I used to think that my worth was based on the way that I looked on the outside. On the size of my ‘skinny’ legs. I now know that my worth comes from within…
I’m sharing my story here in case it helps.
Helps you relate to it as a parent
Or helps you relate to your child.
Where do I begin? I guess the logical place would be where it all started. When I began to feel unworthy based on my appearance. It certainly wasn’t at home. Home was a place where my size and appearance were never seen as the most important part of me. At home I felt safe with no judgement. School is where it all began. The comments, the cruel words, the mean actions. They all led to me feeling ugly and worthless. Smaller than the already small person that I was.
All of the other girls at school were growing into their bodies, meanwhile my body remained the same, my tiny legs and arms stood out. I felt so worried about how my legs looked to others that I would even wear two pairs of tights to bulk them out! I began to get teased and kids did some pretty awful things to me. It’s hard enough growing up, with our insecurities and uncertainties about whether we are ‘pretty’ enough, without people telling you otherwise all of the time.
My PE teacher gave me the nickname ‘Sparrowlegs.’ I wasn’t upset by this as I knew it was a term of endearment, but it only went to reiterate to me that I was right to feel that my legs were skinny and not ‘normal.’ These days I have embraced the name Sparrowlegs. I’m owning that my legs are slim, they have brought me to where I am now, and they are a part of my identity.
Throughout my late teens, early twenties, and even my thirties, I was still questioning- Who will like me? Who would want to be friends with a ‘skinny’ girl like me? I didn’t consider myself attractive at all, and when I look back it is obvious that I missed out on so many opportunities because of this. I couldn’t see my tiny body being powerful, and this turned me off some career paths, just because of my size. I turned down invitations to parties or nights out but feeling too ashamed of my own body to go. I know now that I was my own worst enemy. People wanted to befriend me, but I just didn’t feel good enough.
Don’t get me wrong, through school, college and university despite the many missed opportunities I did develop a personality. I think I started to be ‘the funny one’ in order to take the focus away from the way that I looked. Being complimented for my good humour and charisma, at times only served to confirm to me that my appearance wasn’t good enough.
The thing that really changed my perspective was meeting my husband, which made me realise that I was worthy of love at last. No matter what the outside world saw, he saw me and loved me. I know that it’s not all about the acceptance of others, but it made me like myself more, knowing that I was enough for somebody. Suddenly, I was able to relax about the way that I looked. He had seen my ‘skinny’ legs and still loved me. I felt comfortable in someone’s company at last. I stopped thinking as much about the girl in the mirror and was excited about so many aspects of the future. One of the worst things I had missed out on until I met my husband was loving myself. Slowly I began to realise that my beauty was so much more than my appearance. Slowly, I began to love myself, every part of me.
I hadn’t even considered that being pregnant would prompt my body worries to surface again. Other women may worry about the weight they will gain, but for me this wasn’t the case. Instead, it was the judgement of the health professionals. I was told that as my BMI made me ‘extremely underweight’ I would need to be monitored and scanned more frequently even though I insisted that this was my normal weight. There were concerns that my low weight would cause issues with the growth of my baby. Again, another milestone that should be celebrated was torn away from me by the worries about my size. When I went for appointments, there would be ‘judging’ eyes upon me. As if it was a choice for me to be as small as I was.
They weren’t the only people I have received judgement from in my life. Strangers would look at my legs, I would often feel the glances and maybe people wondering why I was so ‘skinny.’ I’ve had comments made to me by people that I have literally just met on a train journey or at an event. ‘Wow, you’re so skinny,’ ‘I bet you hardly eat.’ I would turn up at family events, and still do, to hear ‘have you lost weight?’ or ‘you never put on weight’ as my greeting. As though these were compliments- when this was my greatest insecurity.
Through my life, I never felt represented. I never felt that I had any role models that would guide the way. No one to make me understand that my feelings were valid. There were no women fighting for body acceptance for ‘skinny’ people like me, just a fight for the women being told they weren’t ‘skinny’ enough. With this came the feeling that I wasn’t allowed to feel the way I did. When people see a ‘skinny’ woman they assume she must be happy with her body. So many times, I wanted to scream out loud “I feel it too, I don’t love my body either” but I didn’t feel that I had the right.
Now I am sharing my story so that others like me don’t feel so alone, so that there is a realisation that poor body image can affect any one, in any body. I am also on a mission to make sure that the children of the future never need to worry about their worth being based on their appearance. I never, ever want anybody to feel the way that I did……to live half a life.
Here are 2 of the most important things I think we need to do to support everyone to embrace their bodies.
- Talk about your own and others appearance with kindness. What we say to ourselves about the way that we look, what other people hear us say and the way that we talk about other people’s bodies are key to making a change.
- Focus on what our bodies can DO. Our bodies are so much more than what we look like on the outside. Think about all of the amazing things that your body can do for you, from hugging to eating to simply allowing you to sleep. Let us focus on what our bodies are truly here for. Not to look at but to allow us to live.