My beautiful body

I wrote a few days ago about how I’ve experienced a shift in myself. An influx of love and a grounding in myself as I feel well in my skin, full of love for who I am physically and as a spiritual being.

Since this shift, I’ve experienced an acceptance for by body.

I’d go even further than that actually.

I like who I am physically.

I find myself looking in the mirror and, instead of listing all the things that I’d like to change, – the extra fat on my sides and stomach, the grey hairs on my head, my chubby cheeks and dimply bottom – I find myself looking at myself with pleasure. IMG-0062

And instead of pinching the bits of fat on my body, sucking them in or hiding them away, I find myself stroking them, showering them with love, getting them out on display.

Getting into a swimming costume at the beach as I’m on holiday in Wales, I’m fine with not being ‘body perfect’ because I find my body perfect as it is.IMG_0048

I don’t mind when my tummy wobbles as I jump into the waves.

I don’t mind when I sit down on the sand with my son and my stomach bunches up.

I notice a curious echo of the past as I’m in the moment which says ‘you would have sucked your stomach up as this point‘ or ‘you’d have sat back to make your stomach flatter‘ but that’s not me anymore.

I feel the same wonder with my body that I did straight after I gave birth to my son but it feels different.

I don’t feel wonder for it because of how capable it is of creating another human being (although that is an amazingly spectacular super power!).

I feel wonder for it because it’s the house for my self. The vessel for the inherently precious and imperfectly perfect individual that I am.

And I find it to be enough.

More than enough. I find it to be beautiful.

I look back on the Christian messages I received about my body ‘your body is a temple’ and feel sadness for the Amy who read these words and felt that I was failing at another area in my life – not treating my body as a holy temple and instead of feeding it ‘good’, nourishing food, stuffing it full of cakes and sweets that weren’t ‘good’ for me.

For me, knowing my body is a temple is nothing about what I should do. It’s a fact that it is holy, whatever I do to it.

As I sit in a cafe tucking into almond butter, banana and maple syrup on toast, it is holy.

As I run along the beach in Abersoch, it is sacred.

As it brings my son comfort and enables me to show love for my husband, it is perfect.

And the irony is that as I shower my body with love, knowing it is enough just as it is, I feel fewer impulses to gorge myself with sweets.

I’m able to take or leave food if I’m not hungry.

I find myself wanting to nurture my body with nourishing food alongside the delicious desserts that I also enjoy.

With no ‘shoulds’ about what I need to do, but out of love and kindness and respect for it.

My body is beautiful and so is yours, dear friend. No matter whether it is fat or thin, wrinkly or smooth, short or tall, disfigured or untarnished.

It is perfect.


Thanks to Jess, who supported my writing and paid for the chai latte I enjoyed whilst writing this post. IMG_0065.jpg

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Not the whole truth

I’m feeling a bit better since I ranted to you a few days ago. A night out with my husband did wonders for me feeling like an actual human being instead of being in a constant state of mum.

A lie-in has also left me feeling a bit more replenished as well as the day ahead of me – in London with my mum.

From this, I know that:

  1. Feelings are better out than in
  2. I need to get out more with Gregg
  3. Sleep needs to take more priority
  4. I’ll need to ask for more help from people around us to babysit – already two friends, Laura and Ellie, have been amazing taking Jenson for an evening. Big love to you both if you’re reading this.

I’m also left feeling better after a coaching session I had yesterday which showed me that my inner critic has been rampaging around me recently. Due to tiredness, being stretched beyond my means, keeping in all my feelings, I’ve had little resources to keep her at bay and she’s been busying herself.

You’re only a good mum if you manage to breastfeed until he’s 2.

You’ll never be able to express yourself.

You’re broken.

You don’t know how to do this.

You didn’t come up with the best idea for the session and this is the area you’re meant to be an expert at. You’re a fake.

You’ve got no clue what you’re doing.

Hold it together, you need to be perfect.

What would they say if you fell apart. They’d never trust you again.

You don’t have this.

You called your boy a little shit to someone else, what a terrible mother you are.

I can feel these words pressing on my chest like a weight. Making me retreat, feel small.

And I feel the anger towards myself for not managing to hold things together. For not being perfect. For not coping when I think I should be able to bloody well cope with something that appears, on the surface of things, so simple.

And as I spoke to Jenny, we talked through how I might talk to my inner critic.

Acknowledging that she’s just trying to keep me safe by keeping me small.

It’s safe if I measure my life and success by the standards of some external expectation – others, society, perfection.

I’m less likely to trip and fall in front of others if I stay small.

It’s not what I really want. I want an expansive, large, messy, bold, brave life of exploration, courage, excitement.

But that’s really scary too.

I also acknowledge that she’s piping up because I’m reaching breaking point. I’ve been doing too much for too long, giving too much of myself for too long without replenishing myself.

But she’s got her wires crossed and instead of saying ‘Hey, Amy! You need to take care of yourself and sack everything else off’ she shouts at me military-style to try to get me to keep on going.

Awareness that what she’s saying isn’t the whole truth

When I’m in this situation, her voice can be all consuming. And I believe what she’s saying – I’m broken, I’m a failure, I’m shit.

But what she’s saying isn’t the whole truth.

For example, it’s not the whole truth that I need to get everything right every time.

It’s not the whole truth that I need to breastfeed Jenson to be a good mum.

It’s not the whole truth that I don’t know what to do.

It’s not the whole truth that I’m broken.

There are part-truths in there for me –

My role requires some mastery but I don’t need to be right every time – I need to have a learners mindset and ask good questions to help others make progress.

Being a good mum to me means putting the needs of my child first – but I can fulfil Jenson’s need for nourishment through other sorts of milk and lots of affection. It doesn’t need to be through breastfeeding.

I don’t always know what to do, but I do sometimes.

I’m struggling at the moment but I’m not completely broken. And it’s not the whole truth that struggling and even cracking is a crime, a judgement of my worth, a sackable offence.

Calling on another part of me

At the moment my inner critic is pretty loud. But there are other parts of me that have something to say.

The wise part of me able to say that breastfeeding is more about nurturing and loving Jenson, which I can do in other ways.

The cheerleader in me who says ‘you’re a bloody brilliant mum, I’m so proud of you.’

The gentle part of me which says that I need to let Gregg step into the nurturing role with Jenson more so that I can nurture myself and continue to be a good mum to him and be an example to him of the importance of putting yourself first. I want that for him – that he puts himself, his happiness, his well-being, his desires, first – and so I need to show him me doing that in action to role model this behaviour.

Will this ever get better?

I asked Jenny if I’ll ever get to a point where this voice isn’t so loud.

And disappointingly she said ‘no’. But she did say that I’ll get quicker at noticing my inner critic and will get better at telling myself that what she’s saying is only partly true. I’ll get better at calling on different parts of myself to give different perspectives.

It’s not what I wanted to hear, but that’ll have to be enough.

Raising my voice

I’ve been lone parenting this weekend as Gregg is at a stag party. I took Jenson to an animal rights protest in London yesterday, partly out of desire to be an active citizen and partly to have some plans to fill up my three days alone with him.

I’m so glad I went.

I loved hearing from animal activists who had so much information to share.

I loved the atmosphere as we marched through the streets of London, handing out flyers to the public.

I loved being part of something bigger than myself as we showed images of how animals are killed for our pleasure, kept in tiny cages so businesses can make as much profit as possible, viewed more as a commodity than a being who feels, fears and loves just like we do.

But that wasn’t my feeling right at the start of the march.

I felt uncomfortable, out of sorts, anxious as I made my presence known on the streets of London.

I felt like I didn’t have a right to be there.

It felt wrong to be speaking out – and speaking loud – instead of being in my safe little zone where I am vegan and will gently say why I am if people ask why (the reason, if you’re interested in for the planet – we can’t survive whilst still consuming such high levels of meat and dairy – and because of how animals are kept, treated and killed).

But I keep myself to myself.

I don’t push limits.

I keep my vegan views, my ‘controversial’ views of parenthood, family, love out of this blog for fear of offending you, dear friend.

And in that moment, something clicked for me. I realised that I don’t allow myself to be fully seen.

I don’t allow myself to share my views unless I’m given express permission to do it by someone.

And there are so many reasons I can think why.

Girls aren’t brought up to be forceful and I feel like I’m ‘too much’ when I think about my opinions and views on a range of topics.

I’m fearful of speaking out as that reminds me of my Christian experience growing up where we’d be encouraged to try to ‘convert’ people to our way of thinking.

I don’t feel comfortable dealing with conflict and, in putting my opinions ‘out there’, there will be many people who will disagree with me.

But that’s ok to live with these reasons – I can grapple with them as I work through giving myself permission to be seen and my voice heard.

And by that I mean all that I am, not just the bits of me that are mainstream and not controversial.

It feel scary and new and different to do this, but living this way feels aligned to the name of my blog – courage, truth and love – and so I know it’s the right thing for me to do.

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A narrow set of rules that just don’t work

I’ve been thinking about my age old stumbling block – my body – since I went to see the Guilty Feminist Live a few weeks ago.

I was lucky enough to hear the amazing music of Grace Petrie who is a singer/activist and also a self-proclaimed butch lesbian who never felt she fitted until she came to peace with who she was and how she looked.

And in hearing how she felt she didn’t belong because she didn’t fit into the ideal of femininity, I realised just how much I only feel I belong if I’m at my thinnest and fit into the female ideal of beauty.

I don’t really understand why I feel this way, but I do.

I don’t hold other people up to the same standard. If someone is overweight it doesn’t make me question their worthiness or think less of them.

I might wonder whether there’s a reason for it – some hurt they’re trying to bury with food, a medical reason, because they love food and don’t feel ashamed of being who they are in their body.

But with me, I believe being a bit soft round the edges shows me as weak, not able to cope, lacking in self-control and so many other things…

But after seeing Grace and marvelling at the idea of fully embracing myself, I’ve been wondering about a few things.

What if I lived by Grace’s words?

Some of her song lyrics – and the title of this post – are ‘a narrow set of rules that just don’t work’.

And that’s, in my ‘logical’ thinking moments something I understand about my thoughts about my size.

Not everyone is made to be a size 6/8/10/12.

And by saying ‘you must control yourself to stay thin and within these narrow views of beauty’ I’m saying to myself that it’s not ok to not be perfect.

But perfection isn’t real and these rules about what is ok to be, food-wise, is too narrow.

It’s not realistic.

It’s not something that works for me.

It’s not ok to not be ok

Food and body image becomes more problematic to me when I’m not doing ok.

When I’m treading on new and tricky ground.

When I’m challenging myself in areas that I’ve not challenged myself before.

And that’s what I’m doing at the moment – I’m out of my comfort zone and so it’s no wonder that the old self-critical voice and comfort-eating behaviour is creeping back.

It’s not a wonder really with the strides I’m taking in my life:

  • I’m shedding the thought that I mustn’t stand out or ask for things for risk of being thought of as a nuisance.
  • I’m getting the self-belief and assurance to take time for myself in my personal life. Seizing time for myself just as my husband does when he goes to park run on a Saturday or football on a Wednesday evening.
  • I’m doing different things at work which are new and uncomfortable – having challenging conversations, staying in ‘adult’ mode when I want to be the rescuing ‘parent’, considering how I might work as more of a team instead of staying safe through being self-sufficient.
  • So I suppose what I’m saying is that I’m not entirely ok at the moment.
  • But that’s ok.
  • When I am going through periods of growth, I tend to turn to food for comfort before I slowly unfurl into new territory.
  • And that’s ok.
  • I don’t quite believe that I could be a size 14/16/18 and still think of myself as fantastic, worthy, brilliant. But I’m recognising this and trying to change my inner dialogue.
  • I’m making headway.
  • What if I loved my body like I love my son’s body? 

    Like with other people, I don’t measure my son by his body. But it’s a part of him that I love. His beautiful, plump arms and legs ripe for the biting, his cheeks so soft to stroke and kiss as he lies next to me, sleeping.

    He could be twice or half the size and I would still look at him as perfection. And, although I love his body, it is a small part of who he is.

    He is his cheeky smile and his ability to spot small details at such a small age.

    He is his obsession with bubbles and his pushing around of Harold the Bear in his little pushchair.

    He is the ‘woof’ he says when he sees the dog and his concentration as I read story after story to him.

    He is his strong legs that allow him to toddle around.

    He is his hands that clap and his fingers that he moves to try to mimic ‘baby shark’.

    He is his body – and I love it for all it is – but he is so much more than that too.

    And to view it in isolation is to do him a grave injustice.

    To view my body in isolation is, likewise, to do myself a grave injustice.

    What if loving my body was a great act of rebellion?

    It does feel rebellious, the thought of accepting, loving and cherishing my body, whatever its size.

    To see rolls around my waist (just the act of writing this feels disgusting!) when I sit down without any sense of disappointment or judgement or disgust.

    To no longer look sidewise to see how narrow my body is because it’s just not a priority for me.

    To look at my body as I did just after giving birth to my son – with wonder, respect and gratitude for what it does for me.

    To not be defined by how I look.

    To not think I’m less deserving because of not being a small size 12 or that my body and my size has anything to do with my worth or my worthiness as a person.

    When I look at myself through this lens, it feels like a deeply rebellious act.

    It’s not an act of self-sabotage – pushing as much food as possible in myself to defy a society which tells me who I should be.

    It’s an act of deep self-love and freedom to nourish myself, give myself food I love and food that provides nutrients without any heed to my size.

    Without any pressure to my anything other than I am.

    Without any rules defining what I should or shouldn’t be.

    So where do I go from here?

    I accept that I still have far to go on my journey.

     I remind myself that it’s ok to not be ok.

    I send gratitude to the divinity of motherhood for the chance to see a love I want for myself mirrored in the love I have for my son.

    I see the small seed of hope for the future me.

    I am reminded to look at myself with love and compassion.

    And I’ll end this blog with some words from Grace’s beautiful song:

    “You will figure out what’s yours and that it’s got nothing to do with fitting neatly in a box that was constructed to make it seem like people come in just two teams and anything that’s in between ain’t good enough”

    When I loved myself enough…

    My friend, Sarah, bought me a beautiful book for my birthday. It’s a short read – only taking me 15 minutes to read cover to cover, but it has really inspired me.

    It’s called ‘when I loved myself enough‘ (as the title of this post suggests) and lists all the things that the writer did once she started loving herself enough.

    Saying ‘yes’ when she wanted to and ‘no’ when she wanted to.  Realising the abuse in forcing someone to do something against their will, including herself. Collecting ribbons to remind herself of the gift that life was. Respecting all the parts of her, from the harsh inner critic to her bravest self. 

    It has inspired me and reminded me of something that a previous coach I had said – that loving yourself is an active choice, not a mindset shift, and so growing in self-love isn’t about me wrapping my head around this as a concept.

    It involves doing. Or more so, it involves acts of self-love.

    And so here is the list of self-love that I’ve done since reading the book – acts that I’ll continue to do…

    When I loved myself enough, I let myself properly recover from being poorly instead of dragging myself into the office the moment I could function.

    When I loved myself enough, I let myself leave a party when I was ready instead of waiting until it was a socially acceptable time to go. 

    When I loved myself enough, I took time away to be by myself and write. 

    When I loved myself enough, I allowed myself to write my own rules in life instead of taking the well-trodden path of others.

    When I loved myself enough, I focused on my own needs instead of always focusing on the needs of other people.

    When I loved myself enough, I expressed my own opinion even when it differed to other people.

    So here are the steps I’ve started to take, the acts of love I’ve put into practice and I feel it’s just the start.

    In a way, it’s a challenge I’m setting for myself – to love myself enough to live a life of greater courage, greater truth and greater self-love. As I continue to write about it, how it feels to love myself, I hope you enjoy it and I hope it inspires you to live a life in which you love yourself enough too, dear friend. 

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    A path for finding truth

    Religions are not truth. Their just a path. And different people follow different paths.”

    This is a sentence from a book I was reading last weekend – it really spoke to me and has been in my thoughts since.

    As someone who was raised in a Christian family and who believed that Christianity was the only ‘truth’, this was a really interesting thing to read.

    I’ll be honest with you, dear friend. I shy away from writing about religion here because I know some of you who read my words are Christian and I don’t want to offend you with my views.

    But in line with my recent post about loving myself enough, I’m going to write about it. Because, when I loved myself enough, I gave myself permission to express my thoughts, even when they differed from the thoughts of other people.

    I know from my own experience the danger of living as if my own religion is the only truth. I put judgements on other people and alienated myself because of thinking that I was right and they were wrong.

    I’m sad to admit it, but I judged people who weren’t heterosexual when I was a Christian, thinking they were somehow wrong for loving who they loved and being who they inherently were. And in doing so, I locked myself down to a heteronormative label when I think that human sexuality is more fluid than the black and white ‘hetero vs. homo’ line that we so often draw.

    My fixation on the ‘truth’ hurt me and it hurt others.

    I also judged people who followed another religion – worrying for their soul and, if I’m honest, feeling superior in my ‘rightness’ as a Christian. I read about how other religions were wrong, even Catholicism which has the same ‘God’ at the heart of it, just because they pray to saints.

    This makes me feel so sad – the fixation on showing how others were wrong in their beliefs.

    With this belief that Christianity was the only truth, there wasn’t much room for debating and grappling with what I was taught. It wasn’t discouraged, but it wasn’t encouraged either or something I engaged in.

    I take heart from Christian bloggers I know who are challenging, debating and seeing where the teachings and beliefs fit with them (Clotilde, my sister’s friend is one of those – her blog is here).

    I think a truth which hasn’t been tested personally and intellectually is dangerous but that is how I lived for the most part as a Christian.

    Looking back, I see such a strict black-and-whiteness about so many things in following the ‘truth’ of Christianity.

    Beliefs about sex before marriage being wrong, the danger of being friends or in a relationship with ‘non-believers’, the importance of converting those I knew who didn’t share my faith, the ability to be healed being based on the strength of your faith.

    In fairness, not all these teachings came from my church. Some views came from visiting preachers, discussions with other believers, Christian festivals and me taking the word of the bible as truth without grappling with it.

    But the one thing that bound all of these issues is the focus on Christianity being the ‘truth’, not a path to finding personal truth.

    This is something I’m still grappling with. My experience of religion, my current knowledge of Christians as being more flexible, more inquisitive. My search for a ‘church’ like community which comes together for the beauty of being in community.

    And as someone grappling with this, I’d be interested to know your views on this, dear friend.

    All I know is that this feels right for me, right now. That religions are just paths to personal truth.

    And I take great comfort in the clarity that this small sentence brought to me. It sums up a belief deep inside me that I hadn’t been able to voice until now.

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    Weight

    I’m getting so angry with this fixation we have as a society on external appearance, specifically people’s weight. This anger was triggered as I went into my work kitchen earlier this week and saw the headline of a trashy magazine blaring out “I’m size 18 but I’ll loose the weight for my son”.

    It was a declaration of a celebrity who has just had a baby. Just entered motherhood.  And her seemingly key priority was getting back to tip-top shape physically.

    Ok, I know. This lady probably never uttered those words – most of the stuff in these sorts of magazines is made up and sensationalised to pull in people and make a sale – but it makes me livid that others may read these words (especially young women) and have the idea reinforced that losing weight and being skinny is the epitaph of success.

    It’s a load of bullshit.

    When we’re lying on our death beds we won’t think ‘if only I had been thinner‘ or ‘if only I had lost those last 2 pounds’.

    We’re more likely to think ‘if only I had laughed more, worked less, told my family how much I loved them more frequently, traveled the world, taken myself less seriously, been braver, had more fun, put less importance on how I looked’.

    Our weight doesn’t matter.

    It doesn’t measure your courage, your humour, the strength of your heart, the uniqueness of your thoughts or anything else that makes you, you.

    I’m not saying that being healthy isn’t important – doing what we can to take care of ourselves physically is something I believe should be a priority. Eating a balance of foods, keeping active, sleeping as much as we need, drinking enough water. These things are all good for us.

    And of course, I’m not saying to stay as you are if you’re stuck in unhealthy cycles of eating to comfort yourself or to push down your emotions. I know the hell that this is – stuck in a spiral of shame and despair.

    If you’re suffering with comfort or binge eating, I’d encourage you to get some support to get a hold of it, dear friend. Perhaps even get in touch with me – I work with people specifically on stopping the comfort/binge eating.

    So while I am not advocating for unhealthy lifestyles or staying in a cycle of unhealthy relationships with food, I feel deeply against this fixation we have with being young, lithe, thin.

    I want to shout to the world “it doesn’t matter! We’ve got it round the wrong way! It’s the inside that truly counts!!!’

    But really as I think about this more, I know deep down that my reaction – the anger – is also a frustration at myself for still basing my appearance as a measure of my worth when I know at an intellectual level that I’m so much more than my physique.

    I find myself sometimes standing side-on to see how flat my stomach is. It’s a habit I’ve not yet been able to kick (although I’m able to check myself more and I do it less frequently).

    I also struggle with how I look at myself physically when I’m tired or upset because my neural pathways still interpret these feelings as being linked to my weight. I catch myself judging my appearance more critically than I usually would when I’m in these states of fatigue or upset. And it’s only when I ask myself what’s really going on that I realise it’s nothing to do with how I look – it’s about the feelings that I am trying to hide away or the lack of care I’ve given myself when I’m tired or sad.

    I’ve not yet been able to kick these two habits and I so sorely want to do so. I want to live free from any obsession with my physical appearance, but it’s so hard to shake it off when I’ve got constant reminders around me – in magazines, TV shows, conversations, adverts – that ‘thin is better’.

    So I suppose this blog post is as much for me as it is for you, dear friend. It’s a cry to myself to stand free from the unhelpful, dysfunctional thoughts that my importance, acceptability and belonging has anything to do with me being thin.

    Writing this post has made me realise that I need to have a conversation with the person who is putting those magazines in the kitchen. I need to ask her to stop bringing them in, because they’re really unhelpful and are triggering to me and my continued recovery from the eating disorders of my past. I commit to you, friend, that I’m going to do this when I next get the chance to.

    So yet again, I’m left astounded that what was really going on was not my anger at the world (although I do feel enraged by these magazines and the perfection expected from our bodies). Instead it’s a frustration at how I’ve not yet shaken off the remnants of the thoughts and behaviours that no longer serve me.

    So I’m going to be mindful in watching out for this behaviour – on order to change the side-on glances and critical eyes on my body when I’m tired/upset. But I’m not going to be unkind to myself or frustrated that I haven’t yet reached the nirvana of not caring about appearances.

    I know that this will all come in time. I’m on the right path and that, for now, is enough.

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    Why don’t you let me love you?

    I want to share something with you today which was a really powerful experience. It happened when I was being coached this morning as part of my fortnightly commitment to being coached myself. As a coach, it’s something I think is really important for me to do. To practice what I preach and get support to reflect and continually grow and develop.

    This morning I was talking about how I sometimes feel so frustrated to still be on this journey to ‘enoughness’. Still, 20+ years into discovering how I might feel fully enough, fully acceptable in myself I feel that I should be there by now. I should be able to feel grounded and accepting of myself, regardless of what anyone else thinks about me. I should know that I am enough. I should know in each and every circumstance that I am worthy of love and acceptance.

    But I don’t.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made great leaps in this area. I’ve stopped people pleasing so much and am now aware when I choose to engage in this behaviour. I’ve learnt to pay more attention to what is going on with me than what I think other people are thinking about me.

    And yet I feel that I’m still not quite there (and sometimes feel that I’m far away from being there).

    It makes me so frustrated.

    I was talking about this with my coach today and we decided to spend some time tapping into my heart about this subject. Because this frustration seems to come from my brain. The part of me which says ‘you’ve worked on this for so long, it should be fixed‘ and ‘you’ve read so much about this and know the theory, why aren’t you able to be fully accepting of yourself all the time?‘.

    So I stilled myself and asked my heart what was going on and I sensed that deep inside me is the longing to rock and cradle myself just as I soothe and cherish Jenson, my son. I saw this deep part of me singing Marvin Gaye’s ‘how sweet it is to be loved by you’ to me. I felt the possibility of boundless safety and security and love.

    And then a great wave of sadness and grief washed over me and I heart these words –

    “why won’t you let me love you?”

    I felt such sadness for the angry words of criticism I speak over myself. I felt grief for the judgement I put on myself for my size, my shape, my body. I felt loss for the disregard I have for my feelings and my experiences. And I cried for myself in that moment.

    Why won’t I let myself love me?

    It’s a question I’ve been asking myself all day and I’ve been imagining what it might look like to let me love myself and I’ve felt what I can only describe as a blossoming of my heart and an awareness of what looks like to love myself as I’ve gone through my day. I wanted to share this with you, dear one, in the hope that my revelations can help or encourage you too:

    Running late for a meet-up with a friend, berating myself for being over 90 minutes late due to Jenson’s nap, I knew that loving myself meant taking deep breaths and appreciating the view of the sea I was cycling past to get to herself instead of having a mental stream of anxiety and annoyance at my shortcomings.

    It meant having an honest and open conversation with my husband about something personal I’ve been grappling with for a while instead of holding it in and shutting him out. Because I was worth him hearing what’s going on for me.

    As I saw my body in the bath I shared with Jenson tonight, I knew it would mean seeing myself with such love and joy – the same way I feel when I see my son, roley-poley body and all. Knowing that my body is just an encasement of something much more – my soul, my essence – and letting my love for the ‘more’ fill my heart to the brim.

    There is the possibility of such joy, such acceptance, such peace if I let myself love myself. This feels like a path I want to walk, a future unfolding within myself, a journey to letting myself love me.

    And I hope, if you grapple with any of these things I’ve mentioned, that you can start loving yourself for you too.

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    Radical

    I’ve been writing a few blog posts recently but they’ve not been flowing as they usually do so I’ve taken a bit of time out and hope you will forgive me, friend, for my lack of presence here.

    I’ve got a window of time to myself as Gregg and Jenson play in the front room together and so wanted to quickly write about ‘Dietland’, a programme I’ve been watching in the evenings and have thoroughly enjoyed. It’s an adaptation of a book about a story of an overweight woman who finds her voice and acceptance of the body she is in as she awakens to the patriarchal messages which has caused her body shame – the need to be thin to be desirable.

    I’m aware that it’s not a perfect show – the cast are mostly model-esque and it gets a bit ridiculous as the show progresses. But I really and truly enjoyed how it made me question so many parts of our society that so often go unquestioned. Why we make judgements based on woman’s looks. Patriarchal power and what it would take to have a balanced share of power. How women (have to/choose to?) alter their behaviour to be more palatable to men. All areas that interest me.

    And this quote (or at least it went something like this), oh, how I love it:

    “What’s more radical than a woman who accepts her body”

    I’m aware that I have quite a conventional, slender body. A few curvy areas and a body that has been marked by motherhood, but as UK size 12, I’m quite ‘acceptable’. And I’ve done so much work to love and accept myself and my body exactly as I am. But I still get doubts when I look at myself at times and find myself lacking. I still tend to base part of my worth on my size. I still for some reason feel more desirable when I’m smaller.

    Is it because I was told (by society/myself/peers) that my body is what matters over everything else?

    Is my worth as a woman judged primarily by what I look like?

    Could I radically accept my body? And if so, what would that look like? It might lead to less waxing and shaving and tweezing (a topic that made me pause and think when a friend blogged about it herself recently). It might lead to letting my grey hair grow instead of covering them up with dye. And it might lead to me getting rid of some clothes that fit me but are uncomfy.

    But it’s so hard to unravel what I do for me (I like my hait a uniform colour, but is that because I’ve received the message that ‘grey=ugly’ externally? Many men don’t dye their hair when going grey) and what I do because of external messages I’ve received?

    So I’m left loving considering what it would be like to radically accept my body as it is. I’ve got a cobbled together, mostly functioning acceptance of my body and so I have experience of the freedom it is to love myself unconditionally. Living like this but ramped up – fully accepting, fully loving, never doubting – sounds like bliss.

    And so while I’m not able to totally unravel what that looks like, I’ll sit with the idea, ponder on these thoughts and see where it takes me.

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    Internalising

    I’ve been on a path for a while to find acceptance with who I am. Acceptance of my body, acceptance of those parts of my personality that I often think are ‘too much‘ or ‘not enough’. Too sensitive, too emotional, too bossy, too strong-minded, not funny enough, not extroverted enough, not laid-back enough.

    I have long periods of peace with who I am and have made great strides forward in gaining love and acceptance of myself – I know that my body does not define who I am inside, I’ve learnt to find beauty in my strong body instead of berating it for not being waif-like and I’ve also gained a great respect for my body after being pregnant and giving birth to my beautiful baby boy. It is so much more than flesh that should bend to my will – it is precious.

    Yet I’ve noticed my mean girl voice come back into my head of late. Judging my body that has not and may never return to its pre-pregnancy form. And commenting on all the ways that I’m not enough and too much in each situation. Doubting that I’ll find acceptance from those I hold dear. Fearing they’ll find me lacking in some way.

    I experience this mean girl voice as an uncomfortable niggle, like a bruise I can’t stop touching. Sometimes I can say “thank you for your thoughts but I don’t need to hear them” to my inner mean girl and other times her words stay in my head and make me feel paranoid and self-conscious, wondering if everyone else is bored by me or thinking how much I’ve let myself go.

    Luckily I’m able to do the former a lot more than before but it’s still exhausting to deal with.

    But when I ask myself what my mean girl is truly about, I know it is an internalisation of tiredness, of being overwhelmed by this new experience of being a mother, of things being too much in life, of feeling that I’ve lost myself to then find myself and then feel lost all over again.

    There are people I know who deal with these feelings by externalising them – talking about it, crying or raging. But with me, I’ve always internalised what’s going on for me.

    I don’t know why this is, although I do think a lot of pressure is put on girls to be happy and that being sad or angry or grumpy is seen as unacceptable.

    Perhaps it’s not the ‘why’ that is important though. The key is what I do now that I’m aware of the internalisation. Because I know it’s not healthy for me.

    Thank the mean girl

    I could continue to fight this voice or I could treat her as what she is – a prompt that something is out of kilter in my life and needs addressing. So I could thank her and deal with the underlying issues. It’s exhausting to do this, especially as the mean girl voice raises its ugly self when I’m feeling particularly vulnerable. But if I start to look at what is going on underneath, I think it can only get easier.

    Put myself first

    Over the past few weeks my husband has taken Jenson for a few hours to give me the space and time to do things for myself. And it has been what I’ve needed to reconnect to myself and feel back to my normal self. It’s what I’ve needed to keep my mean girl at bay. So I think I need to keep on having this time to keep my sanity. For me, it’s not a nicety, it’s a necessity.

    I’ve also found myself being ‘rude’ over the past few weeks as I’ve prioritised my needs over other people. I already feel torn in so many ways since Jenson came on the scene and I can’t split myself anymore to accommodate other people. So I’ve turned people down, I’ve asked people to visit at a different time that suits me or said no altogether to seeing them, I’ve not gone along to things I didn’t want to. Because if it’s a choice between being seen as rude or going crazy, I’m going to opt for rudeness.

    Share away

    I have written before about how I find it hard to share what’s going on with me face-to-face. There are a few good friends who I feel safe sharing with – those who have earned my trust, are good at asking the right questions that open me up and have been as vulnerable with me as I am with them. And to be honest with you, I think it’s fine to be like this – to have a select few people who are trusted to hear my stories as I’m trusted to hear theirs. But I need to find time to connect with them around the time constraints of motherhood.

    Externalise

    I know that pushing down what I’m feeling is a one-way street to comfort eating and people pleasing. The two things I’m proud to have stepped away from for the most part. So to not push down my feelings, I need to find a way to externalise what’s going on for me in a healthy way. This blog is a huge part of that – sharing my experiences and expressing what I’m going through with you, dear friend. But I also think that there are other places where I can externalise my feelings. And I’m taking some steps to get there by arranging some coaching for myself to deal with the perfectionism which says ‘it’s not ok to not be ok’ and holds up an ideal of what I should be – funnier, easy-breezier, more extroverted.

    I know that this is going to be a journey I take over the rest of my life – that of tuning into my intuition and learning to listen myself and what I need. It feels hard to be here, but it also feels honest and truthful and like things can only get better from this point onwards.