I saw a photo on Instagram from three years ago recently - was one of those monthly challenges where you follow daily prompts and post a photo and comment accordingly.  This one in particular was ‘self-love’ – My post was a silly face photo with the caption “I can’t even take a compliment never mind give myself one”.  Seeing it now, it made me feel really sad for myself.  Made me really reflect on how bad I felt about myself.  How bad I had always felt about myself.  But did I do it to myself?  When you are surrounded by advertising, social media and pressures from others that if you aren’t a certain height or weight, if your boobs aren’t a certain size or you don’t have a ‘leg gap’, if you don’t have flawless skin or the right smile then you are made to feel not good enough and unattractive.

Last year I had a random realisation of how many times I look back at old photos and have the thought “I would kill to look like that again” you know back in those times when you convinced yourself you were too fat.  But looking back you realise you were far from it.

I also found myself seeing others differently; being able to appreciate how unique they all are.  I found myself smiling to myself over people who walked confidently, embraced themselves and who they were, from cool and quirky to bigger and beautiful – it didn’t matter, they were happy and confident being themselves and I wished I could be more like that.  Then it dawned on me… why can’t I be?

Maybe to others though I looked happy and confident being me…

Despite my ability to carry on and not let my insecurities hold me back in day to day life.  I struggled with my body and self-image ALL.THE.TIME.  I had always felt like the odd one out.  Always felt different from everyone like there was something wrong with me from a very young age.  Bullied for being taller and darker.  Laughed at for having dark body hair.  Felt confused for not knowing what I wanted or where life was going to take me when so many around me appeared to have their shit together.  I have always suffered with eczema that I managed to cover for a long time until it crept up to my face and no matter how much a dipped my head, wore my hair or avoided eye contact, I always felt- wrong!  But I’d always tell myself that it could be so much worse, I’d put on a smile, hide behind my sarcasm and just crack on because what else was there to do??

(A Good Bad Day these days)

I couldn’t ever really look at myself without seeing every flaw, every negative line, bump or hair!  I HATED being tall for such a long time.  Seeing my red and sore skin, feeling dirty and so ugly.  So, I would look at myself when it was necessary and pay as little attention to it all as possible because I was determined to never let it get me down, ignorance is bliss and all that.

Then I became a whole new person, a mother AND got a postpartum body, TWICE.  It became even harder to face myself for a long while and to ignore all the negative feelings I harboured about myself.   

I became lonely at home and loved social media for connecting with fellow mothers all over the world, knowing I wasn’t the only one going through it all helped loads.  But with that also came the added pressure of feeling like everyone else had their shit together when I felt like I was falling apart at the seems both physically and mentally.

Between the pressures of being a new mam to two under two.  Struggling to even brush my teeth never mind clean the house.  Trying to diet and exercise.  Beating myself up internally for letting myself get “fat” again.  For having another eczema flare up and letting it get on top of me, even though the hormones had made it unbearable and out of my control.  I felt like I was failing my children, felt like they deserved so much more.  I was failing because I lost my baby weight twice and each time put it all back on again, and some.  Every time I’d hate myself a little bit more. People were judging me and I hated it!  I already felt like I wasn’t acceptable.  I should be exercising more. I should be eating better.  I should be doing better!  I should be better!

Those words alone ‘should be’ says it all.  Didn’t realise what a negative phrase it was before.  Because really - who says what ‘should be’, who controls what ‘should be’.  When I realised, I do, I control what’s good enough for me, to ME.  That I CAN be good enough, I AM good enough – just as I am!  That was when it all changed for me.

The first step was ditching the scales and diets.  No more obsessing over numbers and instead focusing on how just how I felt because that was what was most important.  Accepting and listening to my body.  Loving it for what it was and not for what the scales told me!

I stopped beating myself up for not exercising more or sometimes eating the wrong things and too much of it. Being a mother, running a house and two small businesses in-between can be just as amazing and rewarding as it can be challenging and exhausting and just sometimes that extra bar of chocolate is exactly what I need and it makes me feel better.  And that’s more than ok, its ok to be kind to myself because I really bloody deserve it!

I stopped looking down on myself and I stood up tall in the mirror to face myself.  Faced who I am.  Looked at every scar, lump and bump and appreciated them all because ALL of that is ME!  But that’s not what makes me, me!  I am so much more than my skin, my body, my jiggly bits.  I am a loving mother and wife, I am a daughter and a big sister, I am a small business owner and a lover of being creative, I am a fan of singing and dancing even though I can’t do either well, I am a lover of reading and binge watching Netflix series, I am a Game of Thrones fan and all things fantasy! 

 

I have stopped worrying over being judged.  If people want to judge, that is their problem, not mine.  I am no longer giving people the power to make me feel bad for being me, for choosing to be happy and living MY best life! 

I stopped seeing what made me different as a bad thing and instead realising that from skin colour and condition to scars and weight EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US IS DIFFERENT AND THAT’S WHAT MAKES US BEAUTIFUL!  It’s what makes us, us and that is pretty bloody amazing really!

My body is the biggest, softest and most scarred its every been and I couldn’t love it more!  Its more than ‘it grew my babies’, which it did – carried, grew and delivered my babies into this world which I will forever be grateful for because that is still pretty mind blowing.  But it’s about so much more than that, I have two girls now and the thought of them hating themselves already breaks my heart!

My beautiful daughters, with only 17 months between they its so easy to compare how totally different they are.  Despite same parents, same upbringing, same environments – from looks to personality there is not much that make them alike.  Especially their body shapes – my eldest is so tall, so long, so lean, so dark in her colourings.  She is such a beauty with her drama queen ways and her amazing mind!  My youngest is also tall but broader, she is curvier and softer, lighter colourings and brightest blue eyes.  She is utterly lush, so sweet and loving until she’s not, ha.  Both of them are gorgeous, they are brilliant – I know I could be biased BUT they are and I couldn’t be prouder of them and the amazing little people they are.  How can I love them down to every lump and bump to every ounce of crazy but not love myself for what I am??

I know that one day they will be more self-aware and grow their own insecurities but I will not be one of those people that makes them feel bad about themselves, by being negative about myself and others.  I will be open and honest about my body always and NEVER use the ‘F’ word in front of them…no not that one, the Fat word!  I will do what I can to make sure they can embrace what makes them different and be proud of being themselves wherever in life I can!

When you think about it… its crazy how much embracing yourself influences so much more than how we feel about our physical selves.  When we can accept and realise that we are already enough, when we decide to stop comparing ourselves too impossible, when we accept that what we do will always be enough.  We suddenly get better at everything in life because we have stopped putting ourselves down and setting ourselves up to fail against our own demanding scales.  At the end of the day our body, ourselves -it’s the only one constant throughout our lifetime and it deserves to be loved and appreciated for what it is.  We deserve our own love and kindness ALWAYS!

It’s not always an easy journey and I would be lying if I didn’t admit there’s a million bumps in the road.  But each day I walk a little taller, feel a little surer about myself, my self-belief grows a little bigger and my negative thoughts get a little quieter!  But it has been so worth it and I am so proud of myself, for how far I’ve come and how much brighter my future feels because of it.  Gone is that heavy weight that I have carried on my shoulders for almost 30 years!

There is only one of me and now it feels almost ridiculous that I could ever compare my journey to anyone else.   My story is mine alone and that’s a pretty amazing thing to appreciate.  We all may have similar beginnings and ends but the middle is what makes each tale our own, so embrace you, embrace what you have and make it a bloody good one!

Published by Jemma Deen