We had an absolutely gorgeous day today. My son Patrick, was invited to be presented with a collage of the Garda (police) videos that were sent to him during lockdown. It couldn’t have been a nicer day. I felt so happy and proud of Patrick and of myself.
Then boom, at 10 o-clock tonight my good mood evaporated with the ping of a whats app message. My friend who was at the presentation sent me some lovely photographs that she had taken of the day. As I scrolled through them my heart sank to into my feet and my mood changed totally at the appearance of myself on the screen.
I just looked awful in the photo ‘like the side of a house’ with a big fat face and a blob like body. As I sobbed to my friends about it, they all said nice things and told me not to be so hard on myself and I know they are right, but looking at this picture just stole my joy. I let a photograph, steal my joy and trust me, joy has been in short supply for a few years and I really could do with a healthy dose of it.
For the hours after seeing the photograph, I’ve been a foul mood, not enjoying the precious girly time with my teenager, not having a much-deserved Friday night glass of wine. I’ve just sat miserably looking at thinner pictures of myself, lamenting the body I had (that I also hated at the time, as it too was too fat). As far as I’m concerned, I’ve been ‘too fat’ my whole life. It’s ruined holidays, weddings, days out as I look longingly at thinner women, hoping my husband isn’t doing the same!
Because I worry that it makes me unlovable, that my husband couldn’t possibly want a wife like me, a wife who is caring, kind, intelligent, funny (ok moody and argumentative aswell, but nobody’s perfect) but no, the deal breaker in my mind, is being fat.
I didn’t see a woman in the photos today who is an absolute warrior, who has fought with every piece of herself to make sure her son and other people with life challenges like him get the support they need. I didn’t see a woman who helps and supports others ahead of herself, I didn’t see a woman to be proud of. I just saw a woman whose hair was a mess, who didn’t suit the dress she was wearing, who was huge. That was what mattered, that is what people will see and judge me on – that’s what I was judging myself on.
At the same time as I got this photograph, the TV program ’24 Hours in A+E’ was on in the background, with a 14 year old girl who was admitted because she is suffering from anorexia, surviving on less than 500 calories a day. A young girl literally starving herself to death because of her poor body image.
I know anorexia is a mental health condition and we cannot blame the media for everything, but seriously how have we come to this; where our happiness, our well-being and at times our sanity all boils down to our reflection. An image that only actually reflects one thing about us. How did we let this happen? How did society let this happen? Why are we doing this to ourselves? Because unfortunately so many of us do!
It truly is the diet we have all been force fed for so long about how we ‘should’ look and just like the cleverest of advertising campaigns, with subtle, sexy product placement, the way we ‘should’ look slips seamlessly into our psyche – even one of my beloved movies ‘Love Actually’ has too much discussion (by women) about Natalie’s “pretty sizable arse”.
Coupled with TV programs like Love Island or the fucking Kardashians so blatantly shoving ‘perfection’ in our faces, we have no hope! We lap it up, even if we pretend not to, it oozes surreptitiously into our sense of worth. But can we truly blame Kim and Ko? Reality TV is only called that because this is reality of what goes on around us every day.
We all have to consciously stop and ask ourselves is that really what we all aspire to? Do we all have a voice that manipulates and exploits us shamelessly the way that God awful Kris Jenner does with her family. Is it actually the voice inside our own heads that feeds us this, an easy stick to beat ourselves with. I don’t know what I hate more, the way I look right now or the influence what I look like has on my life. That I am letting it define me and my happiness and have done for too many years.
That artificially inseminated voice telling me; I have ‘let myself go!’ What does that even mean? I have let myself go heavier because I have been too busy fighting for the well-being and rights of my children to exercise or make proper meals. I have let myself go out without make up more often because I would rather spend an extra ten meetings working on writing my books than spend it putting make up on? I have let myself go on and have a piece of cake because – well because I like cake!
I have probably gained a stone with every battle I have fought in recent years, so in reality – I should wear the label of my dress on the outside like a medal, rather than cutting it off and hiding in the bottom of the bin so Mick won’t see and I don’t have to look at it.
I spout about equality all of the time, acceptance for; people of colour, differently abled people, transgender people but I still allow myself to judge myself and see myself as less because I am overweight or don’t know how to do smoky eyes, putting me at a distinct disadvantage of the level of fabulousness I project when out in public. Is our own negative self-image one of the biggest injustices in our own world? Is that where I should start my own personal protest? Against myself and my own bigotted attitude towards my reflection! Probably so!
Does my big positive body image rant mean, I will wake up tomorrow, with a new sense of self-worth, of positive body image? Eat a pop-tart for breakfast in defiance of my inner aerobics instructor? NO, of course it doesn’t. I’ll no doubt dust off the Slimming World books or debate if keto is my plan of arse reducing attack, do a 10km walk down my lane and upset the dog by getting down on the floor, huffing and puffing trying to do the plank – because this is real life and I don’t actually want to look this this, I want to fit into the many dresses I own in 2 sizes smaller than I am and because I do need to lose weight to be physically healthier.
But just like my well-spouted opinion on being dictated to about how we or I ‘should’ feel emotionally about our own life experiences, I really am going to try harder to fight off being told what I ‘should’ look like too. I am going to try a lot harder not be defined by what the mirror tells me – after all, it didn’t work out so well for Snow Whites Step Mother did it and I would rather be Happy than Grumpy!!