All my life I have felt (or been made to feel by others) that I wasn’t skinny enough or pretty enough. As a teenager I was considered ‘fat’, when I was what must have been a size 10! Unfortunately when growing up, most of the girls around me – classmates, neighbours, cousins, sister – were small framed and most didn’t have my curvy hips or early developed breasts. So to deal with that perception of what society considered ‘unattractive’ I became an extrovert to draw people’s attention away from how I looked. I became loud and silly and was that always happy, laughing girl.
Migrating to Australia (from Sri Lanka) at an impressionable 19 years of age, was a culture shock in itself, but add to that the fact that I suddenly stood out from the crowd and not in a good way and you’re going to have a young woman who develops major self esteem issues. All of a sudden even the colour of my skin and the colour of my hair didn’t fit in, so I couldn’t blend in anymore. I couldn’t disappear when I wanted to, and that faux ‘extrovert’ personality took a huge hit.
I soon developed an unhealthy relationship with food and I began to put on weight as my self confidence plummeted. I would eat when I was stressed, or sad, or busy or happy. Food wasn’t something to be savoured, it became something I did to fill that hole of self esteem.
Over the years I would go on one fad diet after another, start new exercise regimes (always on a Monday! 😄) and lose a bit of weight only to have no one notice, or even worse, have someone suggest to me that maybe I should try this or that diet or exercise to lose weight. So then I’d binge eat again. It just got worse when I couldn’t lose the little extra weight I put on during my three pregnancies.
To survive I started making jokes or drawing attention to my weight as if to show people that I knew I was fat, to get in before they said anything hurtful. How self destructive! The worst part is that in retrospect when I began that self sabotaging of my confidence I was probably a size 14 at my biggest. Considered acceptable by today’s standards.
At this stage I was able to control the weight somewhat until my jobs became more and more sedentary and filled with more responsibilities that would make me stressed which I would then overcome temporarily by eating. Contracting Ross River Virus in 2006 led to rheumatoid arthritis especially in my feet which makes walking a painful activity even today.
I know the adage that only you can make you happy. That we shouldn’t depend on others to make us feel better about ourselves. This is easier said than done I’ve found.
Those that had the power to hurt me the most were members of my own family. This would be in the form of what they said or didn’t say. Later in life it was my husband. I would sabotage all instances of his caring. I would keep saying things like ‘you would have loved me more if I was thinner’ or ‘I wish I was prettier for you’. (I actually feel shame as I write this down, but hey I have decided that honest is what I am going to be on this blog.)
I love this quote! “How can you ever say anything negative about your body after you have felt the dancing of life from inside your womb?” 😍
So during this time of discovering the joy of less I have been trying to continue building myself up and not just saying it but truly believing and behaving in a way that proves that my self worth is determined by ME and only me!
Slowly, very slowly I stopped drawing attention to my size. I stopped laughing at myself and others followed suit. I have a wonderful friend who helped me see how it was destroying me to constantly harp on about my size or what diet or exercise regime I was on. She has been an inspiration and is one of the most beautiful women I know and that’s because she loves herself. It shows. It always shows. I read the other day, how can you expect someone else to love you when you don’t love yourself. So true!
This year I’ve learnt to remind my brain that even if I’m not the perfect size … whatever the perfect number is these days … my body can do amazing things. I felt so fit as we traipsed around the world last year. I felt so heathy with the changes and alternative choices we were making in our diet by eating whole, real foods. I got supple working alongside Ben as his first mate on the boat.
I may never be a size 10 again and that is finally ok with me. As I hurtle towards 50 I just want to be fit and healthy and I’m learning that I CAN do that without being a magic number on the scales.
There are times I wish I had appreciated more that young healthy woman that I was. I wish I could go back in time and tell her to celebrate her healthy curves and keep smiling her joyous smile. To advice her to change her perception of herself and love and appreciate herself and just be ‘her’.
I want to tell young girls to love how they look. To appreciate their youth and their body’s strength and health, because they will one day be glad just to have that. I want to tell them that they don’t want to regret not having celebrated their wonderful years of youth. I want them to know that when they get to my age, they don’t want to have spent so many wasted hours… years … on self doubts. Spent so much time comparing themselves with the curated, filtered images of ‘friends’ and strangers on their social media feeds.
Be YOU, because the danger of conformity is that everyone likes you except you.
You are more than the size on the label of your clothes… more than the number on the scales or measuring tape … You are more than what society tells you you should be! So instead tell yourself that you are smart and capable and funny and interesting and loved and beautiful. Yes BEAUTIFUL. (These are still the hardest words for me to say to myself!). You are you and you are enough. Don’t let anyone else tell you different.
We have such a short time to live on this earth. Let’s not waste time agonising about how we look in comparison to some made up standard. Let’s just go live life. That’s all I’m trying to do!