Beauty and the Body Image beast…

Believe it or not, body image and beauty has always been something at the fore front of my mind but recently something changed…

I went to a small rural primary school with 31 in the whole school and 5 in my class. Most of my childhood friends were boys and I was, to say the very least, a Tom boy. I played tractors with the boys in the playground, went to football classes and lived in a set of overalls.

Then, for some strange reason, I chose to go to an all girls grammar school in an upper class area of Belfast. Why I chose this I really don’t know, but I did, and from the moment and hour I set foot in there, my body perception changed.

I ended up in what I can only call a jungle. A jungle of girls who marked each other out of 10 on non uniform days for outfit choices. A jungle of girls who discussed shaving and hair removal- at 12 years of age I was just discovering a hair brush never mind removing hair! A jungle of girls with tanned, long legs and knee socks rolled with precision. A jungle nightmare.

Suddenly I became the fat kid. The kid with the pale, short legs. The kid with the freckles. The country bumpkin who had been thrown into a midst of city slickers who didn’t do any of the things that I did. Now, in hind sight, looking back on pictures, I really wasn’t what my mind portrayed. But gosh did I believe it, and gosh did those girls make me feel it.

From high school days onwards I can never remember a time when I wasn’t trying to adjust my body in some way. Less weight. More muscle. Less fat. Flatter stomach. Bigger boobs. So much so that I followed a career in nutrition and helping others with dietary manipulation to achieve targets- a dietitian.

Even when I got married I hated the entire dress hunting process. I never got that overwhelming feeling that brides speak of. There were no tears. My only thoughts was please can I have a dress that will fit my 42” hip and 28″ waist? And when you are editing those photos will you remove the bumps from the top of my arms?

Then I became pregnant and the strangest thing happened. Rather than ballooning to twice my size and becoming more self conscious, I became the opposite- more self confident. I gained a mere 12lb from pre birth to delivery day, my hair was thick and voluptuous, my skin cleared up, and I wore slinky outfit options which showed off my curves. I loved my baby bump! Even though my husband had to tie my shoes..

Post baby my weight reduced to (believe it or not…) less than pre pregnancy however those lovely hormones vanished taking with them the great hair and skin. But now this is what I see…

I see my stretch marks. My tiger stripes. Stripes that remind me what a healthy, big boy I carried.

I see loose skin. Loose skin which reminds me of my bump and the nights my husband and I watched our baby wriggling and kicking in my belly.

I see my surgery scar. A scar that reminds me how fortunate I was to be under the care of a great medical team and how things could’ve been very different.

I see my boobs which aren’t where they used to be. Saggy from my attempt to feed and nourish my baby despite complications.

I see my grey hairs coming through hair that hasn’t seen a hair brush all day. Hair that isn’t regularly dyed. Hair that reminds me how much my priorities have changed as I’d rather spend the money on my family.

I see dark circles under my eyes which remind me of those middle of the night cuddles which will be a distant memory all too soon.

I see chipped nail varnish as 5 minutes peace is now for coffee and chocolate rather than make up and tan.

I see a mother, a wife, a daughter, a granddaughter, a sister, a cousin and a friend. I see me.

And for once, for the very first, I am thankful. Truly thankful.

Your self confidence and self worth will not come from a number on the scales, a dress size or be found under the treadmill in the gym. It can only be achieved within. The change doesn’t need to start exteriorly, it needs to come from inside. Love yourself and appreciate the body you have.

Jx

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