I hold my hands up and confess to being hugely guilty of low self-esteem and body confidence. I have never been a particularly confident person, for short periods I can bluff my way through situations but don't do well in large groups, the thought of public speaking makes me feel physically ill and I avoid going out socially very often because I am so unhappy about the way I look.
What message does my insecurity and complete lack of confidence give to my children?
I have taken great pains to never be critical of their appearance and allow them to find their own way and look, have piercings, dye their hair and would never dream of telling them they are too fat or too thin or point out any physical flaws. To me they are all perfect, when I look at them I see three beautiful, individual young women. So why can't I look at myself in that way, instead I immediately see flaws, I'm too fat, my hair looks awful, my skin is uneven, my toes are stubby, my teeth aren't white enough ~ honestly the list of my faults as I look at myself in the mirror is endless.
Then a few days ago I had a conversation with my eldest daughter who pulled me up on my destructive self- analysis. To them I am perfect the way I am, I look beautiful and they think I have great skin, hair and like my curves (admittedly they agree I do have strange stubby toes ~ but you can't have everything). She told me that it upset them to see me so unhappy with myself and that I was not making the most of life because I was spending too much time pulling myself apart. If I can't learn to love the skin I am in how do I expect them to do the same? I was mortified, I hadn't realised I made such an issue of ripping myself apart in front of them ~ apparently I am the first to joke about my flaws and get in first to make the fat jokes aimed at myself.
We have been going through photographs for our family therapy (which I have mentioned in the past few blogs) and the girls have told me that although I look at the photos of me a few years back looking slim and thinking "wow I looked good there" they don't agree. They say I look gaunt and not like me and that they prefer me with some padding rather than when I was lean because to them I look healthier that way.
So, I have vowed once and for all to work exceptionally hard to overcome my critical negative view of myself and learn to accept that this is me, this is my body and I should be proud of who I am, what I have done and live life to the fullest regardless of my size or weight ~ no more hiding away!
So, step one ~ here is a photo of me, this was taken this morning by my daughter (hair scraped back as I am growing it and my fringe is driving me loopy). I am a mid-forty year old woman who is admittedly fuller in the figure and having hair growing out issues!
I am reasonably healthy, I am unsure whether I have mild ME or stress induced symptoms which are similar. This means I suffer insomnia, get aches, pains and have low energy among other issues. However, I am having regular therapy to find ways to address how I deal with stress and have a daily gentle exercise routine that I try to maintain. Every morning I get up and pull on my exercise gear, traipse downstairs and drink 3 buckets of coffee (I know it's a lot but it's my weakness that I can't give up!). Then I visit the lavatory a few times and shake myself up and into exercise mode. I use three pieces of equipment which are my wonderful purple and silver weighted exercise hula hoop, my eliptical machine and my power plate.
My routine is low key and simple, first I position myself in front of MTV and hula hoop for as long as possible (currently 10 minutes without stopping or dropping the hoop). Next I pull out the elliptical and ensure I can see the TV and do 10 minutes on that (this is my limit, if I push myself to do more it makes me feel too exhausted over the next few days to be able to do anything). Finally I do a full routine on the power plate (which doesn't take long as each exercise only lasts one minute). Then I stretch gently, down a pint of water and wait until I have the energy to crawl upstairs for a shower. I know to most people this sounds like nothing, but for me it is my limit of what I am able to do. Quite a shock for me as only a couple of years ago I used to walk 10 miles a day and still be able to do 45 minutes without feeling too exhausted on the elliptical.
So that is step one, ensuring that I keep my body moving so it doesn't seize up on me. Next I have looked at my diet and am currently following the Slimming World Extra Easy eating plan, this is not so much a diet but more of a life-style change. I am more aware of what I put into my body and now eat a huge amount of salad, veg, nuts, seeds and lean meats/fish. However, I am only human and I do allow myself the occasional treat of wine or cake. I am trying to now look at myself and acknowledge how brilliant my body really is. It is fed on healthy foods, and apart from the morning buckets of coffee, the rest of the day I fill it with copious amount of water with a slice of lemon.
My body created life, it is amazing how it could house and nuture my three daughters as they grew inside me. My stretch marks are badges of honour which I carry with pride. My weight issues don't make me any less of a person. I am the same person I always was, only now there is more of me to love. I have great eyes, they a big and brown. My hair is fine and flyaway but I have lots of it and for that I am grateful. I have good skin, okay I have the odd age spot and freckles but they add character to my face, as to my "crinkles" around my eyes and mouth. I love my dimples, being a little fuller in the face just means you can see them more clearly. This is my body, it has carried me through the first 45 years of my life, it is a little battered and weary and carries some scars. They are just proof of where I have been and what I have done. I need to love it and care for it and make the most of what it allows me to do. I will not squander my opportunities to make the most of what I have ahead of me.
My biggest challenge though is to learn to be confident. Confidence doesn't just come when you click your fingers (sadly) ~ I am going to have to really work at this. To look at myself in the mirror and see the good and not the bad, to hold my head up, keep my back straight and look life in the eye. I am trying not to give in and allow myself to retreat back into my shell. I am going to make a point of challenging myself to put myself in situations I am not comfortable in to prove to myself I can do it.
I have three fabulous daughters and a wonderful husband who have always loved me unconditionally, they get fed up with me putting myself down. With their love and support I am going to change the way I live, instead of just telling the girls how wonderful they are and how beautiful I am going to lead by example. Women are beautiful whatever size or shape they are, it's all down to confidence and to have confidence you have to love the skin you are in.
I am going to try to live each day doing just that. I am going to appreciate all that I am and not focus on all I want to be.