Sunday, 8 March 2015

kissing the mirror: body confidence and its impact on health

The other day I wrote a post on things that I like about myself. The first things that came to mind were to do with my physical appearance, and that bugs me, because I don't want that to be the most important thing about me.

I learned young that to comment favourably on something to do with a woman's appearance is a good way to start conversations and make friends. It is the social lubrication that we use as women. That and comparing children. But it can also be weird and awkward.

I am losing weight at the moment, so don't mind people commenting that I'm thinner (although I can't see it myself), but all the time that I have been fat (which is a lot of time), I've had people congratulate me on losing weight, even when I'm blatantly not. I mainly just smile and nod, because they are clearly trying to be nice, but there is a part of me that thinks 'you can't think of anything nice to say about my appearance, so you're pretending you're supportive of me improving it'. 

Of course, some people don't try to be nice. They make it very clear what they think. This happened more when I was young, because of the way some young people police each other. There was a part of me, painfully aware of their thoughts on the matter, which feared that those opinions were more widespread than I knew.

I stopped taking part in PE classes at age 12. Although I was proud of being well behaved at school, I could not bring myself to get changed in front of others, or to run about in front of others. The teachers didn't seem to notice. My report for PE that year read 'Cara tries hard'. I tried hard to not be found. I got away with it, and my worry was allowed to grow.

I know now, logically, that my red face, or wobbling body, only matter to ignorant people who feel they have the right to control me.

They do not.


I still see all the fat shaming pictures on Facebook - the people of Walmart pictures where some poor person hasn't managed to conceal their fat, and so they're held up to public ridicule.

Eating in an awkward position, on a hot day, after playing frisbee.
I am not happy.
I still don't want anyone to see me run. I don't want to swim with friends. I am not keen on being seen eating. I don't like to do anything strenuous, because I am afraid of the comments. Afraid of the judgement. And it doesn't matter how hot it gets. I am never getting my arms out.

Obviously, I know this is not healthy. But the thought of having to smile through all that judginess makes me want to hide in a cupboard. There is always a reason why I can't do it right now.

I have a friend who is a personal trainer. I thought maybe she could help me get started, but she does exercise outside, which is just terrifying, and I do not want to explain to her why. I've got Dance Central for the X Box, but I hardly ever do it, because my family, especially my very-fit husband, laugh at how red I get, and it is just humiliating.

Losing weight is making me feel more content to be active, and I'm hoping to do more gentle exercise when the youngest starts nursery. We'll see.

Meanwhile I was glad to hear Meaghan Ramsey's TED talk the other day, on why thinking you're ugly is bad for you. It turns out I'm not the only eejit limiting life because of concern about what we look like. Check it out.

Meaghan stresses the importance of complementing people for what they do, but I would add to that the importance of accepting complements. People complement what I do lots, and I tend to dismiss it. From now on, I'll try to own it more.

And if I get red faced and wobble. Well, so I do. I want to be here for my future grandchildren, so I'm going to have to find a way to get more active, and start liking myself more.

Maybe I should start with kissing the mirror (see Meaghan's talk).

Has your (lack of) body confidence impacted on what you do? Please share. Maybe we could inspire one another.