I’ve always thought I was quite body confident. Throughout my teenage years I was slim and into early adult hood. As a young girl I was more into what my body could do than how it looked. I loved playing netball and I enjoyed pushing myself physically. I always wanted to throw further in baseball or become more agile in netball. When I became interested in sex I was even more into what my body was capable of and thankfully I was content with how it looked. I don’t recall body confidence being an issue I really dealt with.
I was in a long term relationship from about age 17 and I never felt like I was trying to get attention from boys like in those American high school movies. My friends and I weren’t into make up and hair as a rule and if we were it was never that important to me so it never felt like a competition.
I had my least favourite parts just like anyone. I have always been most self conscious of my belly and as I grew through puberty at school I would slouch to try to cover up my boobs a bit. All that did was give me a bad posture.
My confidence took a huge knock when I suffered with depression but that is definitely a different issue to body confidence. The feelings of worthlessness that depression brought with it convinced me that I was less than nothing and unattractive on the whole. I would try not to look in the mirror and I self harmed too. I hated my body because I hated myself. But the problem wasn’t about the way I looked, it was systemic.
Having quite a few more pressing situations to navigate during adolescence (I was vulnerably housed and still self harming and trying to work 2 jobs) my weight really was at the bottom of my list of priorities. As I said, it was neither here nor there anyway, I wasn’t overweight nor underweight.
It was only as my life became more stable that I started to gain weight. When I met my now husband we went out to restaurants or we were tucked up at home watching films (or American football at 3am) and eating takeaways. The most detrimental thing I was doing to my health was smoking. We were both smokers for a long time. I’ve since given up and it is one of my greatest accomplishments – never underestimate how bad ass you are for giving up smoking.
My life changed so much in that year. I had been settled in my flat for nearly 2 years, I had changed jobs to caring and I loved it, I passed my driving test and got approved for a bank loan and bought my first car. Rich and I went out on the weekends I wasn’t working to his mum’s pub and we even went on an amazing holiday around America with his mum and step dad.
When I looked back at the holiday pictures (it was that long ago I had had them developed off a film) I realised how much weight I had gained. My habits had changed drastically without me really noticing. The photo showed it all though, and I could clearly see a muffin top spilling over my size 14 jeans. I can still remember the picture. It’s of me and Rich stood in front of a mini replica of the statue of liberty at one of the hotels on the on the Las Vegas strip.
I was shocked at this particular photo and to be honest I think this was the first picture of myself I had ever instantly hated.
The following year was our wedding. Like any bride to be I wanted to lose weight before the big day. I joined weight watchers for the first time and stuck to it rigidly. In the 9 months leading up to the wedding I lost about 2 stone. On my wedding day I was 9st 6lbs. Slimmest week of my adult life.
We had an amazing honeymoon to Cuba and I wore bikinis and felt good about myself and I was very happy.
It wasn’t too long before we planned for a family. The next few years were an age of discovery for me. I didn’t conceive my daughter immediately as I had hoped to and that first year was all about charting and getting in tune with my menstrual cycles which up until then I had tried my best to get through and ignore. It was fascinating to be honest.
My first pregnancy was the first time I ever faced body confidence issues. No matter where I was It was guaranteed I would get a comment about how huge I was. I had been waiting for my little girl for so long and I was truly amazed at my body so I tried not to let it get to me but unfortunately it did. I tried not to go out as much at the end of my pregnancy.
My daughter was born and the last thing on my mind was how I looked. If there’s one thing in this world that removes your vanity and doesn’t care much for your ego either it’s becoming a mother. I was so happy and my everything was focused on her. I cut my hair short and I lost a load of weight after my pregnancy just naturally through breastfeeding. Which was awesome.
By the time she was about four I’d gained some more and this was the first time I was a size 16 not being pregnant. I felt a bit uncomfortable but it didn’t really affect my everyday. By now I was a stay at home mum and work and work clothes were a long left memory.
The time came that we were planning for another baby. This time I barely blinked and I was pregnant. I grew big on this pregnancy the same as before and faced the same insulting comments daily as a norm. This time round though I had slightly thicker skin.
My son was born and he had a traumatic first 2 weeks in the NICU. Then he had silent reflux and a cow’s milk protein allergy. Due to breastfeeding, this meant I had to cut out all dairy from my diet. For 18 months I had no cakes, chocolate, ice cream, and a whole load of other stuff that tastes good but contains milk. The weight I had gained during pregnancy gradually came off and some I had gained before. People started telling me I looked good.
That brings me to the present moment. After a few non-committal diet efforts and signing up to a home work out programme that I lose motivation for more than my car keys I’m back up to a size 16 and the biggest I have ever been not pregnant.
Describing myself as having a healthy body image I tried to ignore the feelings of self doubt and less-than-ness I have been getting. A conversation with a long time friend brought home how much it has been affecting my outlook. When arranging a spa day I emphasised that I had gained a lot of weight. I have known her since we were kids and I didn’t want her to feel shocked when she saw me in my swimsuit. What alerted me to this particular conversation is that it was a mirror. Deep down, I knew that my friend would not care at all what I looked like in my swim suit. I knew I was deflecting my feelings onto her, and I realised how much my body confidence has dipped of late.
I have been feeling really down about myself lately, and no matter how much I tell myself to stop being a vain bastard I can’t lie to myself anymore and pretend that it isn’t affecting my quality of life. Because it is. Just lately I’ve noticed it has affected:
- How I feel I fit in (feeling like the biggest one in a friendship group)
- Confidence in ability (knowing I’m lacking in self control makes me question my ability in other things)
- Feelings of worth (I feel less than compared to others)
- Self limits (I won’t run much with the kids, I won’t try climbing even though I would like to in case I embarrass myself being too big to do it)
- Wanting to melt into the background (anywhere – bars, public spaces, anywhere).
That annoys me because I know I’m the only person who can do anything about it. Yet I have struggled to make the change. Which is even more fearful for me because it reveals that it goes deeper than eating a bit too much since summer, it’s a behavioural problem. And that needs attention, and I’ve no clue where to begin with that.
Looking at my habits around my health, food and exercise, it wouldn’t take Sherlock Holmes to point out I am using food as something else. And without going too deep in this post, it’s basically because I’ve been feeling a bit alone. A bit insignificant. A bit of a hermit. A bit past my prime.
I feel as if I’ve pinpointed the issue. The effect this lack of body confidence is having is entirely undesirable and yet I don’t have the tools to fix it. Past paying for CBT I’m not sure where to go next. What I have done is followed a few body positive women on instagram who are kick ass babes. I look at them and think how amazing they look but then berate myself in the mirror.
More than anything I want to set a good example for my impressionable 8 year old daughter. Fighting the mainstream media that constantly push the message that being skinny is the ultimate goal, I want to teach her that our bodies genuinely are incredible. Because they are. I just wish I knew how to regain some of that body confidence for myself.
This was an epic post! I’m amazed you read this far – thanks! I would love it if you wanted to share some of your thoughts and experiences about body confidence in the comments section below.