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How to love yourself

Im doing more and more writing about self esteem and body image and was asked to talk about ways to feel better about yourself.  This is part of my Love Yourself – You’re So Bad Ass work.

My guilty pleasure TV is Ru Paul’s Drag Race, it’s like America’s Next Top Model but for drag queens and its AMAZING.  Totally trashy but addictive.  Ru Paul has this saying at the end of every episode

ru paul if you can't love yourself

Totally right, we all need to love ourselves a little more.  And so here are my tips on how to love yourself.

STOP BUYING CRAP WOMENS MAGAZINES – any magazine that sells it’s rag by speculating about womens weight can go to hell.  Is she too fat? Too skinny? She’s got cellulite??? BURN HERRRRRRR!!!  No.  Stop buying and reading crap judgements of other women, its bad for the soul.

TELL YOURSELF YOU ARE AWESOME – you might feel stupid at first, but positive affirmations are a great way to start to think about the good things about yourself.  Say it out loud and say it proudly.  Remember that your body is listening to the words you say, so make them nice ones.

ACCEPT YOURSELF – I know this is easier said than done, but being accepting of yourself is the start of all things good.  Last year I realised I had been on a diet for 12 years and it depressed the hell out of me, for 12 years of being on a diet is 12 years of telling myself I wasn’t good enough.  I know I am overweight and I am actually losing weight right now for surgery, but in accepting that my body is beautiful just the way it is, weight loss becomes so much less of a big deal and therefore it becomes a little easier to lose the weight as I just don’t think it is the be all and end all.

Accepting how your amazing body is made will make you feel better.  That fold on your side is a beautiful and delicious imperfection that makes you unique, those wrinkles show your path through life, your scars are like the hieroglyphs of your story.  Learn to accept these things and learn to love them.

READ THIS QUOTE – “You are not fat.You have fat. You also have fingernails, but you aren’t fingernails”

GIVE AND ACCEPT COMPLIMENTS – Make a point of telling people when you think they look good, or you like their clothes, hair, perfume, anything.  And be accepting of compliments, I used to deny compliments all the time… “I love your dress!” “Really? This was from Primark and Im wearing spanx to fit it it!”  Nowadays I make a point of holding those denials back and saying “Thank you, thats really kind!”

GET OUT AND GET MOVING – Exercise really does help mood, getting out walking and breathe in that fresh air.  When I am feeling crap, I know the best thing for me is to grab the dogs lead, put on a big coat and get out walking.  It clears my mind, gives me perspective and gives me time alone.  I don’t always feel like it and sometimes have to force myself to do it, but I always ALWAYS feel better afterwards.

PERFECTION IS THE ENEMY OF GOOD – Perfection is unattainable, insisting on perfection often results in no improvement at all.  Accept that humans are all imperfect, and that is what makes us unique and beautiful.

perfect is the enemy of good

USE THE FOUR QUESTIONS – If you have a bad thought about yourself or your body, use the four questions of Byron Katie.  There is a Judge Your Body worksheet, fill it in and then use the four questions.

“In its most basic form, The Work consists of four questions and turnarounds. For example, your statement might be “[Name] doesn’t listen to me.” Find someone in your life about whom you have had that thought. Then take that statement and put it up against the four questions and turnarounds of The Work.

Step 1 Is it true? (Yes or no. If no, move to 3.)

Step 2 Can you absolutely know that it’s true? (Yes or no.)

Step 3 How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?

 Who would you be without the thought?

Turn the thought around. Then find at least three specific, genuine examples of how each turnaround is true for you in this situation.”

It is about re thinking the way we automatically think things through habit and creating new thought processes.

THINK ABOUT THE PEOPLE YOU THINK ARE BEAUTIFUL – and realise that beauty is about so much more that how we look externally.  Beauty is about kindness, love, wonder.  Beauty is different all over the world, the very narrow western ideal of beauty in magazines is not true beauty.

RECOGNISE WHEN YOU NEED HELP AND ASK FOR IT – Sometimes negative feelings are more than feeling a bit down, if bad thoughts are something that affects your life daily then perhaps it is time to ask for help.  Whether that is in speaking to your partner, family or friends or seeing a therapist or taking medication.  Your best port of call is your GP.  There is no shame in asking for help, it does not signify weakness.  Recognising when you need help shows strength and courage.  If you need it, ask for help.

Love Sam xxx

Why we should all be more drag queen

As you may know I am slightly obsessed with Ru Paul’s Drag Race, it’s like a drag version of America’s Next Top Model, totes trashy but amazingly addictive.  As I sit watching a screen full of men dressed as women it got me thinking about the qualities in women that these queens imitate.

I think drag queens are absolute artists, from the make up and hair, to the outfits, performance and dance, you can see the hours of dedication put into their creativity and I LOVE it.  Its like watching a theatre piece.  Many imitate celebrities, but a lot talk about mimicking the strong women around them, mothers, sisters, friends, aunties.  They imitate them in an exaggerated way, magnifying the qualities that they love.

ru paul be more drag queen

Watching these beautiful queens act in such an open, daring, funny, extravagant way, you easily forget that they are men dressed in womens clothes and just enjoy watching hilarious, wicked and wild performers.

So I have been thinking about why women should be a little more drag queen, Im a big believer in faking it till you make it, as in acting like the personality you wish you had until you eventually stop faking it and start feeling it.  What if we all performed as the type of woman we adore?  Despite my outward appearance, I am sometimes quite shy and I get really anxious when I have to speak to new people but it is something I dislike about myself and so I fake being a chatty and confident person.  I have faked it for so long that sometimes the new behaviour of being gregarious just comes out as a habit and without trying to fake it, I AM that confident person.

Watching drag queens is so interesting as they perform as how they ‘see’ women rather than how most women actually are and man, that looks likes fun!  Perhaps next time we feel shite about ourselves we need to put on a floor length glittery gown, massive lashes and act like a giddy diva?  Well, maybe not.  But maybe we could all do with seeking out a little inner drag queen to boost our confidence from time to time, acting like a woman in our lives who inspires us.

Ru Paul has this saying…

ru paul

How true is that? I KNOW it sounds cliche but without self confidence and love for ourself, it is a real struggle to love someone else and to be loved.  We need to spend more time working on ourselves, on loving ourselves, respecting ourselves and making time for number one.  We need to make our own happiness a priority rather than putting ourselves last in the queue.

You know that saying “If momma aint happy, nobody happy”? That is because as women and mothers we tend to be the key pin in families (dads are of course as important, please don’t think Im dissing the baby daddies).  If we are unhappy it affects everyone in the family.

So this week, make time for you, do something that makes you happy and if you are really struggling perhaps try being just a little more drag queen.

Sam xxx

IWD talk at Barnsley Town Hall – Body Image and Self Esteem

On Saturday 8th March I was invited to talk at Barnsley Town Hall as part of International Women’s Day by Experience Barnsley.  My talk was about my journey of ten years of chronic illness, surgery and living with a stoma.  I talked about Ulcerative Colitis and how my colectomy and ileostomy affected my life.

It was about raising awareness, trying to stop poo being taboo and relating my story to the average woman.  It was about body image, self esteem, confidence and positivity and how we need to both learn how to love ourselves as women and how to pass these things onto the young women of future generations.

Have a watch and please feel free to leave me a comment telling what you think.

Thanks for watching!

Sam xx

My brave body is no less beautiful because of its scars

My ileostomy is part of me and my scars , stoma and bag make my body no less beautiful than a body without.

If you have an ostomy, be proud of it, own it, love it. It probably wasn’t part of your life plan but it’s here now and you need to accept it and know it is saving your life.

My ileostomy bag is not unattractive, it’s not scary looking or disgusting.  I love the softness and femininity of these images, the lines of my body and lines of my bag become one.

I’m proud of my body and it’s strength, I celebrate my ostomy by showing the world that beauty is not about perfection, beauty is in everything, if only we can have a mind that is open to it.

woman with ileostomy bag beauty art empowerment confidence

woman with ileostomy bag beauty art empowerment confidence

woman with ileostomy bag beauty art empowerment confidence

Love Sam x

A message for my teenage son…

To my lovely, awesome, sometimes pain in the arse teenage son, here are some life lessons you should probably take on board.  Then pass on to your lovely, awesome, sometimes pain in the arse teenage friends…

1. Just be nice.

This has always been lesson number one in this house.  Shows of brute strength or masculinity mean little, but by following the rule of ‘just be nice’ you won’t go far wrong in life.  Hold doors for others, use your manners, show kindness, respect and courtesy.  Seriously, people like that.  It will help you go through life smoothly.  Don’t be a bully.  Don’t intimidate, hurt, humiliate or taunt others.  Its not cool and if I catch you being a bully, no matter how old you are, I WILL call you out on it and it won’t end well.

2. Clean, cook, do laundry.

Dude, these are just life skill you are going to need.  It may seem ok now to step over the crap in your room, eat cereal straight from the box and ‘clean’ your clothes by giving them a shake and perhaps a bit of body spray but as you get older, its just gross and a bit sad.  You will feel good about yourself, independent and as you get older you will definitely impress the ladies or gents that come into your life.

3. Aim before you shoot.

Seriously, its not difficult.  Lift the toilet seat, aim penis, have a wee.  Pissy toilet seats, floors, WALLS for gods sake are GROSS.  Its not ok.  Also if you poo, clean the bowl.  Its not rocket science.  I guarantee that no partner finds cleaning another persons bodily fluids from a toilet bowl sexy.

4. Don’t take photos of your bodily parts.

It is NEVER a good idea. Ever.  Unless you want me, your father, your grandmother and your teachers to see that photo of your penis, don’t send it to anyone.  In fact, don’t even take the picture.  Its stupid, dangerous and when you become a rock star or prime minister it WILL come back to haunt you.

5. Real women don’t look like the ones on TV or magazines.

Most women have body hair, yep legs, armpits, genitals.  Its normal.  Get over it.  Women’s breasts and genitals come in all shapes and sizes.  The average woman in the UK is a size 16.  The size 0 celebrities are not the norm.  Whatever size your future partner is, treat them with love and respect.   If you are lucky enough for a woman to allow you to see or touch her body, be respectful and grateful!

6. Sex is about trust and respect

Media and peer pressure may make it seem that sex means nothing and that everyone is doing it with everyone.  But sex is a beautiful sharing of love, and sex without trust and respect is crap.  Its not about notches on bedposts, its about having an amazing time with someone really special.  No one wants to think they are another in a long line of partners.  Ill also remind you now that sex under 16 is against the law.  Remember that.

Im hoping it will be a long while before you have sex.  But when you do…

Use a condom.  Every time.  Yes, every time.  Even if she is on the pill.  Or its the second sunday on the month.  Or the world is ending.  Every time.  Without fail.

No means No.  There is no grey area.  You don’t need to try and figure it out.  If the girl is drunk or high, that too is a no.

7. If you mess up, tell me.

I love you dearly, but sometimes you are a bloody idiot and make mistakes.  I know you will make mistakes because I did, and so did your dad and everyone else in the world.  If you mess up, tell me.  No matter how awful it seems I promise I will help you and make things better.  I may shout at you first, but it won’t be half as bad as if I find out later.

If you mess up and need me,  I will be there, if that is 3am on a sunday morning, or when I am busy at work, poorly or in the midst of my own problems, tell me and I will be there.

And if you can’t tell me or your dad, tell an adult you trust.

8. Be a feminist.

A feminist is someone who believes that people are truly equal whatever their gender.  You believe this.  Be a feminist and proud. End of.

While we are at it, don’t ever be homophobic, sexist or racist.  I know you aren’t so never fall into the trap of thinking that a bit of casual, comedic bigotry is ok.  Because it isn’t.

9. Have a shower.

Clean body, hair, teeth, fingernails, clothes… Clean everything.  Its about respect for your own body.  Taking care of your appearance makes you feel good, it gives a good impression to others and is a really important basic life skill.  Want a partner? Chicks (or guys!) don’t dig B.O…

10. Choose your own path.

Don’t follow the crowd, think about what you want in life, what makes you happy and go for it.  With hard work, perseverance and a good attitude you can honestly achieve ANYTHING you want in life.  Those ‘cool’ kids in school who think its clever to cause trouble, mess about and not get on with work won’t be so cool in 10 years time when you see them working in McDonalds.  Be unique, be an individual and be yourself, everyone else is taken.

Stand up for what you believe in and speak out if you witness something that you know is wrong.  Be a strong person who can be a lone voice, its not always easy to be the person who shouts no in a baying crowd of yeses. If you believe in it with your heart and soul, then speak out.

And here ends my sermon, just a few words of wisdom from your old mother to a lad who believes he already  knows it all.  The years ahead of us may be tough, we may stumble and fall, we may fall out, we may fight, we may become so frustrated with one another that we can’t believe we are related!  But thats just what coming through teenage years is, remember that no matter what, I love you and you, my son, are bloody awesome!

 

Love Mum x

Let the haters hate

I get so many wonderful messages, emails, tweets and Facebook messages – every one means so much. I write this blog as a means of therapy for myself but when I get messages saying that it is helping others it just makes me feel so amazing.  It’s not been an easy ride and writing So Bad Ass reminds me daily of the importance of staying positive, of sharing my stories to raise awareness, talk honestly about my illness and stop poo being a taboo.

I love hearing other peoples stories and it makes my pain, hardships and the general shit I have to deal with from my illness, ileostomy and surgery kind of worth while. Like it has a meaning, you know?

So it was tough to read a recent message where the author wanted to let me know that I’m really not all that and to question who I thought I was.  There was mention of my weight, that I should know Im hardly a model (No shit Sherlock!)  This person believed that what I was talking about was gross and that no one wanted to read that shit.   (My 30,000 + views in the last six months beg to differ)

let the haters hate

For a second, I felt sick. I read and re-read the message feeling gutted. I couldn’t believe someone was being mean to me, I’m generally a kind person, what had I done to make this happen? Then I pulled on my big girl pants, shook my head, deleted the message and went back to my fairly awesome life! (The best revenge for haters is to just be FABULOUS!)

It’s easy to feel hurt by mean words but you know, haters are gonna hate, man. A valid argument, a debate, I thrive on those things but a little person sat behind their computer screen taking their time to write something spiteful? Nah, I’m alright for that.

The fact is that I put myself out there,I write openly about my life, speaking about things we don’t usually discuss, I dare to show photographs of myself with my unperfect body that has (gasp!) wobbly bits and (shock horror!!) scars…  I show confidence despite all this because Im a fucking warrior.  I guarantee that there is little anyone can throw at me that is tougher than having a chronic illness for ten years, surgery and living with an ileostomy.

ibd warrior inner strength confidence ostomy ileostomy bag

I debated whether to post about this, whether or not to give this bully airspace but I thought it was important to say that there will always be someone who dislikes you, especially if you put yourself out onto the internet to be judged, but those people are the sad ones, the folk who have so little else that they feel the need to put others down.

Let the haters hate and move forward with life with a smile…

And if all else fails, just pretend you are Beyonce.

beyonce single ladies

Love Sam xx

Ileostomy swimwear

I was a little nervous after my op about what sort of swimwear would suit me. I looked at a few specialist stoma swim wear places but couldn’t find anything I liked and so I have just stuck with my old stuff.

This dark swimming costume with large print totally disguises the shape of my bag and makes it feel secure against my body.

This was me on Christmas Day on the beach, it was a bit rainy and grey but I wasn’t letting that stop me jumping in the waves. My sister was another story though…

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For bikinis I’m going for a fuller bottom, either little shorts or high waisted bottoms.

Having my bag and scar out does cause a few stares but I’m mostly ok with that, it’s usually from curiousity than anything malicious.

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Today I was sat on a beautiful Australian beach in a bikini, I got a few looks but as I people watched, it got me thinking about just how many different shapes and sizes we all are. Some of us a skinny, some bigger, some busty, some flat chested, some of us have scars or even bags stuck to our stomachs. But the most beautiful people around are those who are confident, smiling and having fun.

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So when people stare whether it is openly or surreptitiously, my first instinct is to feel upset, embarrassed or angry. I swallow it down and just smile.

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Most people are good, I have to believe that and so I take their stares as folk being curious about something different that they probably haven’t seen before.

I hold my head up and be proud of how awesome it is that my body has healed me and my bag is making my quality of life better.

Sam xx

Haircut time

I’ve been writing about my hair loss and how it’s been bothering me. Yesterday I went to see the lovely Nikki from Kojo & Lee in Sheffield to sort out my mop.

We talked about alopecia and discussed some hairstyles I had seen around the web and it turns out the styles I was looking at wouldn’t have helped with me feeling my hair is thin.

I was considering a layered bob or perhaps a change in colour. But as I’m off travelling for 6 weeks we decided it might be best to just go for a really good trim and cutting my fringe back in and now I love my hair again!!

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My hair was super thick before and so it knocked my confidence as to me it felt so thin. But a good cut has made it feel shiny, healthy and in good condition.

I’d recommend Kojo&Lee wholeheartedly! Find her on Facebook.

Love Sam xx

Stoma and Ileostomy photoshoot

When surgery became a possibility I did what we all do these days and googled it… THAT was a mistake (seriously don’t google stomas, you’ll give yourself nightmares!!)

Many images are medical, none are particularly flattering, most are terrifying.

Since having my subtotal colectomy and ileostomy I have realised that neither is anywhere near as frightening as I thought they would be.  My bag is barely noticeable and my stoma is kind of cute to be honest!

I had two separate emails from women recently, one saying she had a stoma and an ileostomy a few years ago and didn’t leave the house for six months till she had the takedown surgery.  And another from a woman due to have surgery who spoke of her fears of being ‘ugly’ and ‘disgusting’.  Both emails broke my heart.  I feel so sad that this life saving operation has such a bad reputation when it comes to looks and self esteem.

I understand the feelings.  When I first had my surgery I was to scared to look at my stoma.  The thought of my intestines being on the outside horrified me and from the images I had seen online, I believed my femininity and any form of attractiveness would have been removed along with my diseased bowel.

Since then I have been googling A LOT – I wanted to find some powerful, beautiful images of women with ileostomy or colostomy bags and stomas to share on this blog.  I struggled…. There are some model shoots for stoma products that I found cheesy.  There are plenty of medical photos and quite a few selfies!

So I decided that as I live with a photographer and Im not really a wallflower that I may as well do a photo shoot to show off my bag and stoma and hopefully to create a series of photos that show femininity, sexuality, creativity and beauty.

I would LOVE your feedback as Im feeling quite nervous about putting these out there…  I wanted to show others the true face of stomas and ileostomies.  Im obviously not a model, Im a normal size 16 woman with wobbly bits and stretch marks.

I have a stoma and I wear an ileostomy bag but they are such a small part of what I am.  I hope this can inspire others who have had or are due to have the surgery.  Your body is awesome.  This surgery saves lives and that little bit of intestine doesn’t change who you are – be proud, be confident and be amazing.

Love Sam xx

All photography is by the awesome Timm Cleasby of The Picture Foundry.

stoma ileostomy photo shoot woman beauty

stoma ileostomy photo shoot woman beauty

stoma ileostomy photo shoot woman beauty

stoma ileostomy photo shoot woman beauty

stoma ileostomy photo shoot woman beauty

stoma ileostomy photo shoot woman beauty

stoma ileostomy photo shoot woman beauty

stoma ileostomy photo shoot woman beauty

stoma ileostomy photo shoot woman beauty

stoma ileostomy photo shoot woman beauty

stoma ileostomy photo shoot woman beauty

stoma ileostomy femininity black and white photography creative shootstoma ileostomy femininity black and white photography creative shoot

stoma ileostomy femininity black and white photography creative shoot

stoma ileostomy femininity black and white photography creative shoot

stoma ileostomy femininity black and white

woman with stoma

ileostomy and stoma photos

ileostomy and stoma photo shoot black and white female woman with colostomy bag

ileostomy and stoma photo shoot black and white female woman with ileostomy bag

ileostomy and stoma photo shoot black and white female woman with ileostomy bag

Do you dare to go bare?

I keep seeing articles about “brave” celebrities being seen out and about without any make up on.  Is this what being brave means as a woman? Is it vanity or just what is expected of celebs these days?

I know a lot of women who would not dream of leaving the house without makeup, they feel their slap gives them confidence and makes them feel better about themselves.  Now whilst there is nothing wrong with wearing make up to boost your confidence, I do worry that if make up is linked entirely with your self esteem then perhaps it’s not that healthy.

I do wear make up when Im going on a night out, I generally don’t wear much day to day – but I rarely leave the house without mascara, if my lashes are done then I feel ready.

A friend will even wear lippy and mascara when she goes to the gym or out running… though I do laugh, I get that its her safety blanket.

This photo shows me straight from the shower, when I look at it I see dark circles under my eyes and I feel my eyes lack definition.  But I also feel I look like myself – Im a 32 year old mother of three, I see reasonably clear skin, a nice mouth and a twinkle in my eye.  Sadly I do feel a little uncomfortable putting up a photograph of me not looking my best but I thought I’d dare to bare and honestly describe how I feel I look.

no make up bare face

 

A recent survey found two-thirds of women feel that facing the world without make-up is more stressful than a job interview.   I do find it sad that so many women feel that showing their natural self can be so stressful.

One of my all time favourite people, Zooey Deschanel was featured in People Magazine with no make up, rightly or wrongly, it made me like her more.  She seemed more approachable, more girl next door and more like a ‘real’ person.

 

So do you dare to go bare?  Or is your make up your confidence boost??

Love Sam xx