This is a topic I never thought I would write a blog post about. Every day I read things written by bloggers baring their thoughts, experiences and souls for all to read and judge on some really tough subjects. I have the utmost respect for those people, but I never thought I could ever be brave enough to do it myself. I'm not sure what has changed, but I got the urge to write this post and despite my utmost efforts to go to bed I just could not shake the thought from my mind. So here I am, way past my bedtime, about to write. Today's post is about body image.
Body image is a subject that a great deal of people have written about, from a variety of perspectives. For many people it is tied in to other issues, like eating disorders or self esteem. I will write this post with the intention of sharing my personal experiences with my own body image, as an isolated topic on its own.
I was a pretty standard scrawny tomboy growing up. As a child I was always doing something, whether it was running, playing sport or climbing trees. I was not, and have never been 'overweight' or 'fat' - I have always had a slim build. But for as long as I can remember, I have had a problem with my body image. Now that I have made progress with this problem, I feel like I am in a good position to look back and consider my feelings and experiences and try and reconcile them with the notion of having a poor body image.
I cannot remember a time, between being born and reaching 18, that I did not hate my body. Hating my body was not something I consciously did, it wasn't something I was aware I was doing, but I did subconsciously do certain things because of that hate. Until I reached 17 or 18 years old, I had real difficulty looking at myself in the mirror. Unlike most girls, I looked in the mirror perhaps once or twice a day in total, and even then this was only to do my hair on a morning which involved solely focusing on my hair and not even glancing at the rest of me. I never looked in the mirror in public bathrooms, I deliberately avoided reflective surfaces and I abhorred having my photograph taken. I could not stand the idea of someone looking at me, whether it was my face or my body. Now that I have overcome some of my body image issues, this seems absurd. I cannot believe I spent so many years of my life having such a difficult time with mirrors - it just feels so strange. But at the time I did not want to know what I looked like.
I didn't understand my body, I didn't want to understand my body. I can admit that there are parts of my body that I didn't begin to understand until I was over the age of 20. Although I hated everything, there were certain parts which I absolutely detested - and by that I mean I had regular, vivid fantasies of chopping them off. Looking back I feel so upset and distressed by the extent to which I hated myself, and the huge impact this had on how I valued myself and the way I lived my life. I have never seen anyone in a professional capacity to discuss my body image, or even to explore what might have been the starting point or the trigger for the way I felt. I don't understand where it came from, but I do acknowledge that it happened to me.
As an 18 year old girl about to start University I made a decision to try and fight it to stop it impinging on every aspect of my life. I started to try and look in mirrors, to grin and bear my photograph being taken, to get dressed in the light and look at my body and try to understand and connect with it. It was so hard I could never explain how much of a battle it was. But eventually I managed to feel less angry and hateful and increasingly 'neutral' about myself.
I am not sure I will ever reach the level of 'body confidence' some women speak of, but I can happily report today that I can spend indefinite amounts of time in front of a mirror, and that there are only some days out of a whole month when what I see genuinely makes me sad. But I'd like to think that's normal. I can stand having my photograph taken, and now I even see the value in taking photographs myself. I have connected with my body and begun to appreciate all the amazing things it does for me, and allows me to do. I don't have the constant knot of hatred, shame and fear that I used to feel every day in relation to my body. I am a long way from where I would like to be, but to compare myself today to how I used to be even 10 years ago makes me so proud of myself.
I'm not quite sure what my motive is for writing and publishing this post? I guess I hope that somewhere out there a girl (or boy) who feels the same way that I used to feel may happen across it, feel like their load is less heavy because there's someone else who went through what they are going through and came out the other side? Maybe I'm hoping to shatter the illusion some people have that beauty bloggers are all confident, self assured individuals with no skeletons in their closet? Although mostly I think it may have been for my own peace of mind, and to create a marker to show that I have made progress and come this far on my own. It can be easy to slide back into bad habits but knowing that I once had the strength to overcome it will hopefully prevent that from happening to me.