self-image

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!!)

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20 thoughts on “self-image

  1. katechiconi

    I always hated my hair. it was super-fine and not very thick, and an exceptionally boring colour. Also, I have kankles (thick ankles, geddit?) and a very flat bottom. It took a bout with cancer to make me appreciate what I had! The kankles can’t be fixed, the flat bottom’s a bit of a benefit now that I’m, um, well-upholstered, and my hair? Well, it grew in thick and grey and FABULOUS after chemo. So age has improved not only my hair but also my outlook. I’d prefer a bit less scarring, but on the whole, I’m content, now that I’m fat and fiftyish :-)

    Reply
    1. Nice piece of work Post author

      I know two people who much prefer their post-chemo hair :-) I have a few scars, too, but don’t mind them at all. I hope the pathologist finds them interesting when it’s autopsy time! :-)

      Reply
  2. Rainbow Junkie

    Interesting what you say about the photographs. I’ve always been happy with the way I looked just because it was me but thought that I was very plain and hated photographs of myself. (Maybe because I once heard my parents saying that I had good features but wasn’t pretty.) However now when I look back on photographs I didn’t like in the past I have realised that I looked fine maybe even that I was quite attractive.

    Reply
  3. insearchofitall

    Another bell ringer here. Distorted perception of our view of ourselves is common. I was always fat! Even when I wasn’t. The parents put me on my first strict diet at 14. It’s been yo yo ever since. I need weight off for health reasons but I no longer care what anyone else thinks. They have distorted perception too. Aging puts many things into perspective. So do health challenges. I was never considered a pretty girl. Looking back on old photos, my kids say their father married-up. If I allude to not being a beautiful woman then, I am saying negative things about them. They look like their mother a lot. :) A little like their father so he must have been handsome too. :)

    Reply
  4. knitnrun4sanity

    I am very like you. Hated how I looked, spent all my time apologising for everything. (Being alive?!) I can now be a bit kinder to myself but only a bit. I can now not worry so much about what people think. I think your daughters attitude is amazing. As you say, if only we could bottle it up.

    Reply
    1. Nice piece of work Post author

      I hope you will be kinder to yourself as time goes by::: you’ve got 3 young children, a full-time job, house, husband, things to bead and sew, and you STILL find time to run. I DON’T KNOW HOW YOU DO IT. You are a role model !!!!! :-)

      Reply
  5. The Snail of Happiness

    I know that feeling about old photographs… I came across some the other day and was surprised by my looks 25 years ago….quite acceptable really even though I would never have thought so at the time. Mind you, I think I look awful in current photos!

    Reply
  6. nanacathy2

    Think we all have thoughts of poor self image which is all down to media norms of Barbi looki likes. I too have yo-yo weight and for health reasons should certainly loose some. I have fine fly away hair which started to go grey early on. I first dyed it my natural brunette and then blonde. I have now let it alone a natural white. Make up doesn’t improve me these days and by and large I don’t wear any. Know what? I am happier with myself than I have been in years. Possibly because women my age in the media only get there through cosmetic procedures and they look ridiculous.

    Reply
    1. Nice piece of work Post author

      Happy and comfortable in one’s own skin is all that counts. I’ve seen some awful surgical results, but I’ve also seen a few excellent ones!!!! ….[thinks…] No, I’d prefer to spend money on travel than having my face seen to. For the moment, that is; this 55-year old moment. :-)

      Reply
  7. tgonzales

    Oh my goodness Jill. You really hit the nail on the head with this post! I had the same thoughts and feelings about myself forever. I am only now comfortable with who I am and that’s all that counts, right? (I’m still not sure some days) Thank you so much for sharing your story and I think you are beautiful inside and out. Love and Hugs, Tamara

    Reply
  8. Gail

    Jill you are one of my most beautiful and treasured friends. I often hear myself saying ‘my friend Jill’ followed by a story about your inspiring Jam Tarts markets. So happy I saw you the other day. xxx

    Reply

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