I recently put a post on Instagram about an upcoming hen do and my fears of having to wear a swimsuit in the hot tub.
I was extremely excited about the hen do, not least of all because it meant I would get a bit of time to myself and reset, however the thought of everyone seeing me naked (for all intents and purposes) was daunting to say the least. I worried about it for two weeks prior to the event.
The list of things I dislike about my appearance is pretty comprehensive.
I am the heaviest I have ever been and thanks to my two babies, I am also now a very odd shape too. My back is broader because my ribs haven’t quite gone back into place and I carried a lot of my baby weight around my middle, meaning my mid section is really thick. I have very wobbly legs (no tone whatsoever), dimpled with cellulite, flappy bingo wings, more thread veins than I care to count, frizzy hair (I didn’t get the nickname ‘Frizz’ for nothing), wonky teeth and a big nose.
I was equally as ashamed by my appearance when I was a size 6, because for me it has never been about weight. It’s about lots of little inadequacies that all add up to a pretty rubbish package. Or so I’ve been led to believe by the constant impossible beauty standards that flood our daily lives.
I know that these ‘standards’ are more often than not portrayed by images that have been faked somehow. Photoshop here, clever lighting there. I also know that my perception of how I look probably isn’t anything like how others see me but that doesn’t matter either. The Bearded Manc has been telling me daily for 12.5 years that he thinks I am ‘pretty’ and it hasn’t done anything to improve my perception. My view of me has remained fairly poor.
But now I am a Mum and I have to consider how my views of the way I look effect my children. I’m a huge believer of the notion that children are what they see and I do not want my babies to grow up with the same sense of embarrassment in their appearance as me. So I am trying to make a conscious effort to rewire my brain in order that my self image is a much more positive one. But how do you do that?
Firstly, the way we treat others should also be a reflection of how we treat ourselves and that all begins with language. When it comes to my Beastlies, I often tell them how beautiful they are and how much I adore their little faces. Partly because I cannot stop myself (they are gorgeous), but partly because I want them to believe in how lovely they are. However, I worry that constant talk of their beauty may have the opposite effect and rather than bolster their confidence, it may in fact plant a rotten seed that makes them think beauty is of the utmost importance. Who knows?
Don’t you hate Mum guilt?
On the other side of the coin, there’s hate speak. I have always made it a point not to comment negatively aloud about anyone’s appearance, especially to my children. I will not tolerate negative terms such as ‘fat’, ‘skinny’ or ‘ugly’ and I continuously explain how these kinds of words are unkind and make people feel badly about themselves. Although it sometimes feels difficult to enforce these ideals when your 4 year old comes home from pre-school and strokes his baby sister tenderly on the head while sweetly calling her a ‘fuckhead’. Clearly he thought this was a term of endearment, which he heard from another little boy in his class. He was swiftly corrected.
Language is one thing but I need to physically demonstrate a positive change too and that brings me straight back to packing for a hen do, with the very daunting prospect of putting on a swimsuit and parading my practically naked body around, hoping nobody vomits or gauges out their eyes. So I racked my brain to come up with a plausible (and unquestionable) reason as to why I could not partake in hot tub shenanigans, but there wasn’t one. I mean, what could I say?
I came to the realisation that I was going to have to do it. There was no getting out of it. I was going to have to just get on with it, all the while aware that I am probably not the only one feeling like this and that notion gave me a modicum of comfort. This small bit of relief made me think of other possible avenues of comfort that I may be able to garner from within. Sorry for the cheese!
I thought about my babies and that gave me the resilience I needed.
I thought about the incredible things my body has done and that gave me the confidence I needed.
I thought about how healthy I am and able to do anything I please with no restrictions or difficulties and just how fortunate that makes me and that gave me the ‘great big slap around the face reality check’, I so desperately needed.
Strength resolved, I packed my case and took a road trip to hang out with some pretty great people, drink way too much prosecco and dive (less than graciously) into the hot tub, while wearing my swimsuit and flipping the bird to anyone who cares what I look like. That’s on them. And guess what, it was bloody great.
No longer will I worry what others think about me.
No longer will my babies see a Mummy who hides under black clothes, constantly trying to cover herself and go unseen. That all ends now.
My brain has been rewired and it’s quite liberating.
Do yourself a favour.
Stop finding faults.
We all have beautiful qualities and confidence is probably the most attractive of them all.
So go and get your cozzie on and say ‘f*ck it’ to the world.