20 June 2018

BODY STORIES | GUEST POST BY TABITHA FROM 'THE NORTH LEFT' BLOG



Today is the third installment from my 'Body Stories' series and it is another beautiful one; I am so enjoying reading these as the pop into my inbox and it provides me with so much comfort to know that we all travel similar pathways to one another, which is the reason I wanted to do this series. I have spent so much of my life saying negative things to my own body but looking at other women and being filled with positivity for how they look and it is for that reason that I asked gorgeous ladies to tell their story, because it really opens up the dialogue about how ridiculous we can be to ourselves on a daily basis.

Enough waffle from me and onto today guest post, which comes to you from the beautiful Tabitha, who writes the blog 'The North Left'; her story is so interesting and inspiring too, so please enjoy reading it and then head over to give her some love for sharing it (all her links are at the bottom of her post).

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When I read Lucy’s post, ‘learning to love my body’, I related so much I just had to say something. I sent her the longest email, the gist of which was “it’s fine, me too”. I was so happy when she replied and suggested collaborating; inviting me to write for her lovely blog. I just love the body image series she’s created, and I’m so thrilled to be a part of it. 
So, thank you so much to Lucy for allowing me this space to share my body image story, it’s been oddly cathartic to write! 

Today I have been in a high street changing room trying on clothes, which seems a risky time to start up a post on how I feel about my body. However, as I stare (read: evaluate) myself in poor lighting, surrounded by pictures of models in the same too-small jeans I’m trying on, I’m put in mind of the journey I’ve been on when it comes to body image and how I speak to myself. I kind of hate that I’ve just used the word journey there; perhaps roller-coaster would be a better term. 

I say it’s risky because, in previous years, this kind of activity would have resulted in me spending the rest of the day constructing some drastic diet and exercise regime to try and ‘get fit’. In those days, my definition of ‘being fit’ was ‘looking like a model’.  

Thankfully, I can write that in past tense because I no longer feel that way. Does that mean I have no body image issues anymore? Err, no. Like most women, I’ve had a slightly problematic relationship with my own body which has been completely appearance-based. 

I don’t remember when exactly I started disliking the way I looked but it was probably when I was quite young. I realise now that the way our appearance is described or labelled for us as children will influence our body image trajectory. There’s a ton of non-verbal communication we send and receive just by looking at each other. So, as a very little child at primary school, physical descriptors became synonymous with character attributes i.e. I’m small so I must also be mousey, shy, quiet and unassuming. I definitely lived up to that in a self-fulfilling prophecy kind of way. At that age, I was really just learning about what I looked like because, prior to that, it hadn’t been on my radar. My family and the kids I played with on my street were my entire social circle and we never discussed appearance because it just wasn’t important. 

As for most people, secondary school was a different ball game. I was still small, skinny, and straight-up-and-down. I felt wholly unattractive and like a little girl compared to some of the shapelier girls in my year. Feeling that way was a lot to do with hearing how boys talked about girls. Boys liked curves and I didn’t have any. I also had thin, unmanageable hair, acne, and I was still very petite therefore still shy and retiring. 

In secondary school, my relationship with food and exercise was the unhealthiest it has ever been. I dieted constantly. I did the cabbage soup diet, ate baby food, used diet shakes as meal replacements, took fat burners, and ate nothing but celery some days. I forced myself through pointless sit-ups and crunches in an uneducated attempt to blast my supposed tummy fat. Overall, I was completely punishing my body inside for not being what I wanted it to be on the outside. I still have some notebooks from that time which are full of calorie-counts, meal plans and exercise routines I absolutely had to stick to but inevitably didn’t. 


As I grew older, I wish I could say wiser; however, my body image changed again when I started getting into relationships. These juvenile relationships probably had a bigger impact on my self-image than I care to admit. For example, if a guy I was with said he liked a female celebrity, my thoughts would spiral. I’d believe I was unattractive because I look nothing like her and, if that’s what he likes, how can he find me attractive? Logically, I know that celebs and models have a team of people and a ton of money to use on their appearance, so the comparison isn’t fair. I also know that being attractive is not the only thing people have to offer in a relationship. But, self-esteem is not super logical. I have to admit, I’m still not 100% able to extricate my own self-image from what I think someone else feels about me (apologies, current boyfriend, I’m working on it). 

I have always compared myself to other women and it’s only in recent years I really began to unpick the reasons why. In a nutshell, women are always compared to other women by everyone, covertly or otherwise. In much of the conversation I heard concerning women, it was all to do with how one was better than the other for whatever reason. Usually, it came down to attractiveness in the eyes of men. Like most women, I’ve been socialised to believe that my worth lies in my appearance or, at least, that my appearance is an indicator of my worth. Like advertising. 

I still haven’t got to the point where I’m able to stop comparing myself to others all of the time, though I am less inclined to do so as a reflex every time I see another woman. I’d be demented by social media if that were the case. Of course, what I feel about myself is coloured by what I see; whether that’s on TV, real life or Instagram. It’s always been the same, just our ideal has changed. When I was growing up, we were obsessed with being thin, now we’re obsessed with being strong. It’s the same shit, just a different aesthetic. Before, we all felt pressure to be skinny, now we want to be skinny with abs, muscle definition in the arms and legs but not so much we look masculine, a bum that defies logic, and breasts so perfect we can pull in the likes and heart eye emojis for a bikini pic on Instagram. The difference is, for me, that I’m now more about long-term feel-good inside as well as out rather than fighting enjoyment to get visible results and nothing more. Also, ‘perfect’ does not have a single definition. 

I have made huge progress in appreciating my body and doing the right thing by it. I love what my body has done for me and I’m astounded by just how specifically and exactly my body works. I appreciate it on a cellular level, which is pretty special. 

I appreciate that my body has dragged me through exams I dreaded. It didn’t give up on me during my first 5K run. It has fought countless colds and minor illnesses and is currently attempting to thwart a less-minor one. After the way I’ve treated it over the years, I feel now that the least I can do is support it in any way I can. I can honestly say I love my body now. I feed it what it needs. I nourish it, I don’t punish it. I know that I get out what I put in. Really, it’s a move from hatred to gratitude which has only come to my awareness in the last couple of years. 

I’m grateful for my soft tummy which allows me to bend and stretch, and my strong legs which always give a little more during workouts and keep me stable in my yoga practice. My tired feet have walked thousands of miles over my lifetime, taking me to wonderful places. My perpetually-cold hands have held those of my best friends and beloved family members during the happiest and saddest of times. My eyes and my smile are kind and comforting to those who know me. Yes, I could reel off a list of things I’d like to look different but, the point is, I’m able to see the good now, too. 

I wish I could tell you exactly how I got to this point. There is no one way for everyone, and no set pace for this kind of discovery. However, there are some big achievements I can pinpoint and say “yep, that’s when it started to change”. One of those things was finding exercise that I loved. I hated sports and I was not good at any, but that’s all we did at school so I never moved my body. I never realised what it could do. When I left school, I found weight training, swimming, dancing, Pilates, countryside walks, exercise to music classes and yoga practice. I moved my body in ways that felt good. It brought me joy and I started to need that movement to feel happy and comfortable. I learned about what fuels me. I discovered a passionate interest in nutrition, to the point that I’ve been able to turn it into a career.  



I’m now in a place where I understand that my body does not define me. Yes, it’s a big part of who I am and an even bigger part of my quality of life, but it is not everything. My body doesn’t tell you anything about my intelligence, kindness, empathy, generosity, values or health. It holds all of that information and more, but you can’t tell from the outside. It’s like that image that does the rounds on Pinterest now and again: “you have fat, you are not fat. You also have fingernails, but you are not fingernails”. And, if that doesn’t resonate with you too much, just think about how you talk about you and your body. Chances are, you say something like “I have a body” rather than “I am a body” which tells you that, somewhere in there, you know that your body is not everything that you are. It does not define you. 

I don’t know how to fully stop comparing myself to others or to completely accept that I’m good the way I am but, I’m hoping that, like my journey from punishment to nourishment, it will come soon enough. There’s that word journey again. It is not a linear progression. I don’t think anyone goes from not OK to OK forever. There are ups and downs and one step forward, two steps back, sometimes. Sometimes, you think you’ve got it and you look and feel amazing then the next day something can completely derail your confidence and you’re cursing your body again. 

I’m just trying to be kind to myself in all ways. I know how much I’ve overcome to be where I am and I can forgive myself for the slip-ups and the unhealthy thoughts I do still have. It’s sort of like how my mum used to talk to my sister and I when we’d say nasty things to each other. Only, instead of my mum it’s my own inner monologue and, instead of me and my sister it’s me and my body. “That wasn’t a very nice thing to say, now, was it? You’re supposed to love each other”. I apologise and we move on, just trying to be better to each other. 

I’m glad I’m not completely self-conscious anymore. I’m glad I’m not starving myself, eating the wrong things, and punishing myself through exercise. I’m glad that I care less what other people think. I’m glad that I’m now in a place where I’m incredibly grateful for my body and what it has done so far, what it’s put up with, and what it will continue to do for me in the future. I think, when it comes to body image, I will be a constant work in progress. But I know now that my body is not to blame.

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Thank you so much to this very lovely lady for writing such a wonderful post, I think we can all resonate with what she had to say (I nodded along so hard I think I gave myself an injury!). 

Here is where you can find more about the beautiful Tabitha, go and show her some love:
Blog: The North Left (follow her on Bloglovin')

Before we go, just a reminder that the lovely Peta did a guest post in this series too, which was so wonderful, so click right here if you missed it!

If you have a story you would like to share for this series I would LOVE to hear from you, just drop me an email to fromlucywithlove@outlook.com and I will get back to you! <3
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1 comment

  1. Oh what a beautifully written piece Tabitha, I, like Lucy, found myself nodding along throughout. Thank you for sharing your story and reminding us all that it's a continual journey and not something that happens over night. You don't suddenly become ok with your body forever, and that's ok. It's more than ok, it human.
    Sending lots of love to you both Lucy and Tabitha,
    Peta xx
    www.pe-ta.com

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