I was recently performing the extremely dull task of backing up some old photos when I came across a picture which stopped me in my tracks.
The photo on the left was taken ten years ago in the summer after I finished university, just before starting my first full-time job (please excuse graininess, this was the very early days of digital cameras!) .
I was shocked by the girl I see now because it really doesn’t match with the girl I thought I was at the time.
And it didn’t even tally up with the girl I thought I had ever been.
It reminded me of the song by Baz Luhrmann, Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen) with the following lines:
Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth, oh, never mind.
You will never understand the power
And the beauty of your youth until they’ve faded
But trust me, in twenty years
You will look back at photos of yourself
And recall in a way you can’t grasp now
How much possibility lay before you
And how fabulous you really looked
You are NOT as fat as you imagine.
I know I write this with the benefit of a decade old hindsight but oh how true that all is.
When this picture was taken, I thought I was overweight. I had been on a diet for six months prior, during which I had given up bread entirely. I wasn’t really eating all too sensibly and had lived mostly on coffee while completing my dissertation.
I see this picture now and realise I had a lovely figure. One I couldn’t see as I was blinded with self-loathing. One I should have appreciated and loved at the time rather than being so horrendously cruel to myself.
As it stands right now, I’m probably two sizes bigger than I was in that picture and probably a stone heavier. I am still on a journey to improving my fitness and figure, but I am so much happier right now than that girl of 22. I guess I have always been wary of allowing myself to love my body or to love any part of myself. As soon as women seem to have a shred of love or acceptance for themselves, they get called big-headed, They get told they are up themselves.
Which isn’t right really.
I know there’s this whole media created culture of teaching ourselves we’re not enough, to pick up every flaw, to strive for utter perfection.
But that perfection simply does not exist.
Celebrities have rhinoplasty and fillers and boob jobs. They have Photoshop and full-time dietitians. It’s not an acceptable goal to enforce on yourself. It’s not worth hating yourself for not having access to those same things that celebrities. And even they are criticised for still not being perfect even after all that self-improvement.
So having gone through oh so many years of despising myself.
Of feeling inadequate.
Of feeling like I’m not good enough.
I feel now is the time to allow myself that bit of kindness to like myself. I might not be a perfectly polished finished article, but will I ever? I do have a mission to be fitter, but that’s more for health and confidence reasons rather than what size I will be or what numbers I might see on the scales.
I am now allowing myself to look in a mirror or at a picture and say, “yes i look pretty”. A lot of people don’t like that attitude and for many years I was one of them. But life is simply too short to hate yourself. Because you know what? A decade old picture will pop back up into your life and you will remember just how beautiful you were and will feel wretched for squandering that chance to appreciate what you have and who you are.
Because, no matter what I do now, I can never be that girl again. I’ve had a child. I have quite severe stretch marks which mean I will probably never wear a bikini again. I am older and more lined in the facial department. My boobs are about three times the size (perhaps that’s a good thing?) There is no point in clinging on to the measurements and vision of yourself from that long ago and expecting it to be a healthy goal. I look at that picture, I smile and remember just how lovely and fresh I was. Now I look towards being stronger and fitter and a better, newer version of me.