what would you tell your 18 year old self?

The body image advice I wish I could give my 18 year old self

Some friends and I joked recently about an upcoming 40th birthday, we laughed at fancy dress ideas of us all in black gowns with dark veils to mourn the loss of her youth (yes, we are all bitches!) but in reality we all said that we are SO much happier in ourselves than when we were 18.  If I could have the body and face of an 18 year old and the mind of my 34 year old self then I could probably become some kind of evil genius and take over the whole world.

So it got me thinking about what I wish I had known when I was 18 regarding body image, because despite the fact that I am four sizes bigger now with saggy bits and wrinkled lines, with scars and a stoma, my self esteem and body confidence is 100 times that of my 18 year old self!

If I could jump in a time machine and go visit myself in 1999, I would give myself a big hug and tell me that I am enough.  I would tell me that things are going to get better and that the past few years were shit but it wasn’t my fault.

I would tell myself that how I look bares no relevance to the type of person I am, that all the good things that will happen in life do not come from how I look, but how I am.  That kindness, loyalty, caring, passion, silliness, excitement, hard work and fun are the things that people love about me and they don’t give a shit what the number in the back of my dress says.

sam cleasby blogger writer feminist so bad ass

I would teach me that the most wonderful power is that of self love, that when you are loving and accepting of your body, it feels bloody wonderful.  It is like a shield to deflect all the bullshit that gets thrown at us, telling us how we should look and how we should dress.  When you feel confident and happy, it stops other people being able to hurt you.  Horrid words bounce off a lot easier when you aren’t nodding and agreeing with those aresholes.

I would tell me that though the whole world seems to have an opinion on my body, the only opinion that matters is mine so I need to stop worrying on what other people think of me and work on feeling the best I can about myself.

I would tell myself that in years to come, I will no longer be a size 8 but a size 16 and I will be a happier, more confident person and I would watch the surprise on my face when I realise this is completely true.  I should enjoy my body so much more as I waste too much time worrying about how I look.

I would tell myself to celebrate my healthy body, to enjoy that I am well and strong because in the future I won’t be so lucky.  I’d tell myself that our bodies are a miracle and the only one we have so look after it, be respectful of it, love it.

I asked my friend and all round badass Violet Fenn from Sex, Death, Rock n Roll what advice she would give to her 18 year old self.

“It belongs to YOU, not anyone else. You’re not as fat as you think you are and it doesn’t matter even if you ARE fat”

The thing I have learnt through my life is that we are all very self obsessed creatures, we worry that our peers are judging us when actually we are all so tied up in thinking about ourselves that we rarely give a shit what anyone else looks like.  I see this now, I think people are looking at my ostomy bag, in reality, people don’t care! They are thinking about their own life and their own issues.


sam cleasby the poo lady plus size eff your beauty standards


I would tell me to wear whatever the fuck I want, whether it is ‘in fashion’, ‘suits you’ ‘is appropriate’ or not.  Because in years to come, I will look back on that white bikini top covered in daisies, huge, HUGE flares and foam Red or Dead platform sandals with fond memories.

Stand tall, this is a biggie.  I grew several inches over the summer holiday one year and ended up taller than all the boys in my year and so I used to slump my shoulders and hunch down, wishing I could be a petite lady rather than a gallumping giraffe.  STOP SLOUCHING! My height is awesome and gallumping giraffes are just as beautiful as petite sparrows.

Two of my friends told me about the advice they would give to themselves.  “I would tell my 18 yr old self to be more confident in my body and be less self-conscious and to stop comparing myself to photoshopped celebs because they aren’t real” said Charlotte.  Rebecca adds “Stop buying stupid women’s magazines!”
The overwhelming message when I ask any female friends this question is one of love, we all wish that we had wasted less time worrying about comparing ourselves to others, we all wish we could have had more confidence and less anxiety on fitting in.
I think it’s a great message for women at any age.  Care less about other’s opinions, love yourself more and celebrate your uniqueness.
Sam x



1 reply
  1. Tig Savage
    Tig Savage says:

    It IS a great message for women of any age.

    I’m nearly 50 and a size 18-20 with scars from colectomy surgery and more. When I was 16 years old and a size 8, I thought I needed more hip, boob and bum, when I was a post-baby size 12 at 21 I though I was fat. When I was 35 and a size 14-16, I looked back at the ‘fat’ 21 year old and yearned to be her again. At 45 I looked at photos of me at 35 and realised I was pretty hot. I still am actually but it doesn’t matter. The real issue was that I was defining myself by what I thought other women thought of me and my desirability to men. The former, surprisingly, WAY more important than the latter.
    I’ve learned to accept myself, I am loved and desirable and contented. I don’t spend any money at the hairdressers, rarely wear make up and have never understood fashion. But I’m interesting, my friendship group is awesome, my family fabulous and my former and present lovers,er, love me!
    I hope my daughters get all of this way earlier than I did. You’re already ahead of where I was Sam – so there’s hope. (You’re gorgeous, by the way – but more importantly you have integrity, intelligence and compassion.)
    Thanks for another fine blog.


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