For as long as I can remember I have had a heightened awareness of my appearance; I vividly remember being sat on a swing with my friend Chloe, I must've been no older than nine at the time, when she told me her weight and I felt my self worth crumble at the thought that I weighed more than her. At twelve, I started to notice unwelcome changes in my body as I began to go through puberty; fat began to line my hips creating curves that I did not want and as I looked in the mirror my thighs were reflected as a map of cellulite and stretch marks. I always hoped that I'd grow out of this uncomfortable sense of not belonging in my body, assuming that soon it would stop changing around me and I would grow into a confident woman; these bodily changes just being a necessary part of the journey. Although now I know that to be true, that reality still didn't dawn on me for nearly ten years later.
I could blame the media, but the reality is I was blissfully unaware of photshop as a nine year old girl sat on that swing, and instagram filters had not yet been invented as that twelve year old girl struggling with her changing body. I believe my insecurities stemmed from my obsession with control; I don't drink because I hate feeling like something else could be influencing my decisions, I write to do lists for my to do lists, I stress unbelievable amounts, and when all these stresses used to pile up I believed that while the rest of my life was a chaotic mess, the one thing in all of that that I could control was myself. And by myself I meant my body. But how wrong I was. It's so sad that appearance can make us feel the way it does... The fact that something so far out of our control can do just that: control us and control our opinions of our self worth. While I thought I was controlling my body, my body was actually controlling me. Enter: the vicious circle of negative self image.
How did I eventually remove myself from this circle? I learnt to love myself. I learnt to eat clean, I learnt to love exercise and the way it made me feel, I learnt to accept that if I lived my life as healthily as i possibly could, I had to love my body for however it decided to adapt as a result of this. I had a realisation that for the first time in my life I was actually taking care of my body on the inside, not just focusing on how it looked on the outside. Caring for your health and looking after your body on a cellular level is so much more rewarding than focusing on the singular artificial outer level. Why do you allow your self worth to be determined by your reflection in a mirror, when in reality health and happiness go so much deeper than what the mirror can ever show you. I began to prioritise health over aesthetics, and finally realised that the way my body looks is far out of my control, but what is in my control is my health. I know now that I am feeding my body the vitamins and minerals it needs to perform to the best of it's ability, I am providing my muscles with the protein they need to grow stronger, my body is no longer running on empty wondering when it'll next receive nutrition and feeling so healthy and strong is incredibly empowering.
Below are my little tips to help you fall back in love with yourself:
001. Take time to appreciate yourself - At the end of every day write down something you have done to be proud of, something that has happened that day that has made you smile, or a positive event. Taking time to appreciate something so small can help you to remember that you are worth so much more than your physical appearance. Each night I write in my 'One Line A Day' journal, and if I'm ever feeling down I will read through some entries to remind myself that I am more than just a body, I am a human with the ability to laugh, smile and be happy.
002. Stop focusing on your flaws - No one else psychoanalyses how your legs look in that photo on Facebook as much as you do. We spend so much time focusing on the aspects of our appearance that we are unhappy with, but the reality is most other people probably haven't even noticed whatever it is you're so hung up about. Instead of wasting so much time focusing on the negatives, spend time focusing on the parts of your body that you are happy with.
003. Be at peace with your mind - Decide what it really is that you want from your body and channel all your negative energy in to achieving it (and try to put aesthetics aside). When you wake up in the morning do you want to feel strong/ fit/ athletic/ agile/ healthy? Once you really know how you want to feel internally, you will begin to feel so much more at peace with yourself externally.
004. Be confident in yourself - Learn to be proud of who you are. No one will support you as much as you will support yourself, so be bold and stand up for what you believe in. As soon as you begin to feel confident in yourself and aren't afraid to let others know you will feel so much more content.
005. Smile. It helps, I promise.