How I treat myself

I’ve been on holiday for ten days now – it feels like more and like less in equal measure – and over the past day have read Over the Top by Jonathan Van Ness from Queer Eye. I’ve enjoyed the show over the past few years and was looking for a bit of light relief between the slightly more involved books I’ve brought with me.

But his book brought me more than I was expecting. So I wanted to spend a few moments writing thoughts about some of the things that I’ve been thinking while following his story.

The main being a line right towards the end of the book which says:

I’m literally just as lost as you. I’m just as grateful. And I’m just as much of a perfectly imperfect mess. People are all layered – good and bad, filled with joy and sorrow. The key is being grounded in the relationship you have with yourself. Basing my worth in how I treat myself despite how others treat me has been the key to my success.

And I’m struck, despite how hard it is for me to type these words and declare unapologetically to the world, by how much I like myself.

There, I’ve said it.

I like who I am.

I like how I look.

I like the grey in my hair.

I like how I’m more in tune with myself physically and emotionally than I have ever been before.

I like my bravery and my tenacity.

I like my gentleness and reflectiveness.

I like how I can be dead serious and then dance myself silly in the next moment.

I like how I’m musical, creative and intuitive but how I can be just as logical and intellectual.

I like how I’m driven.

And I love the simplicity in JVN’s words – the possibility of a guiding principle of my life being that my worth isn’t on how much I achieve, how good a mum I am, what I do with my life, how I am viewed by others, how thin I am, how I treat others.

My worth can be on how I treat myself.

How much kindness, compassion, understanding, generosity I show myself.

And from there, who knows. I may accomplish many of the things I’ve listed above. I’m more likely to achieve better results, parent better, have a rewarding life. And I’m likely to not give a flying fuck about how thin I am, what others think of me, whether I’ve pleased others.

It feels defyingly daring to live a life like this.

To embrace myself and live from the foundation of knowing that I am the bees knees.

It doesn’t feel safe to do this and I hear my inner critic telling me to not get too big for my boots, because doing this risks being knocked down.

But it also has the potential to see me standing bigger, taller, prouder, freer, more grounded.

But what a beautiful thought.

And it makes me think about Adam, my cousin, who died a few years ago and who Jenson is named for (he’s Jenson Adam). He’s someone who I know lived like this and I admired him for that. Living unapologetically as himself, knowing he was fucking fantastic.

I want that for myself.

So in advance of new year, I’m going to commit to channeling my inner JVN, my inner Adam and know that it’s how I treat myself which is my true measure of my worth.

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A note from myself in 2017

I found a piece of writing I did in 2017 – and thought I’d share it with you, my friend.

I hope it speaks to those of you who struggle with people pleasing and low self-worth…

You feed on the affirmation of other people; their praise, encouragement, confirmation of worth and you feel that this is enough to fed you. But in truth you’re starving – the fast-food, soul detracting opinion of others is not enough, not nearly enough to sustain you.

Yet, dear one, there is enough here within you – I have plenty to share from a source that will never know scarcity.

Inside is a banquet of love, joy, abundance, generosity, confidence, surety – if only you would stop bustling around collecting the scraps and crumbs from others, you would be able to stop, to rest, to feast on these delights.

All you need is to stop.

To turn your hearing inside and listen. To notice the beat of your heart, the beat of love, continually drumming for you.

Then you would go to things, join in with things, not to exchange your authenticity for acceptance, but merely to experience life.

You would pour yourself into experiences by wouldn’t be attached to the outcome for your worth would not be defined by it.

Your worth would be anchored in yourself and you would know how fully and extraordinarily worthy you are.

❤️

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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