However, having said all of the above, I am a MASSIVE hypocrite and am always totally baffled and really saddened when I see another person (male or female) suffering from having a poor opinion of their self-image. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve seen/heard women saying they feel ugly or inadequate and I’m taken aback and shocked at how they could feel this way when I don’t see what they do.
Unfortunately, with the way the world is, I don’t see this improving; in fact, I can only see it getting worse. Every magazine, television programme, film etc these days shows celebrities looking perfect and, although we know that as normal human beings, without access to personal trainers, hairdressers, professional make-up artists, expensive designer clothes and Photoshop, for us to look so amazing is unachievable, we are still left feeling that somehow, we just don’t compare.
This is what upsets me the most.
I look at the children of my friend’s and family and wonder how old they will be before they start looking the mirror and mentally tearing themselves apart bit by bit. How old will they be before they decide they’re too fat/too thin/too short/too tall? How old will they be before they get called a nasty name by another person and believe that those words and that description of them is true? I look at these children with their openness and innocence, and I worry for their future.
For me, I think I know where my body image issues come from – I’ll give a brief outline below:
I dropped out of school when I was 13. I was a lot smaller than the other children in my year, I was pale skinned, I was ginger and I was a book-worm. I was an easy target for bullies and they took the bait. At the age of 13, I ended up with depression. I left school one afternoon, told my parents I wasn’t going back and never did. I’m very lucky – I have an amazing, understanding family and they accepted I’d tried with all my strength to make it through school, but I just couldn’t do it anymore. The bullies had won.
At the age of 15 I had my first boyfriend. He was 24. At the time I thought I was really cool for going out with someone that much older than me, but looking back on it now, it seems really odd. I wasn’t street-wise and I looked a lot younger than my age. I’m sure he decided to date me because I was easy prey for him. Being my first boyfriend I had no idea what to expect from a relationship. I won’t go into huge detail here as it’s not really what this post is about, but he used to leave me terrified and covered in bruises, he would tell me I was ugly, that no other man would want me and he’d point at women in the street or celebrities on television/in magazines and ask me why I wasn’t them.
Even now, to this day, every single time I see a pretty female on television or in the street, I feel sick. It’s insane and I know it is, but I can’t help it. I’m nearly 27 – it’s 12 years later and I still bear the scars of that first relationship. I’ve learnt to keep these feelings to myself, but to know that my boyfriend finds another woman attractive, thinks she’s pretty or has a nice figure provokes a reaction in me that is hard to describe – I get red hot, my heart starts pounding and I feel physically sick. I also get an overwhelming feeling of wanting to run. Quite often I have to take myself out of the situation as it’s the only way I can cope – I’ll walk out of the room on the premise that I need a drink, or if we’re out then I’ll say I’m going to the toilet. I just have to take myself away from the situation.
(Thankfully, I’m a pro at hiding my feelings and my boyfriend has zero interest in my blog, so he will remain unaware of the above!)
As I said, I’m sure this must sound insane to some people, but I’ve lived with that every single day of my life since I was 15. It’s never gone away and I’m not sure it ever will, but it’s something I’ve had to adapt to live with.
Despite all of the above, I am absolutely 100% not happy for anyone to feel like this. I don’t want one single other person in the world to feel the same feelings as I do. I’ve had plenty of years of practice to be able to look cool, calm and collected on the outside whilst my stomach is flipping in somersaults of panic on the inside; but somebody else may not be able to do that, somebody else may not be able to cope.
So, although I’m just one person and I can’t change the world, I will be posting about body image issues in the future and linking them under the tag ‘Body Image’.
I may not be able to solve everyone’s problems, I may not be able to even solve my own, but they say “a problem shared is a problem halved” and, if nothing else, it may help some people to know they’re not alone.