“Because I deserve to love myself, as everyone deserves to love themselves.”

Trigger warning for emotional abuse and disordered eating

I remember clearly when I first became aware of my body and how I felt towards it; I was only 9 years old and I was in a taxi with a friend from school. It was summer so we were wearing those cycling shorts and t-shirts sets everyone used to wear, mine probably had dolphins on, and my friend pointed out that when we sat down my legs got fatter than hers. Of course I know now that when we sit down our legs squish out a little, it’s natural, but at such a young age and never even having looked at my body to criticise it and I was confused as to why she had pointed it out.

Of course, 9 years old is when your body starts to change, you hit puberty and you start to fill out. I was somewhat of an early developer but I was cripplingly shy and I recall being mortified at a party when I was 11 years old and a girl from my class poked me in the chest and shouted “Look at your boobs, look everyone!” and so, of course, everyone did look. My cheeks burnt and I wanted the ground to swallow me up; I was a very private little girl and having this attention drawn to me was horrific.

It’s little incidents like this that affected how I felt about myself; I was embarrassed and wanted to cover up so no-one else would point anything out. I wore baggy jeans and avoided any kind of tight clothes, probably up until I was 16 years of age. I got away with wearing hoodies because I was ‘alternative’ and ‘individual’ so no-one ever questioned it. I didn’t think about it so much at the time and it is only looking back that I am aware of what I was doing. I was ashamed of my body and the less anyone saw it, the less they could judge me.

I have absolutely no idea why I felt this way about my body; my mother fed us a healthy diet, she never talked about her weight or going on a diet and I don’t remember ever even noticing how other people looked. Even growing up as a teenager I didn’t look at celebrities and wish I could be like them. I used to complain a little about my wobbly belly but I never compared myself to anyone else; this was my own demon and not because of how anyone else looked. I can only imagine because I was so shy I was scared to be looked at, I didn’t want any eyes on me and if I had boobs or hips then people would look.

It was only as I grew into my late teens and early twenties that I really began to put pressure on myself to change the way I looked. I have to say I don’t even think it had anything to do with how I looked, it was just the only sense of control I thought I had. From the age of sixteen upwards I have been through a lot bad things, things I wasn’t mature or experienced enough to deal with (what sixteen year old is?) and by concentrating on my looks I could distract myself from everything going on around me.

By concentrating on my looks I wasn’t wearing nice clothes or styling my hair, I was wearing a lot of makeup to cover my face and trying as hard as I could to stay slim. When I was eighteen I got into my first serious relationship. I had a boyfriend for a year before and he wasn’t particularly nice to me, he left me with a lot of self confidence issues. I can’t say my next relationship left me in any better shape, in fact it left me a lot worse. I was with my ex-fiance for five years and during that time my weight fluctuated a lot. I went from 8 stone to over 11.7 stone, which is horrendous for my tiny 5’3” frame. I was so terribly insecure and I used to put myself down a lot. When your partner put themselves down it is your job to build them back up again, to tell them you love them and why; because they are beautiful. It wasn’t like that at all, for me. I remember one Boxing Day night when we were supposed to be going to a party; I was upset because I couldn’t find anything to fit me and I thought I looked like a whale in everything I tried on. I was having a difficult time in University and me and my best friend at the time had just fallen out. I was clearly putting a lot of my issues onto how I felt about my weight and when I couldn’t decide what I looked the least awful in, my partner got angry and told me how disgusting and fat I was, that he didn’t know why he wanted to be with me. He went to the party and left me at home, sobbing in bed. I was so incredibly low and I hated myself so much, I wanted to hide away and never be found.

It was about six months later when I started to work full time in my job that I started to lose weight. It was natural at first because I was doing a lot more physical work; I was no longer sitting in lectures drinking hot chocolate and eating a Galaxy Caramel but I was lugging heavy boxes around and everyday I was rushed off my feet. Once I had lost half a stone I decided that I really wanted to go for it, I was sick of feeling disgusting and crying when I saw a photograph of myself, I wanted to fix it while I was still young and could enjoy being slim. Over the next year I gradually lost weight, from sticking to a high protein diet, lost 3 stone and for a while I was happy with the results.

This changed, however, when my relationship turned sour (or more sour than it already was!) My partner had been caught sneaking around with another girl behind my back a fair few times, I know I should have left right away but I was living with him now and it wasn’t so easy to just drop everything and start a new life. Eventually, though, I didn’t have a choice. I couldn’t spend my life with someone I couldn’t trust, someone who repeatedly hurt me and looking back was emotionally abusive.

The next few years weren’t particularly good, either. I thought I was having a good year last year until that went wrong too. I had another breakdown in a relationship, I was stressed at work and I was diagnosed as being clinically depressed; I had hit rock bottom. I sat at home for a god few months crying on the couch, thinking about how much I despised myself. How it was my fault that everything had gone wrong and I didn’t deserved to be loved, that I was unlovable anyway. In my last relationship I was incredibly insecure, probably down to the fact that my previous one was so abusive. It was another unhealthy relationship and I never felt my needs were being met but being so emotionally insecure and vulnerable I clung on for as long as I could, which I regret massively. I always felt like I was the unattractive one in the relationship, that I was ‘punching about my weight’ and that soon he would realise it, he would see that he could do better. I had stomach problems for a long time and I couldn’t eat without getting crippling indigestion, this was down to stress. Work became increasingly difficult and the stress and depression got worse, which caused me to drop a lot of weight. When I was signed off work I was so terribly hard on myself, I decided that I wasn’t going to put the weight back on because I was ugly enough as it was; I couldn’t be ugly and fat. I genuinely couldn’t eat due to a combination of heart break, anxiety, stress and my terrible depression. I got so ill that all I could do was lie down, even eating became difficult and I couldn’t hold any food down if I even managed to swallow it. I should have been worried but I wasn’t, you know what I thought? I thought ‘maybe I can lose a bit more weight’ which I know now is a horrific idea. I was skin and bones as it was, I just didn’t care. I didn’t feel like my body was good enough; my ex was an avid gym go-er for his work and I simply didn’t have the time, money or energy to get a gym membership. I can’t say it was his fault but I did always think he wanted me to be a bit more active, a bit more like him. He wanted me to get involved in sports and activities when I didn’t want to and I thought this reflected on me and made me look lazy. I felt like he wanted me to be something I’m not, he wanted me to be athletic and as into working out as much as him. There was never a moment in that relationship when I didn’t feel inadequate.

I can’t tell you how I managed to change how I think about myself; I think one day it just clicked. I decided that I didn’t want to hate myself anymore; I wanted to accept my body as it is and show off everything about it that I love.

I got into a new relationship and my boyfriend is more than wonderful. He is so supportive; he tells me how much he loves me and how much he loves my body. Slowly but surely he’s built my confidence back up to the point where I can look at myself and think ‘Yes, my bum is great!’ In the past I have never been comfortable being naked around a boyfriend, I’ve always felt unattractive. Now, however, I’m happy to strut around my bedroom naked, all my jiggly bits on show and wobbling as I go. I have a confidence that I have never in my life had and I love my boyfriend so much for giving that to me. He doesn’t judge me, he loves me. His words when I said I hate my boobs, I just can’t bear them and I don’t think I ever will be able to, he said “I’ll love them for you, then.” I instantly melted, no-one has ever said anything like that to me and the best thing about it was I could tell he meant it. With him I feel like a goddess and that isn’t an exaggeration. I know how attracted to me he is, he tells me regularly and nothing will boost your confidence than knowing the person you are most attracted to feels the same about you.

I try to blog frequently about positive body image and about my journey to loving myself. I would hate to think that one day I will have children and I would pass my body issues onto them so I am determined to figure mine out. I still have the odd morning where I’ll look in the mirror and think “Your belly is poking out far too much.” But it is just a fleeting thought, I follow it up with “But look at those legs… look at your bum.” Because I deserve to love myself, as everyone deserves to love themselves.

It has been a long seventeen years since I was that nine year old in the back of the taxi being introduced to body image and questioning why my thighs were bigger than my friends. I have had so many low points when I have wanted to stay inside so no one could see me but not anymore. Now I can see a light at the end of the tunnel, I can see a future where I fully embrace myself and I champion my flaws. My big hips? My soft, rounded belly? They’re womanly and I am a grown woman, it’s how I’m supposed to look. I gained back around half a stone and shockingly, I feel better than ever. My boobs have gotten bigger and my bum has filled out. My face doesn’t look gaunt anymore, I always hated that, and I don’t bump my hip bones into things constantly. Would you believe that it’s actually painful to lie down when you’re so skinny? My bones used to poke into the mattress, not something I enjoyed.

I’ve been to both ends of the spectrum, overweight and underweight and I didn’t enjoy either one of them. I’m not supposed to be large, nor am I meant to be skinny. I am meant to be me, as I am now. I am a healthy weight, I fit into my clothes and best of all I’m happy; I smile constantly because this feeling of loving myself? It’s great and it’s not something I plan on giving up any time soon!

Author of the blog Back To Me check it out!

“If a partner knows you well, I have always felt that they should be able to compliment you on something more substantial or uniquely you than your appearance.”

I wrote a post over a year ago about body confidence and my changing attitude to my body over the years but now I’m going to write one reflecting on a recent experience and how it’s made me rethink my attitude to my body.

Last weekend, situations transpired that I hooked up with and have kinda begun seeing a good friend. Sorry, this anecdote will get to the point soon! He is someone in my close friend group whom I have known for years and liked for a while. We have a lot in common and I like to think that we know each other well. Over the course of the romancing, he mentioned my appearance several times in general terms of “You’re beautiful” etc. I never enjoy these compliments but can cope with them when I hook up with acquaintances or strangers but I hate hearing it in this sort of situation. If a partner knows you well, I have always felt that they should be able to compliment you on something more substantial or uniquely you than your appearance.

I understand that he was simply trying to compliment me and I believe that he was entirely genuine and I know that I am over-reacting with this silent battle in my head. In recent years I have learned to take compliments but upon finally hooking up with someone who knows me well, it upsets me that the most prominent thing about me he wants to comment on are my looks. It opens up the paranoia that they are my ‘redeeming feature’ as well as that I am interchangeable in his mind with any other “beautiful” girl.

Perhaps I should just shut up and accept the compliment but it upset me and I have been brooding over the reasons why it bothered me so much for a week now. I prefer my body confidence to come from myself rather than the opinions of others. And while the “You’re beautiful” line is commonplace etiquette in drunken pulling situations, I do not want a potential relationship to have any basis on my partner’s appreciation of my looks.

I noticed that for the rest of the weekend, I spent a great deal of time worrying about my appearance and the other day almost requested my friend take down a photo from Facebook where I have a double chin. This is not me! Who is this taking over my brain?

Maybe I should just shut up and learn to take a compliment… to be honest I much prefer to be happy and have my body confidence based on my own opinions.

“Sometimes I think my body’s forgotten how to feel, or chosen to forget.”

Sometimes I think my body’s forgotten how to feel, or chosen to forget. I don’t remember any more what it feels like to want someone. I think my heart is too scared. It’s frightened of breaking, so it locked itself away.

I love my body. I think it’s beautiful, and resilient. It heals itself, and it makes it possible for me to make it through endless nights at work. It puts up with my smoking. But sometimes it feels like no one else will ever love it again. I don’t mean the guys at work who look me up and down, or end conversations with, “You’ve got great tits, by the way”, or who put their hands on me. Those men don’t love my body. They don’t want to revel in my body, to lick the sweat from my skin and the blood from my cunt and find joy in the way it makes me shiver. And sometimes I’m scared that no one will love my body the way he did. Like that man who didn’t love me as much as he loved drugs. The first man who didn’t just not mind fucking me if I was bleeding, but who’d put his face between my legs and make me come, and kiss me with my blood on his lips. Who loved the hair under my arms, who would inhale its scent and lick the sweat from me while he fucked me. The first man who loved all of my body, and who didn’t make any part of my womanhood seem disgusting, or something to put up with. He was the twenty-third man I slept with.

I haven’t seen him in a year, except awkwardly, in the smoking areas of clubs. He was wrong for me and I don’t want him now. But his existence reminds me of everything I’m scared I won’t find again. I’m scared that when he broke my heart, he made me lock it away against my will. I’ve forgotten what it feels like for my body to want someone, really want them, because wanting means risking disappointment. Wanting means eventual betrayal, and broken hearts. Wanting leads to sadness.

And so sex is something I want in an abstract way. Sometimes I have sex because it’s there, because I want to feel skin on mine and arms around me and a cock inside me. My body wants sex but it doesn’t want them. I hardly remember what it feels like to look across a room at someone and just ache with wanting them. I’m scared to let sex make me feel something that isn’t physical, because my feelings are so dangerous. I long to be able to share my body again in a mutual way, to want his pleasure as much as I want my own, to look into someone’s eyes instead of keeping mine shut or looking away because somehow, eye contact is more intimate than fucking. My body is scared to feel because my heart doesn’t want to break.

“Somewhere in the past 10 years, I lost my body, but I’m determined to feel comfortable in my own skin again, and I really believe that I will.”

I grew up in a naked house. My Mum, Joyce, was happiest walking around our small flat with no clothes on – or, when my sisters and I would complain that she was ‘embarrassing us’ with her nakedness – a very thin, silk dressing gown that she would rarely bother to fasten. As I got a bit older, I realised that in fact, I too enjoyed that certain feeling of freedom that only seems to come from being completely naked. I used to sit naked with my mum on the seat by the bay window in our flat which looked out onto the street when the moon was high and the streets were quiet. We would listen to Eddie Reader, and my Mum would sometimes talk to me about how my body would change one day.
We talked a lot about puberty and relationships, I think more than most girls my age did with their mothers. At the time I couldn’t have told you why we spoke so often about such things, and I don’t think my mum could have either. I think I understand it now. My mum died when I was 13 years old.

To state the obvious, my life changed a lot after she died. I had to move into a new house with a new woman to look after me. The naked days were over, and I went through puberty and my teenage years without Joyce by my side, reminding me that everything I was experiencing was just what we had talked about when I was younger – nothing unexpected, nothing to be afraid of. I spent my teenage years full of angst about my body – it was fine, even beautiful by conventional standards at times, but I was obsessed with my appearance and terrified of judgement from others.
Today, I am much less concerned with how I look, but my body and i don’t have the same relationship that we once did. This disconnection between me and my body is manifested most strongly where sex and intimacy are concerned. I haven’t had very many sexual relationships, but those I have had have not been particularly pleasurable for me. I can’t help feeling that there’s something I’m missing in sex – when other people talk about the joy they have experienced through sexual experiences I feel jealous because for me, sex was always mostly about trying to enjoy myself with a man, failing, and then enduring sex for the sake of intimacy rather than it being something I really wanted (DON’T WORRY – I REALISE HOW MESSED UP THIS WAS!)

I have learned a lot about consent in the past couple of years, and realised that having sex when I didn’t feel like it for such a long time (most of a 3 year relationship) has left me feeling quite damaged, and definitely out of sync with my body and my desires. The first sexual experience I had with a man where we talked about what we wanted from sex together and maintained that communication the entire time we were being physically intimate was earlier this year, and it was incredible. We were only together for a brief period, but meeting him was really important because it has assured me that I can relate to sex in a positive way.

Somewhere in the past 10 years, I lost my body, but I’m determined to feel comfortable in my own skin again, and I really believe that I will.
Tonight, I sat by the window in my room, completely naked, watching the moon and listening to Eddie Reader.

by an anonymous woman

“… 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