*This article belongs to a series of blogs which correlates how middle-aged women can combat issues relating to self-acceptance. This topic is a little left field to me as my usual topic ‘Creativity’, is the central theme of all my posts, however, my solution to overcoming this issue is to use creative intelligence to inspire woman with unique ways to be happy in their own skin.*
My struggle with body image began when I hit my double-figure years. I had arrived at a friend’s house for a sleepover and an afternoon of fun, swimming and bomb diving. Sitting on the edge of the pool and listening to music, after frolicking and laughing for what seemed like hours; I felt great. It was another fun afternoon.
Until that precise moment when your world as you know it crumbles and falls around your feet. You know, like in the movies, when the camera zooms straight in on the character who looks as stunned as a seagull who has flown into a post. What caused this reaction was my friend’s words. They were utterly devastating. They hit me like a pair of cymbals which clanged on either side of my head reverberating in my fragile pre-teen mind.
Your fat, look, you have a tummy roll.
Not leaving it at that though, she turned to another of our girlfriends looking for confirmation and said as she pointed at me from across the pool.
Look at her fat roll.
The look on my face incited some compassion from the other girl who replied, “It’s the way she’s sitting. She’s hunched over.”
I adjusted my position and totally conscious of my bikini clad body now, sucked in my guts as inconspicuously as I could. Well, that didn’t go unnoticed either: Stop trying to suck it in!
Clumsily, I stood up from the edge and grabbed a towel, wrapped it around myself and went inside to change.
Over the years my awkwardness consumed me, I avoided anything that meant I would be on display. No hanging from the monkey bars in the playground – what if my shirt crept up and someone saw my fat tummy! No playing baseball during P.E. lessons because that involved running to bases and everybody watched you run. No swimming carnival – imagine being seen in my bathers by more people!
A close friend of mine and I began talking about our body fears, wants and wishes. The conversation would undoubtedly always start with, “I’m soo fat!”
Which was reciprocated with, “So am I!”
The usual banter about her being skinnier and prettier would commence and so forth, continuing until we were so engrossed in our own flaws we stopped talking.
Our teen years are a crucial period of growth, it’s when your body undergoes an amazing transformation. Remember though, your friend circle has a superpower, they have the ability to validate, accept or judge you. And to brandish such power at such a tender age is nothing less than super… scary! Name one teen who hasn’t felt self-conscious or embarrassed during this stage… No, I didn’t think you could.
I’m fat. I’m skinny. I wish I had curly hair. I wish I had straight hair. My legs are short. My nose is crooked. How come my bottom sticks out more than yours?
You recognise some of these statements, don’t you? Well, let me tell you after thirty-five years they haven’t changed at all. They still leave the perilous lips of woman throughout the world. And unfortunately, we all have trouble adjusting to body changes and the ageing process among a closet of other flaws we think we have.
It’s not just our friends or families that have the ability to criticise our bodies and how we feel about ourselves. Negative comments, hurtful teasing, and racial or ethnic prejudice from strangers can also affect the way you think of yourself. Media portrays young girls and woman as skinny, happy, organised and having that golden glow and men with large muscular bodies and an adoring woman hanging from each arm. Is this a genuine display of the norm?
Movies, advertisements, TV shows, and magazines all promote an improbable and impossible realisation of a ‘normal’ body image. Did you know the media-driven body image realistically only fits a small percentage of the population – YET it is the criteria by which we all try to measure ourselves up against.
Such pressure to conform to this idealised nonsense has led to significant health problems, a lack of coping skills and mentally unhappy lifestyles for countless of thousands of people.
Anorexia and bulimia have been overshadowed by Body Dysmorphia. Have you heard of it?
Body Dysmorphia is a mental illness where the person becomes obsessed by a particular flaw, whether it be minor or imagined. They spend hours exercising to excess each day, trying to fix the flaw and even go as far as cosmetic surgery. Never satisfied, they continue their quest to the detriment of their mental and physical health.
Our misguided effort in trying to replace the normality we once had when no-one cared what we looked like failed, and as time passed us by and we emerged into the middle-aged era, we found we are still confronted with the same issues. Except this time we have a weapon.
Which brings me to the reason I am writing this blog today.
Self- acceptance is an individual’s ability to embrace and by satisfied with oneself within all the elements of mind, body and spirit. It involves self-understanding and a realistic view of your own strengths and weaknesses which are necessary for good mental health.
“Your body is precious. It is our vehicle for awakening. Treat it with care.” ~Buddha.
I am a forty-five year old woman who still feels a sense of being severely flawed. I crawl into my shell, my sanctuary inside myself, and on a rare occasion I will crawl out, but these outward events are short lived as I’m struck with the reality of what a woman is ‘supposed to’ look like – within minutes. I guess I have carried this beast of burden for most of my life. Its festers inside me, eating away at me and dragging me to some terribly low states.
In all my years of trying to come to terms with my body image and self-acceptance issues, I never felt they were fully addressed. And it makes me angry, so to heal my fractured relationship with myself, I have decided to stop hiding. I’m coming out of my shell.
It’s time for action! It’s time to get creative in my own skin.
A LABOUR OF LOVE PART 2 TO BE CONTINUED…