I have been toying around with this post for the past couple of weeks, and I still really don't know where to start. So I will start with a disclaimer that this will probably not be my best writing. It's most likely going to be all over the place, because if I am being honest, my feelings around my body image, and body image in general are all over the place! However, I am going to try to articulate my feelings as best I can and this is going to be 100% honest, no holding back. This may end up being one in a series of posts about this, as I struggle to come to terms with my own body image and the pressures of society, but we'll see how this one goes before planning ahead.
We've all been there, we've all felt 'fat' at some point in our lives. Many of us who have embarked on a weight loss journey have most likely been called fat by someone at one point or another, or at the very least been made to feel fat someone or something that was said. I know I was called fat as a teenager many times. I was even once called 'The Beast', which is something I will never forget. I have lost and gained weight a number of times in my life and always enjoyed the postive comments about my changing body that came with the losses. Thats what I was losing weight for right?
It was a series of photos of myself that spurred me on to join Weight Watchers for the last time back in January 2012 and pushed me into losing all the weight. I was DISGUSTED with how I looked. I've often said that I lost the weight for lots of reasons, but in reality it was how I looked that did it for me. My health should have been my biggest concern but I can tell you now if someone told me that I would be healthier back at 14 stone than I am now, I probably would be in no hurry to gain all the weight back. And why is that? As a society we put a huge amount of worth into how people look. Taking away the unrealistic expectations that the media put open us, in general there is pressure from everywhere to look a certain way.
We've all heard it when talking about an overweight person...."Oh its such a shame, she'd be so pretty if she just lost the weight" or 'She has such a pretty face' or (because it goes both ways) 'She's far to thin, she needs to eat a sandwich'. And it's not just about weight, its everything. Not enough make up or too much make up. Dressed like a prude or dressed like a slut. Why do we feel like we judge people by these standards, and who decides what those standards are. Why is the greatest compliment you can give someone about how they look? The first thing you say when you haven't seem someone is a long time 'Oh you look great', whether you mean it or not. Why can't we start giving more meaningful compliments?
I hate myself at times for putting so much worth in my looks. I hate that a simple glance in the mirror can make me feel awful in a split second. I hate that I can spend ages just staring at my naked body in the mirror looking for things to criticise; checking every different angle, breathing in and standing tall, and relaxing and letting it all hang out, pulling & prodding at my loose skin and making it jiggle, studying every scar and blemish on my face and body. I also hate myself for judging other peoples looks, without even thinking its there, the flash judgement. Its ingrained in us. I pretend I don't put much worth in it, I don't wear make up during the week or do my hair. I wear the same stuff over and over to work. In reality, its just an image I hide behind. If I know I haven't put any effort in, it doesn't matter if people think I don't look good....sure I'm not even trying.
I'm not saying I always hate the way I look, being honest there are times I love what I see in the mirror. I can be almost cocky in my own head about how great I think I look and strut around for a while thinking I am gorgeous (until I catch sight of myself at a bad angle and revert to hating how I look). But even that in itself causes issues for me, I'm still putting all this worth into how I look. I am so much more than what I look like, but I feel that sometimes I don't even believe that myself. And when I feel like all I am is what I look like, I feel like I'm not very much at all.
So how do I balance these feelings. I enjoy putting make up on at the weekend, and dressing up to feel pretty. I like the compliments I get about my weight loss. I love feeling beautiful. But if I don't want to put so much worth in my beauty, should I be making so much effort? Is there a balance to be found?
I feel sad because I know that there is so much more talk in the media about accepting our bodies for what they are, but to counter balance that there is so much more pressure to look a certain way. We are sending mixed signals to the next generation and perpetuating an attitude I think needs to change. I have been obsessed with my body for as long as I can remember, comparing myself to all my friends from when I was as young as 7 or 8. I always felt bigger (even though I was pretty thin as a child) as long as I could find someone who I felt looked the same size as me I felt ok. If I have children, I do not want to pass these feelings onto them. I want them to live in a place where they can be proud of who they are, their health and well being comes as a priority to them as well as doing their best in whatever they choose to do.
I guess I'm going to leave it here for now. I know I'll have to revisit this topic again because in reality this is just one long rant about how I've been feeling the past few weeks. I had one New Years resolution this year that I didn't share, it was to stop judging people not just out loud but in my own mind and it's actually pretty hard to do but I feel its the most worthwhile resolution I have ever undertaken... the problem is I guess I forgot to stop judging myself!