Self hatred is real. It is cruel and unkind, and harsher than anything anyone can do or say to you. I know because I have been there. The first step in self love is noticing your self-hatred. It takes a while to notice and pay attention to what you say to yourself. The first temptation is to shame yourself for having such a negative voice in your mind. But that only makes things worse. You must notice what you are saying, without judgement. You must be able to be strong and start to become compassionate with yourself, as if you are a child. To notice the thought and say “oh, wow, I am really hurting today”.
The second step is to notice, and to stop it. That is to notice as it is arising what you are saying to yourself and then to simply not allow the conversation to go any further. As if you were in the room with yourself tantruming and you simply end the conversation by walking away.
The third step is to stop the thought as it arises. I physically had to put a hand up to my face, as if it were a stop sign when I looked in the mirror. Stop. I would say to myself. Then I would leave it at that.
The final step is to replace the harsh words with kind and compassionate words, and finally words of self love. This is the hardest part, because we are taught not to have “tickets on ourselves”. For me I could not just simply replace one word and put another in. I had to work it out by writing though it. I had to experiment with my image, and find a way to love myself whilst my hair was growing out and I grew to gradual acceptance of my new life and being my own valentine.
Notes from my self reflective writings about the time and excerpts from my blog at the time as The Lake House Writer circa 2011/2012
My online adventures expand as I explore the lives of other bloggers. I begin to notice the bloggers who are attracting attention in the online space. The “Mummy blogging” world is crowded, and whilst many believe it is because people want their five minutes of fame, I see that it is because motherhood is a difficult time to navigate.
The world seems to be full of confused mothers looking to others for understanding. I feel noticeably worse by reading these blogs. So I stop. I look for blogs which are going to pick me up. The management consultant in me rears her head and wants benchmarks. I start reading ‘Fox in Flats’.
Andrea Michelle started a website to inspire women stuck in the downward fashion rut of motherhood. I can identify with moving from a world of pin striped suits to tracky dacks, and like many mothers am often horrified to go out only finding that the clothes I have put on clean, are now covered in snot snail trails or left over bits of someone else’s breakfast.
Make-up disappeared from my bathroom, and it became an exciting day when I remembered or could be bothered wearing mascara. Shopping for clothes has been impossible with two small toddlers, and often it became a case of the cheapest and closest thing I could grab whilst getting other things at Kmart. Getting my hair coloured at the hairdresser becomes a highly prized dream reserved for the annually granted ‘time out’ on my birthday.
And that was when I was married. Things get worse when I am a single mother living. A style icon I am not. The bottom of the barrel is scraped when I come across the ‘I love my body’ challenge that is going viral in the mummy blogging community. It asks people to post a picture of themselves and tell readers exactly why they love their bodies. Up springs hundreds of photos of women in bikinis and undies embracing all of their lumps and bumps (or lack of them). For me the effect is the opposite. I write
‘I’m having a particular problem with a blog challenge that is going around. It’s the one where bloggers are posting photos and writing what it is they love about their body. In the spirit of things, there have been so many photos of women semi-naked and naked posting photos and exclaiming they love their love handles. That they love the fact their bodies nurtured their children; that they don’t mind the stretch marks that are the resulting trophy. I take my hat off to them. But you won’t be seeing any photo of me naked or in a bikini any time soon.
I have a body image problem. It’s got nothing to do with the body that I’m in. I was born pre-loaded with the problem. As a Buddhist, I believe, that it is your karma to be reincarnated in a certain matter until the issues you (your mind) faces, are dealt with – that is, the karmic intensity has been burnt out. Clearly, this is the lifetime in which I am to deal with it.
I am attractive. I just don’t take care of myself. I seek to fault myself. I seem to prove the unattractiveness of myself every time I pick at my face or my arms. I wear long sleeves in summer because my arms are usually a mess from attacking them when in a down moment. I have terrible posture (my husband started taking photos just to show me), not because I didn’t understand the whole ‘shoulders back, tummy in’ mantra. I got that a long time ago.
Somewhere along the line, I just gave up on myself. After I shaved my hair off, I got that. I am working really hard to change that. I now put make up on every day, so that I can’t see my blemishes. I wear perfume every day. I do my hair every morning, even if I am not going anywhere. I have started using the million bottles of face and body cream that kind souls have bought me in an effort to make me feel better.
So I post the following picture not to ridicule others. (2017 note, I no longer have any idea of which particular photo it was so will insert one I have edited my ex out of so you get the idea)
I have already blogged about my appearance. I have faced a million demons with the shaving of my hair. I have created and posted photo albums of the journey of my self-esteem and my hair this year.
I am posting this photo, because this is the only photo, which my mind has been able to recognize this is what I look like. It is the only photo I can look at without a sense of wonder and confusion. I will conquer my body image problem. In this lifetime. And you will be around to read about it.’
The process of writing this blog really helps me. It makes me realize that the only person who is ever going to change the filter through which I see myself is me. I have to take tiny steps each day to stop hating myself, to spend the time each day to make myself look better, even if it is only to feel better for the school run. And so Andrea’s style dares, are the way I begin. They are fun, and importantly don’t require going and purchase expensive fashion.
The first step for me is to look in the mirror each day and just simply stop the words ‘You are ugly’ from forming in my mind. It takes a while, because I have spent so much time automatically reacting to my appearance in the mirror with these words, that I lose awareness of doing this. By stopping and being present with my thoughts I regain the power. I am able to say to myself ‘hey that is simply not ok’. I need to treat myself better.
Fox in Flats conducts online ‘style dares’. Each fortnight a new theme is designed to simply get you out of a rut, examine your wardrobe and be a bit adventurous with your life. They become the highlight of my week, and are fundamental to the slow transition of hating myself to beginning to see both the inner and outer beauty that everyone else claims to be able to see all along.
I also use the style dare as an ‘excuse’ to experiment further with my photography with the reasoning to anyone that enquired that I was doing it as The Lake House Writer in order to continue to increase my online profile. I write about the dares on the blog:
‘When was the last time you added a little sparkle to your day? For me this week, it has been a literal sparkle. This week Fox in Flats dared its readers to join the sparkle dare. You had to wear something sparkly each day from sun up to sun down. I started slowly and added a sparkling polish to the top of my pink nail polish. Then I became adventurous and wore a shiny top that my cousin passed onto me. It even has diamante buttons… I was not sure I was ever going to wear it, but given it fits exactly within the challenge, here goes. I have teamed it with a pair of basic jeans, and a sparkly lip-gloss to keep it low key- after all, I am doing the school run…
The best thing about the dares are that they cast a whole new light on my week. I clean out my wardrobe and I donate to charity. I iron. I reorganize and I discover pieces in a whole new light.
Most importantly, I talk to people about what I am doing. It makes them laugh. They become interested in what I am wearing each day. Even more important, I take care of my appearance. I bother to change out of dirty clothes. I scour the op shops for glittery options, laughing at the multitude of tacky options available. I’m scared as hell that the next dare will be leopard print… But as the girls at laughing yoga said ‘at least we’ll get a good laugh out of it’.
Note after writing: I found the picture and the art that I made.