Self-Hate, The Perfect Dress, & Complete Insanity

Self-Hate, The Perfect Dress, & Complete Insanity

Hey friend, thanks for being here: I genuinely value the time you’re taking to read these words. I hope you’ll find them inspiring, informative or entertaining – if you don’t find them any of these then I haven’t done my job properly so please let me know.

 

Guilty Secrets

 

I’d like to tell you all a secret. Two years ago I bought something that I’m very ashamed of. If you read my posts regularly you’ll have realised by now that I’ve carried a lot of shame about all sorts of things over the years. Thankfully when I turned 40 all that changed. Goodbye shame. Hello life.

I still have this item, but I try not to look at it. I’m not sure why I haven’t thrown it away but it’s still there, peeping out at the back of my knicker drawer, reminding me of a time when I was quite clearly, insane.

Let me put this into perspective: I had an important date. When I say important, I mean that I wanted to impress this dude and look my best, as anyone does who can be bothered to go on a date, as let’s face it they’re mainly tortuous. Interestingly I can’t even remember who the date was with now, but you know, these things mean a lot at the time.

 

The perfect dress

I knew exactly what I wanted to wear for this special occasion, but when I tried this gorgeous dress on in front of the mirror a week before, I nearly had a heart attack.

I had a thin hairline fracture on my décolletage area – you know, above the breasts. A wrinkle on my chest. What the hell was I going to do? How had this happened? I’d turned old overnight and with no warning.

There was no way that I wasn’t going to wear this specific dress for the date. I’d spent days trying to find the right one and here it was: figure hugging but flattering, not too revealing but still sexy, you know that dress right?

I tried on various vests and cami’s underneath to see if it would cover this offending line, that was now consuming all of my waking hours and ruining my life. None looked right.

 

Insanity set in

So I did what any other self-respecting, insecure lunatic would do. I started asking Google for help and ideas. Luckily for me, there were millions of women who’d already been in this awful, life-changing predicament, and plenty of ‘solutions’ out there for me to buy.

After hours and hours of extensive research, I found that there were just two products on the market that actually worked, that had the magical powers I so desperately needed. One was a grand, so it was out of my league, although I did for a split second ponder whether they’d consider offering me credit. Unfortunately I can’t share the article with you as it was written by The Daily Mail. I’d rather pull out my own teeth with no anaesthetic than share anything written by those bastards.

 

No frills procedures

The second and more affordable option (£30) was a ‘Silicone Chest Pad’, and yes, I bought it. My cheeks flushed red when I collected it from the post office, maybe they knew I had a wrinkle on my chest and that I had the cure in this envelope?

Ok, so this is what it involves folks. Before you go to bed you place this little silicone pad on the offending area, stick it on, then you sleep with it on all night and it smoothes the skin out. Simple. And yes it does work, temporarily. I was absolutely thrilled about this and started to look at all the other incredible products that this website sent from heaven sold.

I found out you can get these silicone pads for the the neck, the eyes, and the chest. Wow – which others should I buy?

 

Take a look – the cracks are showing…

 

More problems for women

Some of you may know that I’m a Beauty Editor. It’s a strange job for me as I’ve never really been that interested in beauty products. I love a good foundation as much as the next woman, but that’s as far as it goes. When I first got the job some years ago I was asked if I wanted to take it further and start blogging about beauty products, I didn’t.

In some ways I’ve made a good editor as I don’t buy into the bullshit, and I’ll only ever write the truth. Last week I got an email entitled ‘The Answer to the New Big Beauty Problem’ – ‘Oh shit’, I thought, ‘what’s this new big problem that women now have to worry about, spend money on, and help make them feel even more insecure about themselves’? No thank you.

I was temped to email them back saying as much, but I couldn’t be bothered. I have to accept that I do work in an industry that feeds on women’s insecurities, counts on it, banks on it and just try my best to remain authentic. Having said that, I won’t be continuing with my role as Beauty Editor when I move to Vietnam in just 10 short weeks. I’ve handed my notice in, and it feels good, the end of an era.

 

The elixir of youth? Money of course (or going vegan, but that’s another story)

Anyway, just today I’ve been writing about a serum for the eyes. Now this serum is amazing, it really does do what it says, it smoothes and reduces fine lines, instantly and on a longer term basis. It’s £80 for 15ml which is more expensive than cocaine. I’ve realised from doing this job that if you have money, you can indeed look much younger than you are, if you want to, and that floats your boat.

I’ve realised that it doesn’t float my boat.

 

Punished for laughing?

I realised that I really don’t care if I have lines around my eyes, what laughter lines? I’ve just been to look in the mirror to see if I have them, so little have I thought about them, and yes I do. Great. Yeah I have them, that’s because I’ve laughed a lot – so? And so I added a last sentence to my review just to be sure that I was being authentic.

‘An absolute must for anyone concerned about ‘crows feet’.’

 

I’m not concerned about crow’s feet, and I also don’t care if I have wrinkles on my chest, which is why I stopped wearing a fu*king piece of silicone on my chest every night. The whole world has gone mad.

 

Perhaps some of you will resonate with this, perhaps you won’t? The socialisation of my looks and my body seemed to happen so quietly and over so many years, from so many different influences, that I didn’t even notice it happening and yet it has been so powerful. So powerful that me, an educated, sensible (mainly) and intelligent grown-up woman was wearing a piece of plastic on her chest every night, and also paying for the privilege.

Am I alone here? I don’t think I am. If I reflect on many of the conversations I’ve had over the years with my female friends, I believe that we are all feel the pressure to look a certain way, and that 99% of us buy into it, although certainly less so as we get older.

I’d hate my daughter to live with this kind of pressure. There’s a certain energy that surrounds it that is so negative and anxiety inducing, because we simply cannot look like the photos in the magazines or on the TV because those women are not real.

To live like this is also denying the beauty of difference and individuality.

 

Be careful what you say

When I was younger I had a very dear friend. She was a few years older than me and I really looked up to her, she was a wonderful woman and great friend in many ways. Our friendship didn’t stand the test of time, but I still think of her lovingly and wish her well. When I remember many of the conversations we had I realise that they were very negative towards women.

Let me explain: Whenever I’d be sunbathing she’d say ‘Jesus Hannah I hope you’ve got factor 50 on your chest you don’t want to get any wrinkles on there’.  She also commented on other women’s body size, crows feet, and fashions sense, all in negative ways. Maybe I wouldn’t have thought wrinkles on my chest were so bad if I hadn’t had it thrown on to me at every opportunity – who knows?

She also struggled with her weight and she’d say, ‘god I wish I hadn’t eaten that‘. I’ve heard many many women say ‘I shouldn’t have eaten that’, it sounds so normal, but if you think about it – it isn’t normal. It’s creating a negative relationship with food and body image and shame.

Please let’s rethink how we talk about food, ageing, women’s bodies, other woman, to ourselves, our friends and our daughters. Let’s stop this nonsense.

 

I’m not sure when we started to value physical looks and youth above anything and everything

If looking young is very important to you then you’re setting yourself up for a lifetime of misery, we don’t get younger, we can only grow older – and this is a beautiful thing.

If you take a step back and ask yourself – why am I so bothered about wrinkles on my chest, or lines around my eyes, or on my forehead, what answer will you come up with? Seriously step back, think about it. It has to be that we have been told that being old is unattractive.

Being old or older is beautiful. The signs of ageing are just stories of a life well lived, memories, moments, risks taken, excitement, love and laughter. Think of how many warm embraces an older person has had compared to a teenager, all there stored in the memory of your beautiful body.

Reminder: The human body is here to serve us, to allow us to live and love our lives. It is NOT here for other people to look at and admire. It is NOT here for us to try and make it fit within a distorted view of perfection created by men and companies that want us to buy things from them.

 

Recognise what it is

It’s just all absolute bullshit, all of it, it’s ridiculous, pathetic. When did we buy into this story so heavily that age is unattractive, maybe more importantly why does it matter what is attractive and what isn’t?

 

It seems we’ve completely lost touch with what’s really important, deciding to spend our limited energy on what we look like, how we appear to other people, and what stuff we can own. None of which matters in any way shape of form, and we all know deep down does not lead to a healthier or happier life. Yet still we continue.

 

I’ve said this before, and I have to say it again, it is such a relief not to give a fu*k about these things. Try it? It’s changed my life and it might change yours? I’m not talking about not caring what you look like, or not making an effort – I’m talking about accepting, enjoying, and seeing the beauty in what simply just is.

 

Self-hate

If you’ve managed to get all the way down here, thanks so much, and you also might be thinking ‘well where’s the self-hate’ aspect of this story? Self-hate can be defined in many different ways and for me, buying into something in the hope or belief that it will make us different in  some way to who we are, signifies a lack of respect and love for our individual selves.

 

Please read my post ‘A Message to my Daughter’ for more about women’s shame and rejecting the bullshit.

 

A Message to my Daughter

A Message to my Daughter

A Message To My Daughter, Your Daughter And To All Young Women And Girls Everywhere

The musings of a (nearly) 40 year old woman in a stage of contemplation.

 

I’m standing in front of the full-length mirror in my apartment wearing a bikini. Why am I doing this? I’m going away next week, for the first time this year and I want to check that it still fits me and still looks ok etc.

“Yes” I’m happy with what I see, happy with the bikini, happy with my body. Phew, what a relief. I’ve spent nearly the last forty years hating my body, thinking that it isn’t normal, that it isn’t good enough and that I’ve failed in some way as a woman. Dreading holidays, dreading the summer and missing out on life because of it. I can tell you, it’s great to be free of it.

I want to tell you that you don’t need to spend any more wasted time looking at girls on Instagram and thinking that you’re a failure because you don’t look the same. You’re not. Don’t buy into it. It’s bullshit.

 

Why am I so happy with how I look?

Is my body perfect? No.

Is it near to perfect? No.

Have I lost weight? No.

Have I toned up? No.

Do I still have cellulite on my arse? Yes.

Do I still have stretch marks on my tummy? Yes.

Do I still have a range of scars up and down my body of a varying nature? Yes.

Is my body getting less firm with each passing year that goes by? Yes.

In fact, is my body the worst aesthetically that it has ever looked now that I’m nearly 40? Yes.

 

So why am I so ok with any of this? Please, read on…

When I was thirteen Baywatch hit our TV screens. The boys at school were making a big fuss about some girl named Pamela Anderson who evidently was the woman of their dreams. Like most teenage girls who had been sold the idea that being desired by men is the most important thing in life, I wanted to see who she was and I tuned in to watch.

My heart skipped a beat, she was a real beauty. Minutes later my heart sank – how could I ever hope to look like her? I had no idea back then that she wasn’t even real. So I tried, and I tried very hard. In fact I’d spend years trying to look like Pamela Anderson or Kate Moss or whoever the magazines were pushing at the time. I suppose the modern day equivalent would be Lily-Rose Depp or Cara Delevingne. I’d spend hours at the gym, at the hairdressers or in the bathroom. Money on clothes and beauty and hair products.

Hours, days and weeks hating myself because I could never achieve it. It never once even crossed my mind to take a look at myself and realise that I was already enough. I’m lucky that the effects of all of this didn’t lead me to have an eating disorder – so powerful these messages were. Around 50% of the women I know did, and many still do. A lot goes on behind closed doors.

My parents are feminists so none of this oppressive socialisation came from them – it came from society, from the media and from our cultural norms.

 

My body is normal and it is good enough, everybody’s is

But we don’t teach our young women this and we don’t teach them how to love themselves. We teach our girls to look pretty and then we feed them an ideal that’s not normal, not healthy and unrealistic. We are conditioned from a very early age to hate ourselves. To compare ourselves to other women who aren’t real and to constantly feel like we’re not enough.

If we didn’t feel so insecure then say goodbye to the multi-billion dollar beauty industry and to women’s glossy magazines. They need us to feel terrible about ourselves so that we spend all of our disposable income on products and ideas in the hope they will make us more attractive, more desirable and more ‘normal’.

Firstly, the women we think we want to look like are not real, they are images manipulated by photoshop and plastic surgery so we could NEVER look like them anyway.

Secondly, and more importantly, we are women, so we are already attractive, desirable and ‘normal’ and we don’t need anything to ‘solve’ this.

 

I have cellulite

I’ve always had it – since I was about 20. It’s been my guilty secret and something that I’ve felt very ashamed of. I felt I’d failed in some way as a woman, there must be something wrong with me. Who would ever want a girlfriend with cellulite? Surely all men want a woman who can wear hot pants with a smooth derriere.

Firstly, men do not want this, men want all of the same things that women want in a partner – respect, admiration, trust, loyalty, intelligence, compassion, attraction etc. Someone they can be themselves with and who they can depend on.

 

Secondly and more importantly – it doesn’t matter what men want.

We are taught that the be-all-and-end-all is how we are perceived and that we need to be desirable. This is bullshit. Nobody is going to die because we have cellulite. Rest assured if Kim Kardashian has cellulite (and we all now know she does) then there is NOTHING to be done about it. If anyone could do anything about it – she would. So what shall we do about it? Here’s an idea – let’s accept it. Cellulite is a socially constructed phenomena to make women feel even worse about themselves so we’ll buy more products.

 

My stretch marks

Once red and angry from the savagery of childbirth and a constant reminder of what a failure I was. Now with time, they’ve relaxed gently into my skin and and float on the top like faded silver. They’re not prettier, just different and I like them. They are a constant reminder of the beautiful journey that I’ve had with my daughter of which they were the starting point. Stretch marks from pregnancy are a privilege some women would do anything for.

 

My scars

A big one down the inside of my right thigh from the time I fell off a motorbike when I was fourteen – my parents still don’t know about it to this day. Another big one on my left shin, from broken glass when playing out one summer’s evening as a kid. I have scars on my arms from burns when working in the chippy as a teenager. Do I regret any of these things or these scars? No.

 

The human body is the greatest miracle on earth.

We should honour it. It does not matter what it looks like. It is here to serve us. It allows us to move, to see, to hear, to taste, to travel, to read, to discover, to embrace, to think, to act, to love and to touch. I have no idea why we are fortunate enough to be here but I’m confident that it isn’t to punish ourselves comparing one human body to another.

So when I say I’m happy with how I look, it’s because it doesn’t matter how I look, none of it matters. So yeah I’m happy that I have a healthy human body.

I know on my deathbed I’m not going to think “I wish I’d had more toned arms” or “I wish my breasts had been larger”. No, I’m not going to think these things.

 

Time flies

It’s only been these last few years, when I’ve had the space and time to reflect, that I’ve managed to realise and articulate any of this. I wish I’d have thought about it so much sooner, like so many other things, and I wouldn’t have wasted so much of my precious time.

I invite you to recognise the bullshit. Reject it. Set yourself free. Know that you are enough. Encourage your daughters, sisters, friends and mothers to do the same. Save yourself some precious time.

 

You are a woman and you are a human being. That in essence means that you are by nature – attractive, desirable and ‘normal’.

 

For more thoughts on rejecting the bullshit please read my post Self-Hate, The Perfect Dress & Complete Insanity.

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