Loving my Image

I met the amazing Lynn Ruth after her show at the Edinburgh Fringe earlier this year. She is an absolute gem, and proof that it does not matter what age you are or what you’ve been through, you can still get up and achieve your dreams! She is an inspiration and we are very honoured to share her story with you. 

“There is nothing more rare, nor more beautiful,
Than a woman being unapologetically herself;
Comfortable in her perfect imperfection.”
Steve Maraboli Continue reading

“… I sometimes love my body but now when I put myself down I think about my girls and how they’re proud of their mum.”

What can I say about how I feel to be naked? I’ve loved my body. I’ve hated my body but I suppose I should really start at the beginning. I developed and became curvy very young. I was the only person in my primary to start her periods and have breasts and I was bullied for it.

In high school I quickly became prey and men took advantage. I became hateful about everyone and everything. I didn’t know or understand what love was because I’d never experienced it. In my middle and late teens I never had a problem with being naked, with wearing very skimpy clothes, I looked good and I knew it. I was a size 10-12, toned, rock solid dancer’s legs, my breasts were neither too large, nor too small for my body (although I wanted bigger) my hair was waist length and I had confidence by the bucket load.

I started going out with someone when I was 18 and slowly I changed. I stopped paying attention to my hair – it just got washed. Make-up – there was none. Tight flattering clothes – changed for baggy jeans and big jumpers. Secretly I hoped that my ex would fight for me and want me back (I lost count the amount of times he told me ‘I love you’) Obviously not enough. He started going out with someone, who I perceived at the time to be hideous. She told me she would have and take what was mine and I told her to try, she got him and I got my confidence destroyed by someone all wrong for me, and I went to a very bad place with drink and drugs. I stopped most of it, although I continued to binge drink and smoke a lot of hash.

I eventually went out with someone 21 years my senior, I quickly became pregnant and my first daughter was born, we were married the following year and a year and a half after that my second daughter was born. I thought we were happy. Sex was wonderful and plentiful but as I became larger and my body changed so did our sex life until eventually it became non-existent. I went back to college and he stayed at home with the children; all through that course he made my life hell with the constant put downs and heavy drinking. I started exercising and became toned again back to my small size 10-12 and his attention changed as well. I put on weight again and as the weight came he went and sex again became almost non-existent. I went back to do a different course, the girls were in school all day and so was I. I loved it! I made some amazing friends that I still have to this day and he even got his drinking sorted, although every time he had a relapse I’d get the constant put downs and snidy comments. My aunt told me he was jealous and to just give him time – ‘his male pride’s been hurt’ she would say to me. All through that time I couldn’t look in the mirror. I hated what I saw, because when I looked in it I saw a fat, frumpy, old house wife that’s long past it and I was only 30.

At 31 I fulfilled a life long dream and attended a course at the RSAMD where I found out about Trilogy and I had the privilege and honour of taking part in its final ever show. It was a sisterhood of strong, independent, amazing women, of all ages, shapes and sizes dancing naked together and for the first time since before my children were born I was PROUD TO BE NAKED AND A WOMAN. I often describe that time as a life changing experience because in many ways it was. I was so proud of all of us that I decided to show (who I thought were) friends the cast photo of us all. Suddenly my amazing experience that I was so proud of was turned into something sleazy, dirty and something to be ashamed of and I was asked to leave the job were I was because they’d put in a complaint at management level. I retreated way into my shell, although no-one would know because I hid it well, except from my oldest daughter. She pulled me up one day saying ‘mum, you’ve stopped exercising’ and I asked her how she knew and she told me it was because the scarf wasn’t covering the mirror anymore, I always covered the mirror when I exercise and here I thought no-one noticed. I started to cry and she gave me a cuddle and said ‘mum, I wish you can see what I see. You’re amazing, you’re gorgeous, you’re beautiful both inside and out, you’re talented, you have the biggest heart of anyone I know and I want to be just like you when I grow up.’ My 12 year old has become my rock when I should be hers (although she assures me I am) it’s because of her I started and continue with Egyptian belly dancing (although some of the costumes make me feel very self conscious) she’s my inspiration.

How do I feel to be naked? At the moment – I mostly hate my body and I avoid looking in the mirror. In certain clothes when they suck everything in I sometimes love my body but now when I put myself down I think about my girls and how they’re proud of their mum. I think about my Trilogy girls and the time we had. The girls are proud that their mum had the guts and the confidence to stand in front of an audience and dance in her birthday suit and deep down although sometimes I need reminding – so am I. I’m an artist – I love the human figure in all its glory of any shape and size. I just wish I could love my own again and I hope the next time I tell my story it’ll be from a happier place.

– Anon

“This is the story of how I came to love being naked, and how I came to love my body.”

This is the story of how I came to love being naked, and how I came to love my body.

I didn’t always love my body, and there have been plenty of times when I’ve hated it. When I was a teenager I would see all the things I hated about it when I looked in the mirror. I compared myself to the lithe girls in my ballet class whose stomachs were flatter and whose thighs were more slender than mine. I compared myself to the girls at school who were more popular than me. But these were the bodies I saw clothed – and naked I could only compare myself to the toned, polished, photoshopped bodies of the media. And that body – for really, it is only one body that we see in the media – didn’t look anything like mine.

I am a woman of average healthy weight, neither thin nor very voluptuous, and average height, but my body was nowhere to be seen. My breasts, like many women’s, are neither perfectly round nor exactly the same size. My tummy isn’t flat, and it pudges out when I sit down. My bum is big and it isn’t firm like the bums in underwear adverts; it wobbles when I bounce up and down, or run, or dance, or fuck. My thighs are squishy and I have a touch of cellulite. I don’t go to the gym and I love to eat cake, but I try to eat a decent meal or two and I use walking as my main means of transport. My body is normal, but I didn’t know that and so I hated it.

Sometimes I hated it enough to cut its skin in anger at its imperfection. In time, watching scars heal would come to be the first small step towards realising my body’s strength and function. It could make itself new; it could grow new flesh to fill the gaps that I had made. My body wasn’t the perfect body I thought it should be, but it worked.

A little older, a little wiser, and perhaps as a result a lot happier, I left home to go to university in Glasgow when I was eighteen. In the five years that followed, I had myriad wonderful experiences that brought me to loving my body. My degree was in theatre studies, and I became very involved with the theatre society. I hung out with people who were comfortable with their bodies and found myself at parties where people would end up naked in a totally non-sexual way, just hanging out and chatting, drinking and smoking (carefully!). I saw other women’s normal breasts. I saw naked bodies that hadn’t been photoshopped. They were all different and they were all lovely. I could look at another woman’s body and just see everything that was beautiful about it, not pick out the flaws I saw in my own mirror. It made me start to realise that if all of these varied bodies were beautiful, then maybe mine was too.

When I was in my third year, I was cast in a production of Cleansed by Sarah Kane, a role which would require me to be naked on stage. I was honestly quite excited. We all had naked rehearsals together, since everyone had to be naked at some point in the play, and it quickly felt normal to be naked. We were just people not wearing clothes, rehearsing and chatting and laughing as usual. It wasn’t possible to feel shame in this situation; when you’re all naked together it becomes natural. It begins to seem almost strange to get dressed. Once you’re all naked, you wonder what you were worried about. On stage, when I took off my dress, it didn’t cross my mind for a second to wonder if people thought my body was weird or ugly. I was proud that this was my body.

In my final year, I took part in an incredible project called Trilogy. Despite how comfortable I had already begun to feel in my own skin, it still proved to be a transformative experience – in many ways, but especially regarding my relationship to my body. A performance art triptych, the first part of Trilogy culminates in an exuberant naked dance performed by volunteer women of all ages and shapes. Leading up to the performances, we participated in a week of workshops where we eased in to being naked in a completely emotionally supportive atmosphere. I can say without reservation that it was one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life. To look around a circle of dozens of women and see slim women and big women and women who’ve had children and women who have scars, and to see the beauty in every single one of those bodies, rid me of any last vestiges of hatred for my own. This dancing wasn’t about looking sexy, it was about loving how your body feels when it dances. It was feeling your body wobble and loving it. Absolutely, purely rejoicing in the way your body moves and in its strength and power. I loved every moment.

Since Trilogy, on a couple of occasions I’ve gone with some other women to climb a hill and be naked at its summit. I have found such freedom in moments like that. In being naked I become aware of all the other things about my body apart from how it looks. I can feel the warmth of sunshine on its skin, and the breeze, and the grass. I can make it spin and run and dance and love the way it feels. I can just enjoy being in my body.

I still sometimes catch myself looking in the mirror and comparing my body to perfection. But I push the thoughts away. My body is not a photoshopped image – it’s a million times better. It’s soft and warm, and it can breathe and bleed and run and sweat and fuck and cry and laugh and think and dance.

My body is real.

by Hannah, age 23