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.
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.
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.