My daughter said something that stuck in my mind. She has been looking for work and I had noticed an advert in the window of a very swanky ‘Pandora’ shop. Her reply was ‘No – you have to be pretty to work there!’. My other daughter has had a crisis of confidence whilst trying on new clothes during a recent shopping trip. ‘Even the bloody poster in the changing room showed a skinny person!’.
I am of course extremely lucky as all my children are beautiful – clearly I have very strong genes 😉 ! But joking apart – they are all beautiful. But to think that my lovely daughters do NOT view themselves like this has come as a bit of a shock if I’m honest! But then I started thinking…
I find that I catch my reflection in shop windows and think ‘Bloody hell I’ve actually left the house looking like that!’. I wear make-up everyday (a dear friend of mine advised me never to leave the house in middle age without lipstick – she is of course right). But even my make-up routine is depressing! I don’t mind wrinkles, but I do mind blotchy, flaky,saggy skin! I’m also fat – yes I need to admit it. I eat too much and don’t do much exercise. I also take nasty drugs that cause bloating (I cant however entirely blame my weight gain on that!). I look at other ‘shapely’ woman and they look good and fat but I don’t. They look content and at ease, buxom and beautiful and I look flabby and old and dreary. My hair is falling out (that is medication) so I avoid the hairdressers – I try and make do and am actually considering stopping colouring it! It will be white and grey – patchy like my skin!
However this feeling isn’t new. When I listened to my daughters I tried to think of a time when I was truly content in my body and face. I couldn’t! I wasn’t unpopular at school and in fact had endless boyfriends (that’s a whole other story!). But I lacked confidence and often felt totally out of my depth. I am actually quite shy by nature but manage to cover it well! Again, my dear friend only really noticed this following the break up from the Twat. She had invited me to her Street Party and I was almost frozen with fear – she saw it and looked after me, so now I know that she knows my secret shyness! I’m OK with strangers – happy to talk to people on the street, especially in queues. I’m happy in meetings as there is a focus for conversation. I am NOT happy with half knowns – for example in a pub with Mr M, where he might wander off. I would find it almost impossible to approach someone to talk too – I’d pretend I was reading or studying a picture on the wall, and wait for him to return and rescue me! Mr M made me join the local WI ( its good honest – nice cakes as well) so I went. Now this is really hard for me – the first meeting was fine as everyone was a stranger. But the second and third meetings became increasingly more difficult -who should I talk to, who should I sit by? At one meeting I had started to wear glasses and had changed my hair – no one recognised me! I felt totally crestfallen – it was awful! It wasn’t until the end of the meeting when one of the lovely ladies came and introduced her self- and then realised who I was! Everyone was very apologetic but my worst nightmare had come true!
It’s been worse since the Twat. His behaviour was often unpredictable, especially when out with ‘friends’. This anxiety has now been replaced with hyper-vigilance. Hyper-vigilance is a symptom of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and is crippling. My son suffers from PTSD and his hyper vigilance made it almost impossible for him to leave the house, and also to be alone when trying to sleep. He used to watch for shadows through the cracks in the door, worried that his dad would appear! I am the same. I still become anxious when it is dark outside and the curtains are open – is he watching? Sometimes when I’m out I suddenly feel extremely vulnerable and find myself constantly scanning the room. This added stress makes it even more difficult to be confident!
However I digress. Positive Body Image – my daughters struggle with it, and so do I! But the thing is this. My daughters look like me, and they are gorgeous, people comment on our similarities, and I am not being totally biased when I say that they really are lovely girls; lots of people say it.
If my daughters are attractive and they look like me, then when I was younger I must have been attractive too! In fact when I was younger I looked extremely similar to my eldest daughter and she is lovely! So I must have been ‘pretty’ in my youth. However was I ever happy with my body? I remember being very skinny and very tall, with hair that I couldn’t control! I hated my lack of boobs and had ‘boob envy’! Then in my twenties I was on constant diets because I felt too fat! However following the break up of my first marriage I became thin again – a constant diet of bananas, coffee and cigarettes – work like a dream! But at that time I didn’t care how I looked.
I did, however LOVE my body during pregnancy! It was a wonder and a marvel – I had this swelling tummy that moved and kicked, as well as an amazing chest, sometimes ready to burst! I revelled in my changing figure and loved every minute of it! Even after the births I was happy to be soft and flabby but with amazing boobs. I think this change in attitude towards my on body was due to the huge amount of respect I had suddenly had for my ability to not only make a baby and give birth, but to feed a baby after the birth and help it to grow! It was a wonderful time and I fully immersed myself in it. However slowly the doubt crept back in. So now after 3 babies and almost three whole years of breast feeding, my body will never be pert again! But why do I care so much? And if I care so much then how can I teach my daughters to love themselves? I’m not sure it would be appropriate to encourage pregnancy as a way to love the amazing female form but somehow I need to reconcile my lack of confidence so I can share this with my girls! And it’s not about deciding to loose 3 stone and live of a fruit juice diet ( although I can be extremely determine when i put my mind to it). As this wont solve the problem – I will simply find something else to dislike. It’s a battle against time for me – I am ageing quickly (chronic pain and illness will do that) and I don’t want to spend the rest of my life being dissatisfied with my painful and broken body! I want to love happy the body I’m in.
So – I don’t have the answer, but someone out there might. How can we teach our daughters to love themselves if we don’t love ourselves? Why cant we look at ourselves like we look at our daughters and love ourselves unconditionally? Answers on a postcard please …