Someone recently commented on the fact that I post a lot of selfies on Instagram. I was a bit thrown because, firstly, I didn't think I did post that many, and secondly, no one wants to be perceived as vain. But then I thought, 'Well, this *is* my face...' Should I hide it? I often think that selfies are just a modern take on the artist's self portrait. A moment to say, 'This is me. I exist. This moment, now.' I don't mean to be vain. I promise you I'm not. Sometimes I don't post for ages because I think, 'What the hell is Instagram about anyway? Who really gives a shit about what I'm doing?' But what I am interested in is stories. I'm interested in the truth. I'm interested in communicating feelings. I'm interested in reaching out. I'm interested in learning about other people. And yes, sometimes I'm interested in recipes, and gym exercises, and fashion, and other people's lives and all the things social media lets us peer into. So here I am. I'm 34 years old. I think it's important to talk about age because getting older doesn't make you less interesting. Less exciting. Stale or suburban. It means life. It means experience. It means we're all always, always learning. Anyway. I've just been to the gym. People over 30 do this! (I do this a lot. It makes me feel good. I lifted some heavy weights and my legs trembled and my shoulders ached and I'm still absolutely APPALLING at lunges.) I'm really trying to be straight up with you on here. No bullshit. No pretending life is always peachy. Maybe I'm overthinking Instagram, probably I'm just overthinking life. Sorry if I'm vain, but this is my face, and I exist.Read More
I don't really want to post this picture - I've had it on my phone for two months now. It feels, I don't know... exposing. Plus who knows if I even look like that now. But you know what? Fuck it. Fuck it all.
I have been having so many talks with people lately about body confidence and body positivity (and the struggles to find it) and about how being happy with ourselves feels like so much effort - whether you're 15 or 55 - to the point where it can feel too exhausting to even try sometimes... Well, for me, part of smashing through this self-scrutiny is by being honest. Honest with myself, honest with the representation of myself, honest about my feelings.
So here are my thighs, two ways, having just been for a run. No one pose is wrong. It's still my body. But in seconds, we can shift our bodies to look a certain way and I think we need to remember that. Instagram images are just one particular pose caught in one second. Images can lie. Images can deceive.
I'm not saying don't enjoy your best angle. Please do. Please celebrate yourself and feel good. But we are more than careful poses. My body changes constantly. Learning to love it is about learning to love it not just when I feel like these thighs are camera-ready.
It is about learning to appreciate it when it's just slumped on the sofa. Or laid out in bed.
When it's sat down, belly round, thighs spread against the chair.
It's facing it, and appreciating it, all ways. All angles. All poses.
It's about not looking at photos on Instagram and then ourselves and then back to Instagram and wondering why we can't look like other people. It's about reality vs photo fiction. It's remembering that we don't live in a world of photos. We need to like ourselves off-camera too. We need to love ourselves all ways. So let's keep trying.
It's tiring, I know, I really do know. But it's really, really worth it.
(Ps I can't do anything about the pout. Well, I probably could, actually. Next time. One thing at a time...)
(Previously posted on Instagram, but I thought I'd share here, too, because I think it's really important to keep hammering home a point. It's a tiny bit edited, so forgive the odd word change...)
It's not about 'new year, new you' - it's about realising the 'old' you is pretty cool already
I used to take resolutions very seriously. Lose weight. Work harder. Be tidier. And because I was an angsty teen who poured all my feelings into a diary, I have written proof that I never lost enough weight, never worked hard enough, and was never tidy (full stop). I was starting each year fixated on what was wrong with me. And each year, I never quite achieved what I wanted, and was never quite happy as a result. Eventually I stopped making resolutions. I realised that setting myself up for failure wasn't making me feel good; that happiness had to lie somewhere else. And, over time, as I grew up, as I learnt to understand myself better, I became less angsty, less angry, I started to enjoy life a bit more.
But even now, I know there's more work to be done to fight that self-criticism. So this year, I'm pledging to be kind to myself. Obvious perhaps, but a pledge that requires conscious thought and work. And I urge you to join me in pledging this too. If we all treated ourselves with a little bit more self-compassion, then the other things we hope for would start to slot into place. I know so many talented, kind, beautiful women and men who speak so cruelly about themselves, it's heartbreaking. We may think 'tough talk' gets results, but kindness might just get us there quicker - and will leave us feeling more mentally healthy, too.
"People often mistake self-criticism as motivating, when often it can be just the opposite," says Dr Catherine Green, a clinical psychologist at the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust. "Resolutions sound good in principle (trying to change ourselves for 'the better') but often inadvertently end up focusing our attention on the bits of us we dislike and hence set us up for failure, shame and self-criticism, creating a bit of a vicious cycle. Trying to adopt a more compassionate approach to ourselves, and others, is a more healthy overarching principle to try and stick to, and should bring more of a lasting change to our wellbeing, both physical and emotional."
So, eat well, not to diet yourself into oblivion, or because you think your body is horrible or ugly, but because your body is wonderful and deserves to be healthy and strong. Exercise not because you feel guilted into it, or 'disgusting', but because you'll feel better for having more energy in your life. And next time you berate yourself for not doing something as well as someone else, remind yourself of all the things you do that are amazing.
Of course, being kind to ourselves doesn't mean a free pass to do whatever the f**k we want - I may initially think being kind to myself is eating an entire Terry's Chocolate Orange in a record-breaking 75 seconds, but really, if I'm honest with myself, I'm going to crash hours later and feel very sick for it. "People often confuse self-compassion with being soft on ourselves," adds Dr Green, "but actually it is about taking responsibility and confronting painful/scary feelings and situations, but in a way that is supportive and kind rather than self-condemning."
The new year frenzy of reinvention and a ten-day detox might promise more instant results, but amping up the kindness will make a bigger difference to your life in the long run. Need a bit of help to get started? Read on and let these kindness warriors inspire you...Read More