Rambling thoughts on self-image

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It’s been a while since I’ve written anything really personal on here. When I first started blogging, I wrote a few posts on being me, on fear and on contentment. I touched on my battles with depression, my poor self-image and my history of eating disorders.

Over the past couple of years I’ve shied away from those kind of posts. The posts where I expose myself. Partly because I’ve been in a good place. Depression free for almost 6 years, the longest I have ever gone. Happy with my life and who I am, for the most part at least. I’ve come to terms with my body and how I look. Made peace with the person I see in the mirror. Found confidence to be who I am, and not worry about who I should be. Partly too because I’m aware my audience has grown, and in those early days of blogging when barely anyone read my words, it was easy to put myself out there and not worry too much about many people actually reading them, and those who did were for the most friends who had an inkling anyway.

I have spent the better part of my life acting the part, pretending I am fine, when inside I am anything but. Plagued with eating disorders and depression, from my teens I perfected the art of saying “I’m fine” with great conviction – so much so that often I believed me. I spent years hating what I saw in the mirror. Detesting every single millimeter of my body. I didn’t eat for days or weeks on end, I drank far too much to block out the pain, my body is marked with scars made by my own hands. 

With three girls of my own, I’m all too aware of the importance our society places on our image. I see them and I see three beautiful girls. I see three girls who are funny, and clever, and witty, and full of life and happiness. Three girls who have the future ahead of them. Who can do anything, and be anything that they choose. By the time I was thirteen, I already felt uncomfortable in my own skin, and had done for years. I never felt good enough, or pretty enough, or clever enough, or just enough. I already wished that I was somebody else, because then maybe I would be loved.

Most days, I don’t pay too close attention to what I see in the mirror. It’s the same face I’ve been looking at for almost 35 years, the same face I’ve learnt to love {or at least not loathe}, not perfect but mine. I paint a little make-up on {goodbye eye bags} and don’t think too much about it for the rest of the day. Sunday started off that way. I woke up tired {occupationsal hazard with a baby who likes to wake up for a nightly cuddle or two, more when he’s sick}, threw on some clothes, a dash of concealer and a brush of mascara, washed and dried my fringe, and got on with my day. By the time Vega woke from his nap at 2.30pm I’d been awake for 8 hours and was a little tired myself. I was actually trying to have 10 minutes sleep to banish the headache I could feel brewing when he woke a little early. He snuggled back to sleep on me on the sofa whilst he nursed. He looked so cute and happy I figured I’d snap a quick photo or two. I took a few photos and then opened up VSCO to edit… and that’s when my day went downhill. I saw the messy hair, the tired eyes, the giant eye bags, the spotty skin and extra pounds. It didn’t help that I’d just been browsing other people’s photos on IG – other people’s highlight reel. Instantly my brain started shouting at me… shouting how horrid I looked, how much better everyone else looked than me. I felt ugly, and fat, and pretty damn shit.

It’s true I probably didn’t look my best on Sunday – the effect of two weeks of a poorly baby, sleep broken into 2 hour stretches {at the max}, too much coffee and cake to compensate for the lack of sleep, hormones that seem to be all over the place, and it being a lazy, slob out at home day. My body carries a few more pounds than I’d like. The last traces of baby weight that I can’t shift. My eyes are rimmed by dark circles, my skin is worse than when I was a teenager. Frankly, right now I don’t like what I see in the mirror. Make-up helps, but I know underneath it all I’m still there. I’m not depressed, something I’m incredibly grateful for. After numerous battles with depression, and PND too, it’s always a worry for me after a baby. But truthfully I’m happy – I love my life {just wish my days had more sleep and more hours to get everything done!}

My self-confidence is the lowest it has been in years. Spending so much time as I do online, I’m constantly bombarded with images of what society deems ‘beautiful’. I KNOW the majority are air-brushed, perfected and styled, that they are not a true reflection of how women look or should look. But when you’re tired, and feeling crappy, it’s hard not to compare yourself with those images. To compare their slim, toned body with mine, that while I know isn’t really fat, is fatter than I would like, and in dire need of some toning. To see the face I’ve stared at every day for almost 35 years and not wish I looked like somebody else.

I hate that I let something as trivial as how I look define my days and my self-worth. I’m aware that to my girls, the way I talk about/think about/treat myself is hugely influential. I don’t make comments about my body out loud, I don’t talk about not eating all the cake because I’m fat – more I need to eat less cake as it’s not very healthy. I annoyed myself allowed my self-worth to be so deflated just by my looks, that I compared myself to others.

Does it matter how I look? Really, no, but truthfully yes. We all want to look our best, but when society sets the standards so high it is hard to measure up. We are so used to seeing pictures in magazines and online that have been digitally altered that we think that is how we should look. We make these models and actresses our role models and long for their perfect skin and bodies – forgetting that they often don’t look like that in real life. We let the way we look define the way that we feel about ourselves.

I’ve realised that my biggest enemy is myself. I need to practice some self-love, to take time for myself. I need to carve out some time to work out, because I know, for me, when I exercise not only does it benefit my body but also my mind. I’ve used exercise in teh past as a way to combat depression and it really does have a massive positive effect on my mood. I also need to sort out my diet. Since the baby was born I’ve lived on cake and coffee and carbs. Things to give me energy right now, to get me through another long, packed day, after yet another sleepless night. Fourteen months of no-sleep are taking their toll right now. While cake and coffee might be a quick, easy fix, in the long run I know that a healthy diet would actually make me feel {and look} much better. More fruit and veg, less processed sugar. More water, less coffee. Adding in a vitamin to boot {I’m trying these Perfect7 vitamins}, exercise where I can, and allowing myself a nap if I’ve had a really bad night!

I’m not entirely sure if this post had a point, or really went anywhere. I know that it was good to write, I know that it may be good for someone else to read. We see ourselves so differently to how the rest of the world does. We project the best of ourselves to the outside world, so someone seeing my IG feed may see someone who is happy and comfortable in my skin, and compare themselves to me – the truth is so much more complex than that. If one person reads this and realise that we all have our insecurities, none of us have it entirely figured out and that we are so much more than how we look, then it was worth me writing this down.

If you managed to read that all the way to the end, then I’m impressed! And thank you for taking the time to read my rambling thoughts

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11 Comments

  1. February 23, 2016 / 12:02

    Sending love, Polly. I think there’s nothing like being a mum to take its toll on your sense of self: it sends us into flux and then the crazy tiredness we feel exaggerates all this. You do an amazing job and are beautiful inside and out. Maybe not in the same way you were as a teenager, but as a mum xx

  2. February 23, 2016 / 23:07

    Hang in there sister. You are entitled to wobble over this stuff and it’s very normal. I think we all do – we lament and mourn our former kid-free selves in lots of ways and there’s no quick or easy answer on how to get through those thoughts except to acknowledge them (which you’ve just done) and then try to not let that inner critical voice take over. You are awesome for being so honest xo

  3. February 24, 2016 / 06:51

    Such a brave post Polly, I can relate to a lot of it in that I used to struggle a lot but now have it under control most of the time until a photo I see of myself sends me into a spiral of self doubt and dislike about my appearance. I am very aware of not passing that down to the kids so I never say anything negative about how I look in front of them, it’s hard though. I think you are having a particularly bad time because Beastie is still so young and you aren’t getting much sleep, everything feels worse then. Give it a year or so and you will have so much more time again to focus on you. You are gorgeous! xx

  4. February 24, 2016 / 11:32

    I can relate to so much of what you write here – especially the bits about sleep and looks and feeling crappy. I have many days like this myself and I find on those days the very last thing I need to do is look on IG. You’re beautiful Polly and I hope you’re feeling better now. xxx

  5. February 24, 2016 / 11:55

    I DID manage to read all the way to the end! It was jolly interesting. It’s such a battle isn’t it? That conflict between being told it doesn’t matter how we look, and then on the other hand being constantly presented with pictures of seemingly perfect lives and perfect people. I don’t have a solution, other than the cliches of taking care of yourself, and doing the things you love, the things that make you feel good about yourself and boost your feelings of self-worth and being able to cope. A lovely post though and one I’m sure an awful lot of people will identify with.

  6. Michelle Williams
    February 24, 2016 / 20:26

    Although some people are better at hiding it than others, I think everyone has issues with their self image. I doubt I will ever really be completely comfortable with how I look, too many wrinkles, the wrong shape (very much a pear shape with a small top half and flat chest but large arse and legs) teeth not straight and white etc, I could go on and on and I’ve certainly had self confidence issues all my adult life (I turned 40 last year) even though I was a super confident and outgoing kid. I’ve certainly had to be careful now in what I say as I have a 10 year old daughter who is rapidly changing and becoming a young lady. It was bad enough when I was a teenager seeing the ‘perfect’ women in magazines even though I now know that they don’t look anything like that having been photos hopped to death but with social media and the internet I’m aware things are even worse for her generation. I just hope that she will grow up to be comfortable in her own skin and learn to be proud of how she looks.

  7. February 25, 2016 / 09:27

    Hey lovely, it makes me sad to think of all of this going around in your head. To me, you’re gorgeous but I know that doesn’t count for much when your inner demons are telling you otherwise. Massive hugs xx

  8. February 25, 2016 / 14:06

    Big virtual hugs to you Polly, first off. I know how it feels to sometimes hate what you see in the mirror & i think a lot of people will identify with your honest & brave words. You really are beautiful though, inside and out, make sure you tell yourself that often. Thinking of you xxxx

  9. February 26, 2016 / 10:36

    This isn’t in anyway trivial Polly. We spend every minute of every day caring for our little people which leaves very little time to care for ourselves. You’re so right that social media doesn’t help and we spend way too much time putting ourselves down and comparing ourselves to others. We are also made to feel guilty that we shouldn’t complain about how we look and feel because ‘we’re lucky’ that we have children etc. An aspect I’ve been struggling with since Elsie arrived. I’m a changed person and you worry you’ll never be you again. Or at least regain some self confidence back physically which then plays a part in how you feel about everything else. I hope you’re doing ok lovely…sending virtual love and hugs xx

  10. February 26, 2016 / 16:34

    For what it’s worth I think you’re beautiful too but I also know how it makes no difference if you don’t feel good in your own skin. I think exercise is a really good one if you can find time for a quick jog or brisk walk. I always feel better after it. Take care xx

  11. February 28, 2016 / 17:47

    I was really having one of those days the other day (the IG rant about my thighs ha!). My mum always had a really strong body confidence, never wore make up or worried over her weight and I think it did rub off to a certain extent but having kids definitely changes your body and sometimes I feel like mine is an alien to me, especially when I see photo of me and think I don’t look like that! x

    ..p.s you’re obvs a babe x

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