What’s your body image story?
I’ve been asked many times how I came to help women with their body confidence. It’s a story that I’ve shared in some of my workshops and talks, but haven’t written about in any detail before until now.
It’s quite simple – my desire to work with women on how they feel about their bodies and appearance is grounded in my own experience of poor body confidence.
Many of the people that I’ve shared my story with find this hard to believe, but I know what it’s like to dislike your body, and yourself. Here I share with you my body image story and how it inspired me to help other women.
Back in primary school, I was a shy, quiet child and an easy target for the bullies. I was around 6 or 7. The bullying focussed on my appearance – I was teased about my long eye lashes, my long hair and my hairy legs. I desperately wanted to fit in, and so I did all I could to try to disguise the things I was being teased for – even stealing my mum’s razor to shave my legs (which ended in multiple cuts!).
From this early age, I picked up the message that appearance was important, and that there was a need to conform, by looking a certain way.
During my teens, like many adolescents, I was plagued with zits and acne and I spent endless amounts of time trying to rid myself of them and covering them up so they wouldn’t be seen by others. I used to look at magazine images of young models with flawless skin wondering why I didn’t look like them.
These early experiences set up a pattern of being focussed on my appearance – if I could hide, minimise or get rid of anything that was ‘unacceptable’ then I thought my life would be easier.
My body image issues continued on throughout my 20’s and finally came to a head in my mid-30’s. I was in an emotionally abusive relationship with a partner who constantly criticised my appearance, reinforcing everything that I already believed about how imperfect I was. When he commented on the size of my tummy, I started to control what I ate more, and would obsessively do sit-ups every day. I didn’t have an eating disorder, but I lost more weight than was healthy for my height and build.
By the end of this relationship, I was at an all time low. I really didn’t like my body or who I was, and it adversely affected my confidence and quality of life.
After I split from my partner, I knew I had to do something to rebuild my self esteem, and so I went on a journey of self discovery, got some coaching, read as many personal development books as I could about confidence, self esteem and body confidence, and then trained as a coach myself. Gradually I learned to accept and love myself and my body and turned around the unhealthy thoughts, attitudes and beliefs that I had been carrying around for so long.
Now in my mid-40’s I still have times when I don’t always like what I see in the mirror. The difference now is that I know my worth is not defined by my looks.
I’ve realised that there is far more to me than my physical appearance. I’ve also come to appreciate the function of my body. As I age, I’m happy that my body still works and allows me to do all the things I want to in my life. I’ve grown to love and accept my body and who I am.