Body image issues. A lot of us have them. Many of us have struggled with them. And a few of us have successfully overcome them!
I’ve been obsessed with my body for what seems like a lifetime.
I’ve been my own worst critic, my own biggest bully, and definitely my own evil nemesis since I was a little girl, throwing tantrums over hatred for my red hair, freckles and fatty thighs.
I’ve over-exercised, over-eaten, detoxed, and drowned my body with alcohol. I’ve also subjected it to so many forms of torture, calling it the worst names under the sun, critiquing, mocking, picking and starving.
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.
By hate, I mean hate in every essence of the word.
I hated my body.
I hated 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.
Ugly. Horrible. Fat. Depressed.
Why. How. Who could 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.
Of course, I still have my moments. Right now, I’m having a moment. BUT the difference is I know it won’t last. I know I’m not horrible. I know that deep down I love myself and that I am beautiful. I also choose to look in the mirror with love and not hatred.
So as it turns out, I am now my bodies biggest champion (aside from my hubby – who is my bodies biggest champion).
My red hair
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 redheads 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 and make a statement. This very blog was the start of self-acceptance. It championed that thing I was bullied for for so many years and incorporating it into my brand. My red hair was me. And now my red hair has become part of my overall branding.
As I near the big 4 – 0 I am experiencing somewhat of a crisis as my hair turns white. It’s a shame I wasted so much time hating on it – to think of all the lost time. Time I could have spent loving the colour, trying new hairstyles, flaunting my long red locks! So now I search for the perfect shade of red to cover my whites and match my natural red colour – a harder task than it sounds!
My hands are big. My fingers are long. My nails are 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 learning to love 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 provide 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 call them my ‘mood eye’s as they change colour from anything from blue/grey to almost dark brown. I think that’s pretty awesome!
I love my lashes – I have very long lashes, the envy of any beauty therapist. When I get my lashes tinted my eyes pop.
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 rather than 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:
And why not join the Body Image Movement? I have!
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