Body Confidence – Why it’s not all about change…

Raise your hand if you’ve ever looked in the mirror and been left feeling utterly deflated. Believe me you’re not alone, I have both hands raised too! Thinking about it I don’t really know anyone who is completely satisfied with their body, it’s either too big, too small, to short. Blotches, pimples, wrinkles and hair in the wrong places.

We are surrounded by a society where body shaming yourself is more socially acceptable than saying “wow I look amazing!” without being seen as boastful or arrogant. Walk into any news agents and you will see a shelf filled with magazines continuing to perpetuate highly unrealistic expectations of both men and women, despite years of controversy.

From the fashion industry to the workplace, we are constantly facing backwards representations of ‘ideals’ which continue to influence our daily life style. If I think about my average morning I probably spend 75% of my time focused on covering up my imperfections with makeup, thin hair with extensions and recycling my outfit millions of times before I go out still feeling dissatisfied.

For someone who is recovering from Anorexia body image is something I battle with frequently. Having had to gain weight in a 6 month hospitalization last year just to restore my physical health managing this drastic change still affects me daily. I find looking in full length mirrors incredibly difficult and knowing it can ruin my day or even set back my progress by weeks – I try to avoid them at all costs.

This avoidance isn’t healthy the same way compulsively body checking isn’t either and it’s questionable why I’d give a sheet of glass such power over me… Recently in therapy we covered the topic of perception being the mental representation one creates. Naturally, I was sceptical – believing it was a hoax just to make me feel better.

But then my therapist said this to me…..

“Look at the wall, it’s just a wall, right?….Now notice that tiny grey scuff and quickly turn away”

I did just that, wondering what an earth he was on about.

“OK now turn back and try to look at the wall as a whole without noticing the mark”  

I couldn’t.

See, this is what we do to our bodies, we scan over them viewing each perceived flaw until this is all that is left. Scrutinising the size of our forehead, nose, thighs or stomach until we are internally labelling ourselves “one big mess’’.

But surely this could be easily changed with surgery or a simple diet?…

WRONG in fact this fuels the obsession itself.

In my experience I have spent years trying to change certain aspects of my shape and body. I devoted so much time, becoming so miserable, yet never once despite all the weight loss did I ever look in the mirror and see anything other than what I wanted to change. It’s a toxic cycle that no amount of surgery, dieting or covering up will ever permanently fix. It’s like trying to make a Bull Dog look like a whippet – inhumane and certainly impossible.

What we need to do instead is to learn acceptance, find out the route of what is making us reflect badly. Is that image subject to distortions from a lack of self-confidence, overwhelming emotions, attitudes influenced in childhood or maybe just that overdue assignment. We should tackle this first because how you feel on the inside is what truly reflects in your eyes.

Body confidence for me has never come from trying to achieve the “perfect”. It’s more of a combination of self-love, compassion and embracing the reasons you were given it… Now that I understand living is more that just existing in physical form, I am dedicating my time to believing it and slowly gaining back what I lost to my illness!

…Apologise to your body and let the healing begin….

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Head Meds?!

Recently, I have been hit straight in the face by my old friend depression, out of the blue and almost from nowhere – it’s back again. The same fog I cleared only 2 months ago has appeared once again in a different form…

Whilst scrolling through facebook the other day – up popped this picture of a beautiful field and the caption “ this is an antidepressant…”

It made my think how yes, going outside for fresh air is a fantastic alternative to being inside for days on end – but then again how it is not always that simple for everyone.

I started taking medication for my mental health just over a year ago now after accepting I couldn’t ‘fix this’ without an extra added boost. 

See, Depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain. It isn’t your typical sadness but simply, dopamine is your drive in life, your ambitions; excitement and enthusiasm whilst serotonin is in charge of happiness regardless of your actual achievements. 

Basically, without the right amount of these chemicals no matter how much love, support, money or family you have around you it is very difficult to feel ‘ok’.

Imagine a bottle filled with the most glorious, colourful, magical concoction, it sparkles and fizzes, it has a light of its own, when you drink it you are in love — let’s call it ‘joy’; now imagine a great selfish, hulking beast comes out of nowhere, it stamps and shakes the ground, roars, snatches the bottle with terrifying hands, and tips out all the joy, because if it can’t drink it nobody can. Depression turns you into that bottle, empty, held in the shadow of a beast; strewn on the shore, wishing for the tide to wash you away.

I can’t take away the effect of nature and healthy living, I mean going for a bike ride can be the best escape for me some days! And it has such a positive impact on my mental health. 

Despite not yet finding the right meds for myself I still have some positives from them which without I wouldn’t be able to enjoy. A flash of inspiration as I walk through my favourite field, have coffee with a friend or sit in the sun with a perfect breeze. Deep down inside in them moments I feel a relief that things will be ok.

So please detach the image of people with depression being selfish and the stereotype that taking antidepressants is somehow a sign of weakness… because personally without my meds I am more likely to hurl myself towards a tree than go for the ideological stroll this circulating photo portrays.

“A breath of fresh air is a perfect aid for recovery – but for some this can never be a replacement of these life saving pills.”

As if I won Elft’s NHS Young Person of the Year!!! 

I still cannot believe what’s happened to me this week. Not only did I have the pleasure of going to London for the Elft NHS participation awards but I actually won my category – Young Person of the Year!

For someone who masks low self esteem and confidence daily, never in a million years would I have ever believed I would be standing in front of all those people accepting an award. 

Shocked and so overwhelmed

I am an advocate for Mental Health for no other reason than to help not only people struggling but to also bring better understanding to families, friends and the wider community to help ‘Break the STIGMA’. So to win an award for doing something I love is just so unbelievable.

People should be free to feel emotion and speak proudly about it. I want people to feel comfortable enough to express their truth, to let their walls down and actually live a little. 

I have spent my whole life trying to be someone else because I cannot stand the feeling of my own skin. I have treated myself in ways that I would never treat anyone else – judging every part of my personality.

I have never learned how to feel or process emotions. The way I’ve moved through my feelings is to never let them surface in the first place, replacing them with my eating disorder and other unhealthy coping strategies.

But moments like this outshine some of my darkest days.  Moments that keep me going, reminding me theres always something to look forward to, moments when I’m distracted and at peace, moments spent with amazing people…

Thank you to everyone making this possible. I have been given so many opportunities to meet and work with some incredibly life changing people. I have made so many new friends, spoke to hundreds of people and built my confidence to try new things. I feel deeply honored to receive this Award.

Thank you