it happened in the shower
My self love journey began about a year ago, in the shower of all places. I was washing my hair, and I noticed how rough I was being, just to get the job done. It started me thinking about how I think about and treat my body. Not just when I’m ‘treating’ myself, but in the daily mundane times that make up a life. It occurred to me that if I were washing my best friend’s hair there is no way I would be as absent minded or rough as I had been with myself. I would be gentle and sensuous. I would show my love with every sudsy stroke.
So why on earth wasn’t I doing this for myself?! Why could I show love to my friend but not to me?
I got to thinking that at some point in my life, somewhere deep inside my head, I had decided that my body wasn’t something to be valued, or treasured. I certainly respected and appreciated my mind and my soul, and put a lot of time and effort into expanding and loving those parts. But I had been ignoring my body, my big, curvaceous, voluptuous body. Perhaps I was ashamed, or didn’t want to confront what I had always perceived as a deficiency – that I must endure rather than enjoy my six-foot, extremely curvy frame.
This view of myself was pervasive and persistent throughout my childhood, my adolescence, and every moment of every day during my 20’s and adulthood. This mindset had power, it was fierce!
Learning to be a good friend to myself was not going to be easy. How does one go about showing deep affection and unconditional love to a friend that you have known your entire life, but not appreciated or cared about? You need to admit that deep down you really do love them, and set forth to build a relationship.
I knew I needed to do something radical, after all I was on a mission to become more positive about my body in the here and now. I was intent in changing this thirty-year habit; it was almost like starting a new job. I knew it would feel awkward, messy and uncomfortable and I’d feel totally out of my depth not knowing what to expect; for the first little while at least.
I decided to start a secret Instagram page. I would show pictures of myself, out there, into the world for anyone to potentially see. I posted pics that showed parts of me that I’d spent a lifetime hiding, from everyone. Friends, family, strangers – everyone. But I had a rule, any pics that went up were all photos I’d be happy for my grandmother to see!
I showed the world my big arms, my wobbly belly AND MY THIGHS! It gave me such a rush – terror and joy fused together. There was no way a novice photographer armed with nothing but an iphone could disguise the ‘flaws’. But those flaws are me; they are what they are, and I am who I am.
It was thrilling and it was my secret, until a random person from the other side of the world commented, ‘beautiful’. I didn’t think anyone would bother looking at my photos or actually want to! And I certainly didn’t expect to see any comments at all. Something inside me was shifting, I began to feel more confident and I even started to wear lipstick. But not your nudes or lightweight glosses, I went for the brightest, boldest and reddest reds I could find. This was a lipstick I couldn’t hide behind, like it or not I was out there!
It was terrifying and wonderful to be so exposed but it got to the point that it didn’t make sense for me to have this online persona who was vivacious and confident about her body yet I hadn’t shared her with those who mean the most to me and who already love me just the way I am. So with my spankin’ new body-positive attitude I told my mum and a couple of friends about this new me; and at this point it all got very real.
I wasn’t an anonymous person on Instagram anymore. I was me, and my friends could see me, and the parts of my body I had been so ashamed of for so long.
My courage was tested knowing my friends were seeing my body in all its glory, and I was eventually going to have to look them in the eye. It’s easy to be confident in front of strangers from the other side of the world, but far harder if they’re in the same room.
When I had my confession sessions with my friends about my secret page it was liberating. I explained that I am part of a movement about redefining beauty standards. Being ‘body positive’ does not mean ‘big is better’ it means that whether we are big or small, men or women, we all have the right to be sexy, confident and admired, through our own eyes at the very least.
Although I realised it’s nice to get the compliments, that’s not why I created this page. I did it to show myself that I’m not ashamed to put myself out there – as I am. I am confident in my mind, soul and now finally learning to love my body. Some people have found me sexy – good, sometimes I am. If no one looked at my Instagram page I’d still do it. It shows my demons I’m not afraid of them, anymore.
This was only the beginning of my body-positive journey, and since then it’s been a steep and amazing rise upwards. Last summer here in Australia and I challenged myself to a ‘sleeveless summer’. Usually I wear cover ups, cardigans, anything to cover my big arms, even in 45° [113°]! Not because I enjoyed roasting myself, but because I thought that people would be offended or judge me. So I pushed myself out of my habitual cardigan-wearing craziness and trying something new, bare arms!
Here’s a thought I’d like to leave you with. I was out for coffee with a gal pal, trialing my new 2014 ‘sleeveless summer’ look and mid conversation I said, ‘OMG! I’m not wearing sleeves, I am freaking out!’ And do you know what she said to me? She said, ‘Oh, I didn’t even notice.’ So while I was anxious and hyper aware of my naked arms, she just got on with the conversation.
It’s funny how we can beat ourselves up and hide our true selves because of what we believe people think of us, sort of crazy don’t you think…