Body image issues. Many of us have struggled with them, and a few of us have successfully overcome them!
I have obsessed over my body for what seems like a lifetime, being my own worst critic and biggest bully.
I’ve over-exercised, over-eaten, starved, detoxed and drowned my body with alcohol. I’ve treated my body horribly, body bashing myself again and again. It would be an underestimate to say that I hated my body – I hated my self – for a very long time.
And by hate, I mean hate in every essence of the word. I hated my body, the way I looked. I hated me. The amount of times I sat in tears hating the skin I was in. The face I had. The body I was born with. My personality. Ugly. Horrible. Fat. Depressed.
Who could anyone ever love me?
It wasn’t until my mid-to-late thirties when I started to overcome my negative body image issues. When I started to actually love my body. To love my self. I am now my body’s biggest champion (aside from my hubby – who is my bodies biggest champion).
My red hair
I hated my red hair for the first 28+ years of my life. Whether it was the teasing, bullying, or my envy for the Australian blonde, bronzed, beach goddess look, I didn’t see myself as beautiful until my 30’s.
Before red hair was ‘cool’ I was stalked by groups of guys laughing about how ‘ugly’ redheaded girls were and how they would never date one. I was also heckled by women for being ‘fugly‘ (funny ugly?), so much so I considered moving permanently to Scotland (but word on the street is that red-heads feel the cold more, so that was quickly taken off the cards since I’m a woos when it comes to the cold).
Something I realised as I got older was how much people envied chicks with natural red hair! And so I initially named my blog Reflections from a Redhead to champion my hair colour. This very blog was the start of self-acceptance. It championed the thing I had been bullied about for years, and now my red hair has become part of my overall branding.
My hands are big, fingers long, and nails unkempt. I’ve only had a couple of manicures in my life, and always forget to moisturise. I can’t even to seem to master the art of the perfect nail polish application. I actually think I have man hands BUT my lovely Mum has always referred to my hands as a pianist’s hands. If only I had kept up playing the piano!
And then there’s my pen holding. I hold pens differently. When I was little, my teacher taped my fingers around a pencil so that I would ‘learn‘ to hold the pencil the ‘right way’. Of course, I didn’t learn, and people look at me differently every time they see me writing. Thank god for laptops!
Aside from the pianist hands and weird pencil holding ability, I also have my Nan’s hands. My fingers bend, or rather curve to the left and right on each hand as my Nan’s did. Some would say this is weird. I think it’s wonderful as they are just like my Nan’s – and I adored her!
The recent addition of an engagement and wedding ring combo to my left hand adds a touch of dazzle and sparkle – something I never expected to want or love.
With pale (pasty?) skin, freckles, the tendency to burn from a slither of sunlight or blush like a beetroot at the drop of a hat, I have a love – hate relationship with my skin.
Between the freckles threatening to take over my face, and never-ending break outs of adult acne, eczema, and the odd mosquito or ant bite, I’ve had huge issues with my skin since I became a teenager.
I want to love my skin, it’s just my skin is so darn sensitive! And it’s not that I don’t take care of it. I have spent thousands on various skin care products and cosmetics – from chemical through to natural and organic – in the attempt to find something gentle and complimentary for my skin, but pretty much everything I try causes a reaction, leaving me wanting to scratch my face off.
So the journey to loving my skin continues as I continue to search for products that help instead of hinder my progress.
One thing that has helped has been embracing my freckles. I call them my sun-kisses, of which being a redhead would not be complete. Obviously I have a lot. I like to think that my arms are tanned. Reality is my freckles have just merged together to give the illusion of a tan. But seriously, ten minutes in the sun and my freckles pop!
And then there’s the ad hoc references to having dirt on my face, the worst of which was in the middle of a project management meeting when an executive kept encouraging me to rub dirt off of my nose. *sigh* Nope, can’t rub off freckles I’m afraid.
Your eyes are the window to your soul. Urban mythology also says that a redhead can steel your soul just by looking at them…
I have big, wide, hazel eyes that change colour depending on my moods. I have naturally long lashes – the envy of any beauty therapist. And then there’s my droopy eye. My left eyelid droops, especially when I’m tired. This leaves me looking like I have a lazy eye. Or that I’m drunk. These days I look at it as a sign to tell me that I have overdone things and that I need to rest.
My boobs are natural and came into their own as my 30’s progressed. YAY! I like my boobs, even if one is slightly larger than the other and they are covered with stretch marks.
I’ve never liked my legs, but I’m doing my best to start. Between the stretch marks, cellulite, bad circulation borderline cankles now and then, fluorescent appearance and shaving rash…oh, and I need to mention my ‘strong ‘ thighs and calves, I’ve always wished for someone else’s legs.
Over the last two year’s I have started cracking them out in dresses, skirts and even shorts (not short shorts)…I am getting there. It helps to recognise that:
- mostly all women and men develop cellulite in their lifetime and that it is nothing to be ashamed of, and
- that GENETICS has a big part to play in what types of legs you have.
My tiger stripes
At the age of 15 I developed stretch marks over my thighs, butt and lower back. I didn’t have to get pregnant or give birth as an excuse. They just happened. Possibly because of a growth spurt. Probably because I starved myself for a time resulting in rapid weight loss.
My stretch marks started out red and raw but have faded to a light white to blend with my fluorescent skin. I now refer to them as my tiger stripes, which makes me feel proud and not ashamed.
We all have our moments. We really do! But what’s most important is to recognise that we are all beautiful in our many forms, sizes, colours, personalities. That we are beautiful just the way we are!
So here’s my challenge to you.
Think about your body. Think about the parts you like and the parts you don’t like so much.
Over the coming days and weeks I want you to focus on a specific part of your body with love, and do one (or all) of the following:
- Write a blog post just like this one, championing what you love about your body
- Stand in front of the mirror and look at yourself. Like really look at yourself! Now tell yourself how much you love YOU!
- Looking at yourself in the mirror, focus on parts of your body and tell yourself what you love about them
- Write about your body in your journal, focussing on the positive over the negative
- Talk to your partner about your body. Ask them what they love about your body, and then let nature take its course 😉
- If you are the artistic type, why not paint, draw, sculpt… you get the picture… using this theme as your inspiration.
I’d love to hear how you go with this. I know – it can be a challenge – but if I can turn my negative thoughts around (and boy did I have some nasty ones), then I know you can too!
If you want to read more about my journey to loving myself after years of self-hate, check out these posts:
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