I look different now. The person I see in the mirror, looking back at me with curious eyes, isn’t the same person I’ve seen for the majority of my life. It’s still her inside, but to the eye she’s changed. She’s bigger, with a curve to her stomach, dimples in her arms, lines on her thighs, and a wobble where before she was smooth and sculpted. I look different now.
This change in my shape has come about through a combination of things – some my own fault (too many adventures and nights out, plus self-comforting with food and wine during/after the whole Cancer thing) and some governed by the universe (hitting 30, my medication dosage being increased, a long-term leg injury) – and it’s been something I’ve struggled to get to grips with.
I used to be tiny with not a jiggle to be seen, slipping into size 8 clothes without a second thought and very little effort at retaining my shape. But this is no longer the case and I’ve noticed a physical manifestation of this confusion about my new body when it comes to the way I dress. My go-to outfits these days swamp my increased frame. At any given moment you’ll find me in loose t-shirts and big jumpers to hide the silhouette of my shape; the tight tops and cute dresses I once wore on a daily basis resigned to the back of the wardrobe. (Actually they’re all in bags now on their way to a nearby women’s refuge because there’s no point me keeping them – they were a constant reminder of what I perceived I had lost with every pound I gained). I guess, when it comes down to it, I’ve wanted to hide myself because I’ve been so disappointed and disconnected with how I look that it made me believe that everyone else felt the same. Which is ridiculous because, honestly, nobody cares; strangers have no interest and the people who do know me are more interested in who I am as a person than what number is on the label of my clothes.
I am, when all is said and done, a hypocrite. The people I come across in life I take at face value – petite, mid-size, plus-size… none of it matters to me. I don’t see the size of their clothes or the shape of their body. I see their face, their eyes, their smile – I feel their personality and the vibes they give off, and that is what I judge people on. The physical means nothing to me.
I know I’m not alone in feeling like this. This feeling of self-worth – or lack of it – is very obviously driven by both things that have happened in my past and the society we live in. We are continually fed subliminal messages with ideals thrust upon us whenever we log on to the internet, switch on the TV, or even during our commute to work with advertising boards dotted along roads and railways. We are fed the message that to be a certain way is the goal and anything else is a wrong to be put right. Unattainable, unrealistic, unfair images that are designed to make us feel inferior and force us to spend our money on their quick-fix ploys (which rarely work, FYI). And it’s a disease that infects our society so deeply that we don’t even notice it anymore. It’s so deeply embedded into our every day and has become so normalised to us that we don’t even realise it’s there. An endless dripping of poison that tells us that in order to be better, we need to be different. It’s damaging and destructive and I don’t want to be part of it anymore – I don’t want to beat myself up; I want to love myself, so why does it prove such a struggle to extend the same love, care and kindness to myself that I have for other people?
I don’t care if someone’s thighs wobble when they walk or if their tummy is round, as long as their heart is big and full, because that’s all that truly matters; that’s all that defines a person. Their kindness, their loyalty, their care. The physical stuff falls by the wayside when we look at who they are as a person.
For the moment, and until I get my surgery, I can’t do any exercise – in fact, I can’t even reach normal walking pace – but I know that once I’m fixed I’ll be able to get out there and exercise, but I’m going to do that for my health, not to try and lose weight. I accept who I am and what I look like now and if this larger Penny is who I am now and will continue to be, then I’m going to love myself regardless. I do love myself regardless. I’m going to wear the clothes I like without question and without doubt. I’ll show off my rounded belly and wobbly thighs, and I’ll smile as I do it because they’re mine and they’re the only ones I have.
I look different now and, finally, I accept myself for it.
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I wrote this post after being very kindly gifted the Greta denim dress by the people at Weird Fish. Originally it was to be a post talking about the brand but I was so anxious about getting in front of the camera to showcase this dress, feeling like I couldn’t do it justice. I was worried it would cling to the parts I wanted to hide – as have so many other items of clothing I’ve bought and returned to the shop in the past – but in the midst of me thinking about how to take the photo best to hide myself, and what I could do to detract from my shape, it hit me: why was I hating on myself so much? And it’s not just clothing – it’s throughout life in general that we’re made to feel like we need to aspire to be more. I had planned to go for a drive and take these outfit photos with a pretty backdrop, with myself (and Ben – check out the shirt they sent him below!) gazing wistfully into the distance, sucking our guts in and stretching our double chins with all our might, but then I decided, “No, that isn’t me”. My life, my reality, may not be Pinterest-worthy, nor am I a model with a killer body and a beautiful house, but my god I have a good life and it’s one that I love!
I live in a rented house where the landing is partway through decorating and the carpet came loose from the tread when we had some electrical work done. I can’t go anywhere without a dog and two cats coming with me. My skin is a bit shiny come the evening. I have a weird vein that pops up in my forehead. My hair is a frizzball 99.9% of the time, and when I smile my eyes become tiny little slits, but that is my reality and I don’t feel like I – or anyone else – should be made to sugarcoat our version of life before we present it to the world. Life isn’t perfect and that’s what makes it so magical.
I’ve wanted a denim dress like this for ages but have returned every single one I’ve tried on because I didn’t think it flattered me, but sod it: this is me, this is my body, and this is my denim dress. Lumps, bumps and all, I love it! And if you don’t? Well then you can kiss my jiggly, dimply arse.
(Thank you Weird Fish for sending me this dress – who knew that it would be the catalyst for an epiphany? Obviously, this item was gifted to me with the hope that I would write about it, but Weird Fish didn’t hold a gun to my head and my decision to feature it here is purely down to the fact that I love it. It’s great quality and, although I was a little worried initially about the fact it does up with poppers, they’re really strong and I don’t feel like they’d bust open on a night out and show everyone my wares. They also sent us a jumper for Ben which he really likes and instantly donned and wore on a night out before I even got a chance to take a photo of it – a good review in itself I think! Take a look at their website to see if there’s anything that takes your fancy!)
* In Association With Brand *