My body and I

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Let’s face the facts, body:
I’ve never really liked you.
I don’t think of you as being a part of me,
‘we’ aren’t one but two.
My own worst enemy.
Perhaps unfair but undeniably true.

I ‘divorced’ you at seven;
Told you were too big by a ‘friend’.
Sure, it was cruel of them;
Bringing my self-consciouslessness to an end.
I was never so innocent of vanity again,
My container mattered, I had to comprehend.

It wasn’t all bad, often I failed to remember
I was supposed to wish you a match
For the model images, svelte and slender.
But once awoken it was hard to detach
From that important element of my gender:
My body was supposed to make me a catch.

I confess, I haven’t treated you well,
I stuffed you with chocolate and cheese.
Ate too much junk and allowed you to swell
Beyond limits society told me would please.
So at times I starved you in attempts to quell
The increasing mass that caused me unease.

You’ve been scarred, scalded and strained,
Bloodied, beaten, burned and bruised.
But every injury that was ever sustained
I always interpreted as a sign of abuse
Of the malicious way you caused me pain.
I blamed you without sympathy or excuse.

My mental and physical couldn’t be united.
I had ambitions for us you couldn’t supply,
My catwalk ambitions went unrequited,
The skinniness I desired you couldn’t satisfy.
It was your fault I couldn’t be dieted,
Your cravings that stopped you from being an ally.

At various points I’ve wished parts of you changed:
Bigger and smaller, lengthened and shortened.
If I could I’d have gladly had you exchanged
For anything I felt to be less of a burden.
It’s really little wonder we became so estranged
When so many requests upon you were importuned.

But I’ve begun to realise, in this relationship of ours,
That I’m the reason things haven’t been great;
It’s because of me that everything soured.
And now I want to move from this cycle of hate
To embrace you again, move forward empowered
To stop being hung up on issues like weight.

It’s about time I offered you some gratitude
Some recognition that really you are a miraculous thing
Something more than a meaningless platitude
About how things could be worse so I shouldn’t be worrying.
Grudgingly grateful for your functionality is a little screwed,
Sure, you aren’t broken but there’s more that you bring.

In reality most don’t see you as a monstrosity,
Humanity doesn’t see you as an anomalous blip!
And for those that do think us quite the atrocity,
Well they deserve nothing more than a finger to flip!
Despite my obvious and unjust animosity,
Together we’ve had a pretty good trip.

You’ve been my constant companion and plaything.
Together we’ve jumped and danced and entertained.
We’ve glided in the air and done other things hair-raising,
We’ve completed a half marathon after we trained.
There’s really no doubt you are simply amazing
So I’m sorry that our relationship has been so strained.

And now you’ve achieved the best thing of all,
As you worked so hard to bear me a daughter,
Before she moved from my belly to the cradle
So much changed as you made room for the squatter.
It was a supreme feat and I’ll forever be grateful.
So what if my waist expanded and breath became shorter?

And as our baby entered the world,
I thought of all the things I wanted for her.
When I think of how her future will unfurl,
I desperately hope body image won’t be a self-saboteur
Because it’s so evident she’s the most perfect girl
I hope our flawed relationship won’t be transferred.

So today, my body, I make you this vow
No longer will I look at you with disappointment or spite
I promise to love you as you are now
To accept that whatever shape you are it’s really alright
So however you change, whether you become lean or round
I’ll love you, my body, and cherish you with delight.

And hopefully, from my example, our girl will learn
That how you look really isn’t important,
I’ll show her we are happy and, with any luck, in turn
Her unity with herself will not be surplanted,
Who she is and how she looks will be of little concern
And she’ll love herself without taking her body for granted.

 

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Dear 15 Year Old Me

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As I happen to be in Johannesburg for South African Women’s Day I thought I’d post something in keeping with the day. So I’m posting today to raise awareness of a campaign a friend of mine has set up to combat depression amongst teenagers. Her idea is to invite no-longer teenagers to offer a bit of advice to their younger selves, so that teenagers of today can read through some of the issues the seemingly confident adults around them experienced at their age, and feel a little bit less alone.

This is not an exclusively women’s related problem but I think it’s appropriate for the day as I am a woman and I was a young female once upon a time. But I’d invite anyone who wants to take part to do so, you’ll find no gender discrimination here!

If like me you think this is a great idea and would like to get involved you can add your own advice to the Tumblr page http://selfesteemat15.tumblr.com/, where the words of advice to many a younger self are swelling the archives on a daily basis, or you could create your own blog entry and link to the twitter feed #SelfEsteemAt15‬. If you want to see what other people are posting follow @SelfEsteemAt15.

If you’d like to share your words of wisdom or a link to your entry here too, I’d love to know what 15 year old you and 15 year old me might have had in common.

Below is the advice I quickly scribbled out to younger me.

Dear 15 year old me

I will give you a quick piece of advice because I am currently taking a quick break from a job I am passionate about. So it is possible to make a difference in the world and to ‘be the change you want to see’, even if you currently have no clue what to do with yourself. I can’t remember who said that but even at 15 you had the internet so you can google it.

There are two pieces of advice I would like to give to you. Firstly, be true to what you know is right. Sometimes we all get led astray and it’s easier to join in with the crowd mocking others than to be the one who is mocked but you know this is wrong so if you aren’t yet brave enough to defend those lone rangers at least don’t add to their misery and maybe throw them a little bit of kindness now and again. It will help them and it will help you more than you can realise.

Secondly, don’t be afraid of failure. Yes you have always been pretty good with the smarts and I know you embarrass easily and are currently afraid to try new things, unless everyone else is already on board, but don’t be afraid to take risks. Sometimes they will work out amazingly well and you’ll wonder why you were so worried in the first place, sometimes you’ll fail a couple of times before you get it right and sometimes you’ll just fail. But there is nothing wrong with that.

Finally, I know that sometimes you will reach points when everything seems so terrible and you want to curl up into a ball and disappear, but trust me, these hurts and pains you experience they will heal and you will be a stronger person and know yourself better because of it. So don’t be so hard on yourself and when everything really seems so terrible then just trust me and just keep putting one foot in front of the other because these times will pass.

Oh and very quickly, as for what you look like, give yourself a break and stop comparing yourself to others, you are you and that’s damn awesome.

Love 30 year old me xxx

p.s. life doesn’t get boring as you grow up, I’m excited to meet 45 and 60 year old me, I think we are going to be great 😉

Ten Reasons I Can’t Accept a Compliment

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1. I’m British. Self-deprecation is a national past-time.

2. I don’t know how. I’ve never been nominated for an Oscar so have never had any reason to spend hours in front of the mirror practicing my gracious acceptance speech.

3. I’m suspicious. I suspect you have a motive for something. My work colleague bought me two oranges this morning. He had an agenda. I think of your compliments as those oranges and am trying to work out the agenda.

4. You are complimenting me on the wrong things. Do I need a compliment on how nice this dress looks or how good my language skills are? Why do you never compliment me on the things that matter? Like when I made you a cup of tea without any cat hair floating on the top, the fact my hair doesn’t look horrendous although I couldn’t be bothered to shower that morning or that I stacked my collection of different sized post-it notes into a pleasingly aesthetic pyramid.

5. I’m not sure it is a compliment. ‘You’ve lost so much weight, well done!’ Is that a compliment? Is it just highlighting that I needed/still need to lose so much weight?

6. I’m cynical. I don’t believe you. I too have tacked on a ‘that looks really nice’ to a comment that was meant to stop at ‘oh, you have had your hair cut’ but was then followed by an awkward pause that needed to be filled.

7. I don’t want to reciprocate. Accepting the compliment may make me feel obliged to compliment you in return and lying is a sin. I’m not going to hell because of social conventions. Other reasons, sure. But not social conventions.

8. I have low self-esteem. You are probably mocking me. I’m going to find a nice corner to cry in now.

9. I have a god-complex. Your compliments are meaningless to me. Does the boot care if the ant thinks complimentary thoughts about it as it stomps the ant out of existence? No. Go waste your worthless compliments on someone who thinks you matter.

10. I don’t want to scare you off. Your compliment was lovely actually but if I say thanks in a way that truly expresses the overwhelming inner joy I feel with Cheshire cat grin and shiny eyes open-wide to frightening proportions and glistening with the tears of joy about to fall, you will not only never compliment me again but will probably move to a different country just to get away. Much safer to grumble a non-acknowledgement and move on.