I was surprised by how many people read and responded to my recent post on depression, so I thought I’d follow it up with a subject that’s closely related ** (for those of you not into patchwork and craft markets!)
When I turned 30, I had a birthday party at a friend’s house. Photos were taken and, when I got them back from being developed (remember those days?), was horrified by how fat and awful I looked. Two months previously, I’d been dumped by my then-boyfriend: he’d decided to go back to his ex-wife, which wouldn’t have been too terrible if he’d only had the decency to inform me instead of just changing his phone number and leaving me up in the air. I was distressed and miserable, and felt vulnerable and unwanted. The photos of myself revolted me.
Well, I came across those photos the other day – and thought, Oh boy, I wish I still looked like that! I wasn’t fat at all (in fact I was a perfectly normal weight), my dress looked lovely, it was a good hair day, and there were no crow’s feet or double chins! Why had I been so very critical of myself?
Looking back, the break-up with David must have played a part – but to be more honest, it was how I generally saw myself. My self-image was very negative, and I couldn’t remember a time since puberty that it hadn’t been that way. I always felt fat, bulky, with legs like coke bottles, chubby arms, moon face, frizzy hair… I could go on but I’ll try and stop. Oh wait, I also hated my breasts. [At 21, I visited a plastic surgeon about having a breast reduction but she advised against it because of my age; I ended up having the op in my early 40s, and was/am greatly happy with my reduced size].
I’m not going to yack on about cultural norms or parental judgements, let’s just say I’ve come to terms with the reasons why my body always felt ugly to me. It doesn’t any more (despite being 55 with all accompanying signs of aging!), so I thought I’d pass on something that helped me with this – in case anyone out there also has crappy feelings about themselves that hold them back and pull them down.
My then-psychologist suggested I find three things that I liked about myself. Three? That was a big ask, especially since internal organs like kidneys didn’t count (I’m sure I have extremely beautiful kidneys). I had a good think and came up with: nose – fine; skin – clear; hands – fine, elegant even! That was a good start and, together with a bit of maturity on these matters, my self-image has improved since then. It’s not a magic formula, and I still have fat and/or ugly days, but on the whole I am a lot less critical of myself. None of us is perfect.
Last week my daughter and I were listing things that we were happy about in life. One of her happy things is how she is physically – hair, body, face, everything. This struck me as being absolutely wonderful – my own daughter has a positive self-image! Imagine if we could bottle it and share it with the world….
Happy Sunday, everyone xx
** NB. entirely my own point of view, of course, and also please note I am not a therapist or trained in any way to advise anyone (on anything!!)