to do, as a collective, is accept that we all feel like this but remove the guilt from releasing ourselves from these negative thoughts. Remove the stigma from confidence, it’s not only reserved for Lizzo and Beyoncé, everyone has the right to feel that much self acceptance no matter what they look like. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and if the way that you view yourself stays relatively consistent, the opinions of others will become background noise.
If you’re feeling really good about yourself, don’t feel guilty for this. Hold on to it as though it were a precious heirloom from your grandmothers cabinet, dropping it would be disastrous.
Of course, speak openly about your insecurities, sometimes saying things aloud removes the weight, they become feathers floating in front of you; and they are far easier to blow away. There will always be something that you wish you could change, even if you think that you’ve ‘fixed’ all of your insecurities, something will take centre stage. Perhaps, instead of focusing on how to change, just sit with yourself first. Accept that this is the vessel that you’ve been given and focus on the positive, on your magic qualities, because trust me you have them.
Tread carefully, kindly and be patient. It will come. You will be relieved. It’s like you’re bursting for a wee, desperate to be free of the weight of judgement, and once you let go, RELIEF. Pure relief.
When I find the conversation too much, and I feel like I’m slipping back into the habit of bitching about my body; I dial up the positivity. Even if I don’t really believe what I’m saying, I dial it up because I know that this is far more beneficial than joining the self-hate party. Don’t be afraid to remove yourselves from situations that feel triggering, you don’t need to make a fuss you can just pop to the loo or say that your flats on fire. Boundaries can be implemented without preaching about the fact that you have come a really long way and you now need boundaries because you’re a superior being. You’re not, we all have the capacity to need help, advice and to move backwards during our progression.
I also find it helpful to break down my insecurities and think – why don’t I like that about myself? Is it because it doesn’t match what I am told is perfect or desirable, or is it because I genuinely feel uncomfortable in my own skin. There is a difference. I had no qualms about most of my body when I was ignorant to what society thought ‘normal’ was. It was just my body. It made me, me.
Trust the process. Seek the support of your friends and don’t be afraid to hold each other accountable, with love and kindness. If someone’s language becomes exceedingly self-detrimental or focused on calories and apperance – talk to them. Dissect that conversation. Fill them with love, and speak about yourself positively, there is no shame in feeling good. As long as you don’t become a self-righteous arsehole, then it’s just annoying and unhelpful.
Just incase you need to hear this, from me to you..
You are special. A magical person with nothing to worry about. Anything that makes you different only fuels the magic within. Let your light shine and try not to let standards of beauty convince you that you are not worthy. You are. There are qualities that you have which make you different and desireable so hold on to them, lift them up and the insecurities that you give so much weight to, will just melt away. Be patient, it takes time. Accepting yourself in an environment that makes you question your beauty is a difficult task but, you’re strong. You’ve got this. x