The first time I recall being called fat and ugly I was around five and sat on the arm of the chair by the cooker in my Nan’s kitchen. My sister and I had recently been bridesmaids at an auntie’s wedding and my great aunt was looking at the photos. She said it was a shame I looked so fat and ugly because my sister looked beautiful. My mum, her sisters, my Nan, my sister, all laughed. They saw it as a joke. I didn’t. Maybe I would have learned to if it was the only time I heard it. It wasn’t.
I was never the pretty one. My sisters were pretty, funny, great to be around; I was “clever”; it was said with disdain.
As an adult, a couple of boyfriends picked up on my insecurities; they would compare me to my sisters; tell me my sisters were far more attractive than me. A childhood full of the feelings of me being fat and ugly further exacerbated by men that claimed to love me.
I hid myself. I wore mostly black. I wore mostly shapeless clothes. I always wore my hair down so my face was hidden. My paranoia was so high that, if anyone looked at me on the street, I assumed they were thinking that I was so fat and ugly that I was scaring small children.
I didn’t hate my body; I was embarrassed by it, ashamed of how it looked. That meant being embarrassed and ashamed of who I was; no matter what I did, it was never enough to make up for how I felt about me; I was never enough.
I got really ill. My lack of confidence was a large part of why. I realised I had three choices: I end my life; I stay miserable; I change my life. I opted for the latter.
That sounds like it was easy; it really wasn’t. It was a struggle. I doubted myself frequently. I lived by “fake it ‘til you make it”. I developed techniques that made me change my perspective on how I saw me and the world around me (I still use those techniques and I share them with the ladies that I do workshops with). I challenged myself to do things that I never would have done before. People believed the me they saw. They complimented me. I learned to accept the compliments. Then I learned to believe them. I started to see me through their eyes, then I started to see myself through my own refreshed ones. For the first time in decades, I liked me; I liked how I looked and I liked who I was. It’s wonderful how life changes when you don’t spend time stressing about the incredible body you live in.
Another woman who had similar realisations was Taryn Brumfitt. Following her beautiful, “unusual” before and after photo, she created a documentary, called “Embrace”, and, from that, she developed the Body Image Movement, of which I am a Global Ambassador. Me!! Someone who wouldn’t look in a mirror for the majority of their life because I felt ashamed is now promoting, fully living!, body positivity!
The film is amazing! If there is a screening near you, please go (here’s the link to all films in the UK: https://uk.demand.film/embrace/ For the screening I am hosting in Southampton: https://tickets.demand.film/event/1486 It’s also available in the USA and Australia).
“Embrace” is emotional, funny, eye-opening, wonderful. If you have ever had feelings of sadness about your body, if you have ever worried about body image pressures on the children in your life, please watch this film.
So, anyway, me and my body now. I don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed. I am grateful every single day for what it allows me to do; living with the chronic conditions I have, knowing how they could all be worse, knowing they will get worse, I am so grateful I can still walk and dance and be silly with it. I love how, even with a genetic skin condition, my skin still holds me all in and most of it feels really soft. I love my curves, my softness, my firmness. My body is incredible and I love it. I have embraced who I am, all of me