I’m starting to value myself for something other than my looks, and I’m actually kinda proud

To me, my personality consists of geekiness; which involves a serious penchant for comics, superheroes, films, books and video games. It also consists of my love of language, my inquisitiveness, my thirst for knowledge, my appreciation of art, photography, comedy, and theatre. My love of clothes and style, and my love of people and all their weird, delightful complexities.
And a whole bunch else which I’ll probably remember after I’ve typed this out.

Very little of what I think about when I think about ‘me’ has to do with my physical appearance.
Although, I love to do my hair, my make up, and choose outfits that look good to me.

Something that I noticed recently is that although when I think of ‘me’, most of what I think of relates to my characteristics and interests as apposed to my looks, it’s primarily my appearance that I think of when I think negatively about myself.

And that pisses me off.

Because I’ve been trained to be that way.

And I’m not a fan.

Advertising, television, films; so much tells me as a woman only to care about what I look like, not *who* I really am.

And quite frankly, fuck that.

Most mass media focuses on women in relation to their looks, their clothes,
and their sexuality. If you are not beautiful in the very narrow definition perpetuated by them, then you are not valued. I reject this notion wholeheartedly.

I used to be so shy, and still am. But I’m getting better at being confident. A lot of my shyness came from the fact that I didn’t feel worthy of people’s attention because I wasn’t beautiful enough.

But I’m getting better at ignoring that, and now, even though I still get scared about doing stuff because I’m shy, I just do it anyway. I pretend I’m confident, and not bothered by it. I’m slowly fooling myself into being more confident, and it’s a really good feeling.

I’m starting to value myself for something other than my looks, and I’m actually kinda proud.

In closing, if I can offer you one piece of advise, it would be to stop watching adverts, and buying the like of ‘heat’ magazine.
They are designed to make you hate yourself. And to fool you into thinking beauty can be achieved with the latest foundation or shampoo, when really your beauty comes from within you, and isn’t something that can be bought or sold.

Kate – 25

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“This is the body I live in now. It won’t last forever. It is changing constantly.”

Comparing yourself to others is not a right thing to do when it comes to achieving a sense of freedom within the framework of your body. That is what I would do quite often, and it still happens to me sometimes. Like it or not, there will always be someone who is in a better shape and condition, of smoother skin, bigger eyes and sexier moves. Similarly, there will always be someone who is less attractive or of less capabilities than you.

There were a certain stages in my life when I would rediscover my body. One of them was, of course, my first sexual relationship. How important it was to hear that I was sexy, smelled nice and had amazing boobs. 14 years and a few relationships later I already know that the beauty is not as obvious as pleasing facial features and flat belly.
One of the breakthroughs in befriending my body was when I met a theatre group from Norway. After their performance, we had a walk around the old town and one of the actresses started to pet her arms and legs saying: “thank you for being strong and enabling me to perform today”. Then she explained: “I try to do that every day, cause I am grateful for my body being fit and the fact that I can do so many things thanks to it”.
“That is so true!” – I thought. We rarely notice when our body works perfectly fine (unless we use our bodies as a tool for work – as in dance or sport). We tend to realise how important it is when our condition worsens.

Now I see how lucky I am to live in my body. I call it my home and I try to take care of it as If it was my shelter. I want it to be healthy, strong and also, good looking. However, I am not obsessed with how I look and I don’t compare myself to others anymore (as often as before). There are some things I can change about my body to make it more flexible, fresh and healthy, so I do that. But there are many things I can’t change, so it is better to accept it.

It wasn’t always the case, though. Until my mid-twenties, I was very unhappy about my look and overall condition. I looked much better than I do now, though. First of all – I was younger, my skin was softer, boobs firmer and I was more energetic in general. But the only thing I could think of was my scars and how to get rid of them. When I think about it now and how it kept me away from sunny beaches, wearing dresses and being spontaneous, I feel pity for this pretty teenage girl hiding under tonnes of layers, ashamed of her body. I wanted to protect others from looking at my ugly parts and this way, to protect myself from being judged and rejected. It took me ages to realise that what others think is their business, not mine. I shouldn’t be sorry for something I can’t control and, more importantly, doesn’t cause any harm to anyone. This is how I look. Others may not like it, but I doubt they will spend their lives thinking about how unattractive the person they passed on the street was.

Another breakthrough was when I was given a laser treatment for my scars and it didn’t help at all. The doctor insisted I carried on with sessions (and spend more money in his clinic). He also said: “You will be back in a few years for wrinkles treatment.” I was raging. For him my body was something to be constantly improved. Ageing was something to deny and fight against. I decided to see another doctor just to have a second opinion. Luckily, he was the opposite. “Are your scars something that stops you from being in relationships or enjoying your social life?” – he asked. “We can of course try different treatment that would, in my opinion, help. However, why not spend money on something else and just ignore these unimportant details which your scars are?”

Boy did I want to hear that!

This is the body I live in now. It won’t last forever. It is changing constantly. What I can do now is to appreciate it as it is, support it, nourish it, listen to it, and thank it for being still strong and responsive.

What I would like my relationship with my body be like in the nearest future is to love it even when it is ill, stiff and in pain. To understand its limits and accept changes. That is the challenge and it is not easy, but I will give it a try.

– a 32-year-old woman

Carol Rossetti – WOMEN

This is one of the reasons I love facebook and can’t quite give it up because I come across amazing things like this from the various pages I follow. This is the amazing work by Carol Rossetti, so simple yet so powerful! I wanted to share on the blog because I felt it so fitting and something a lot of woman will relate to. Also the illustrations are just too KICK ASS not to share.

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Posted with permission. Please go to http://https://www.behance.net/carolrossetti to see more of her amazing work!

“As I get older I find more to appreciate and less to dislike. I can now look at my eating disorder as a blot on the periphery of how I feel about my body rather than a significant feature.”

*Trigger warning for bulimia*

The story of my body is a turbulent one. Like most it’s a constant stream of ups and downs. And to me when you say ‘body’ it translates as ‘weight’. I know for many people it will be the same and it’s quite sad that’s where our minds jump to. So let’s start at the beginning: for most of my childhood I was big, tall and clumsy. Being taller than boys in your class is off-putting and very noticeable; this is where I think my ideas of being bigger began, because I was. I just felt like a big lumbering presence. Then I stopped growing but still held this idea of being ‘big’, of taking up too much space. My weight fluctuated in my teens culminating with an intense and aggressive eating disorder until my early 20s. Sure, the latter – Bulimia – has had the most obvious effect on my relationship with my body but it doesn’t define it. I was lucky though; I got out pretty unscathed – I have been in recovery for 3 and half years and am a mostly happy and healthy size 12. Although there has been lasting damage to my teeth, stomach and heart. That in itself is like a medal of how close I came to the edge and managed to pull myself back. Being ill to that extent makes you glad of what you have, of energy, and having an actual appetite for life. Post-recovery your body becomes a vessel for living rather than harming yourself and you can’t help but view it with slight awe. You have pushed it to the edge and it has weathered the storm. Ok, you may have been battered and bruised along the way but it keeps going on and fighting to keep you here. Even with all this it’s sad to say there will always be a tiny whisper in my head telling me nothing tastes as good as thin feels. It is a shame but I can deal with it. I’ve been through worse.

Now though I just don’t have the stamina to really deprive and hurt myself. If I hate myself at size 8 with a constant cycle of fasts and binges why not just pack it in and still hate yourself but eat what you like and be a size 12? This strange philosophy worked for me and slowly you learn to accept and even gradually like yourself. As I get older I find more to appreciate and less to dislike. I can now look at my eating disorder as a blot on the periphery of how I feel about my body rather than a significant feature. Although, food and my body will always be intrinsically linked to me now – I can’t think of one without the other – it doesn’t inhibit my life or perception. It is perception that matters most to me now. How I perceive something may be far off from the truth. So I go by how my clothes feel rather than the scales and I don’t eat foods that make me bloated and uncomfortable. Like most relationships the one with my body is fluid and I just try and understand that my body is as turbulent as my feelings towards it. It changes from day to day, as much as my own impressions about it do. Sometimes we may go in the same direction other times there will be a clash. Either way I’m quite happy for any negativity to take a back seat most of the time and let me get on with life.

by an anonymous woman, 24

“I still have bad days body-wise, but realising that I am, for the most part, normal, and doing my best in a society governed by warped ideas of female fitness and beauty always helps.”

I’m 23. It’s taken me this long to have some semblance of acceptance of my body. For a period of about 18 months I really liked it, because I lost a lot of weight and was the lightest I’d been since I was 13. Still podgy, you understand, but from 13 stone to 10st 7 in a year and a half pretty much by accident felt pretty good. For a variety of reasons (moving back to Glasgow, Stodgeland; illness, new relationship, etc.) it’s crept back up to the high 11st-ish. So I don’t like it as much any more, because I know I used to look “better”.

BUT. Given that I had absolutely despised myself and my body since I was in nursery school, I reckon that’s pretty good going.

So what changed? Basically, I came to the realisation that there were different body shapes. This sounds incredibly stupid, I know. Bear with me.

I’d spent my entire life wanting to wear the same clothes and look the same as tall, willowy teenage models, as seen in Topshop, New Look etc. Indeed when I was a teenager I hated myself because I wasn’t delicate and skinny. If only I could get rid of my belly, if only I could make my arse smaller, if only I didn’t have such a round fat face…you get the idea. Then two things happened: the “ 1950s vintage style” thing- i.e., dresses that suited people with hips. And I got told I had PCOS. So I found a style that I felt good in, and got an explanation for why I looked the way I did.

PCOS – Polycystic Ovary Syndrome – has two effects which affect me in a concrete sense. Having children will probably be a bit problematic, and it makes me carry weight round my middle, which is also harder to lose. I’d like to think I’ve reconciled myself to the “probs no kidz lol” thing. The only time it’s caused any problem to anyone is when I went for a GP check-up and a demented duty doctor phoned me 2 hours later saying, “Your hormone levels are insane, get to hospital now!“ It was a Friday night; I wasn’t even ill. I told him that, and poured myself more wine.

But the weight thing – hallelujah! I can now accept that I will always have a big stomach, always have a big arse, always have hips. They may fluctuate in size, but they’ll always be there. And when I try to lose weight, I don’t weigh myself any more. I’ve done that for too long, I know that to lose any great amount of weight, personally, I need to cut out carbs and drink only water. I did it when I worked abroad out of necessity, because I was poor. But now, frankly, I have a life to lead. Fuck me if you think I’m gonna subsist on pulses when I have a boyfriend who makes good quality, mostly healthy, food for us.
I do get a bit down about myself still- especially my face. It’s round, and I hate that I always look fatter in photos than I really am, because of my face. But I’m working on that. And yeah, I’d like to lose some weight. So I joined a gym, for the first time ever. And finally, the fear and anxiety engendered by years of bullying in communal changing at school has disappeared. I might not be lighter, but I will tone up. I don’t care how much I weigh. I care how I look.

So to sum up: 5’ 3”. Big arse, big hips, big stomach, round face, small breasts. But I have a great waist, I’m not a blob like I always thought. I love my long, thin fingers. My shoulders are nice. Small breasts are useful – I can run for buses! Yay! And I’m fit – I had always thought, “Oh I’m podgy, I must be hideously unhealthy”. This is BOLLOCKS. I’ve been walking uphill for about 45 minutes most days since 1998, when I moved into a house on top of a fuckton of hills then didn’t bother learning to drive. I might not be fast, but I have stamina and I’m strong. So I needn’t have worried about being shit at the gym, the crosstrainer and rowing machine hold no fear. I might not be skinny and delicate. I might be clumsy and flabby. I’m overweight, but I’m not ugly. I wish more people realised that being skinny isn’t the only option. There are so many issues bound up in the “must be size eight to have self worth and be attractive to men” thing. If I started I’d never get off my feminist soapbox. Since I left school, I’ve never had any problems finding boyfriends when I’ve chosen to look for them, nor any complaints from them about the size of my arse/chest/face/stomach/occasional PCOS beard/insert other cause of neurosis here. I still have bad days body-wise, but realising that I am, for the most part, normal, and doing my best in a society governed by warped ideas of female fitness and beauty always helps.

“When you’re a girl, every body is similar. When you’re a woman, every body is completely unique.”

Quite recently, I realised something very important. This realisation changed not only how I felt about my body, but also how I thought about my personality and my future. It gave me both contentment and drive, and has made for an altogether happier me. That realisation is this: at the age of twenty four, I am a woman and not a girl. Yeah, so maybe that does sound a bit daft, but let me explain.

When I was a girl, I was an acrobat and a diver. I was required to train daily at home, and every day at either the pool or in the gym, or both. I was very flexible and strong, and thin too. But even then I would pull out bits of skin on my stomach thinking it was fat. I would cover my thighs in shorts when the others would be comfortable in leotards, and I would wrap a towel around myself the moment I got out of the pool.

Because of all the training, I saw the girls at school begin to change shape long before I did. Where they had breasts and hips, I had the straight-up-and-down body I had always had, and I was fine with that. When my breasts eventually did develop, I was embarrassed by them and was glad that they were small. The body that I wore until I was around eighteen was slim, almost entirely curveless, and small-chested – a girl’s body.

Of course, once all the training stopped, that quickly changed. It was like my body breathed a great big sigh of relief and just got comfy. My weight began to fluctuate, my boobs grew, I began to develop a more feminine figure, and I lost muscle tone. I wasn’t happy and I damn sure wasn’t going to accept it, so I locked the fact of the matter away into a box and set myself into a weird form of denial. Somewhere in my subconscious I decided my body was just bizarre and nothing would look good on it anyway. I dressed masculine and had a masculine haircut, unwilling to match my outward appearance to this body I had been lumped with.

My first big wake-up call came when being measured for a bra when I was twenty two. My B-cups, it turned out, were actually a very squashed pair of Ds. It felt like the end of the world! No more hiding these bloody things, I thought. But that day of shopping with my mum really opened my eyes to the nonsense in my head; all that had changed was my perceived bra size, and only in my mind. The bra lady had hit me with what I was shutting my eyes to. My boobs were not going to change, I realised, but my mindset sure could.

The first time someone calls you a ‘lady’, as in “Mind you don’t bump into that lady”, is pretty weird. And for me the first time I called myself a woman was pretty weird too. But the word fits me now. I am an adult woman, and it’s high time I got used to it.

I like my body. It works the way I want it to. There are some achy bits and little nicks and scars, and always a bruise or five, but they are all there because of something that I did with it. I can do some cool little party tricks with it, and I absolutely adore its tastebuds. I could live without the spots, but I can also live with them, and I’d hate it if I didn’t have cracky knuckles and toes. I would like to lose a little weight and tone up, but I won’t suffer for it – I’m working on it in a way that I really enjoy. There’s nothing better than drying off naturally and nakedly in bed when you get out of the shower, and when I look in the mirror, I’m happy with what I see.

As for comparing myself to others, we all do it, and again it is something I’ve come to accept as fact. In a way, it is comforting to know that while I might wish I had her long legs, she might wish she had my eyes. We’ve all got best bits, and we’re all our own worst critics.
I love to be naked with my boyfriend. I enjoy the closeness and intimacy of it, it makes me feel sexy and free. But I have no desire to spend any length of time naked in a group. I admit I would probably feel quite uncomfortable in such a situation, but I don’t foresee group nudity in my future, so that discomfort is unlikely to hold me back. As yet, none of my platonic relationships have been sullied by a lack of nudity, and though I bet it is an amazing feeling to overcome that fear, it simply isn’t something I’ve ever really felt an urge to do. Maybe one day I will, or maybe it takes guts that I just haven’t got. Either way, I’m cool with it.

When you’re a girl, every body is similar. When you’re a woman, every body is completely unique. Embracing that has made the world of difference to me. I will never be so confident with what I’m rocking that I go shouting it from the rooftops, but that isn’t what I need. All I need is to feel good in myself, and I do.

by an anonymous woman, aged 24