Body image is a topic that needs on introduction: In fact, I’d say it’s been blogged about more times than most other issues out there.
I have an interesting relationship with it in that it’s played a huge role in my life, albeit indirectly.
My mother will be the first to tell you that she has struggled with her own perception of herself for as long as she can remember, and I grew up watching her and never being able to fathom why she thought of herself in such negative terms.
For all her worries about herself, my mother couldn’t accept that I was an overweight child. And no, I’m not just talking puppy fat. I needed 12-13 year old’s clothes when I was about nine and by the time I hit my teens things were ballooning out of control.
I wasn’t eating the right foods and I definitely wasn’t exercising enough, so I’m hardly surprised it happened. I had woeful eyebrows, frizzy hair and next to no self confidence but none of that mattered when I could settle down with a good book.
Then, something peculiar happened. I dropped out of school, sat home for almost a year, went on one summer holiday where I made really good friends and spent every day in the pool and suddenly the weight started to fall off.
In less than three months I must have grown several inches because all my old clothes were far too big for me, and when we went to buy my new school uniform the seamstress recommended a 28 inch waist. I was 5 foot 4 and less than 10 stone for the first time in my life and it felt amazing.
I really made the most of that feeling for about three years or so, strolling around in trousers my mother often joked were “painted on’ and genuinely taking pride in my appearance. And then, as quickly as it had arrived, the new found self-confidence disappeared.
I’m not sure exactly when it started, but I began looking at myself in mirrors and making the same comments I’d heard my mother make about herself. I was consistently comparing myself to the Facebook snaps of friends and former classmates, wondering why I didn’t look like them, or why my legs weren’t shaped like theirs.
Now I can honestly say it never changed the way I ate: I still wolf down chocolate and love my dinners, because I don’t believe in diets. As long as I do enough walking I know I can eat whatever I want.
That doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect me though. I mean, I want a career in TV long term and there’s no point telling me that your appearance doesn’t matter in that arena. A dentist once took great pleasure in telling me it’d never happen with teeth like mine.
Driven slightly around the twist by the images I was slowly becoming obsessed with, I decided to carry out a little experiment with make-up, an iPad camera and some photo filters. I took one photo of myself in the right light at the right angle and edited it with a simple filter.
This was the result, which I’ve left languishing in the back of some long-forgotten file folder for a few weeks.
It’s pretty much everything I’m not and that makes it so much easier for me to finally realise that I couldn’t care less about being preened to within an inch of my life.
I may not be perfectly happy within my own skin but it’s MY skin, those are MY slightly wonky teeth and that’s MY hair that I refuse to accept isn’t so naturally strawberry blonde any more.
I don’t think I’m FAT fat, but I could still do with getting fit and healthy. I don’t think I’m the WORST dresser, but I could do with changing things up a little. And ok, maybe it’s time I admitted that wearing the odd bit of make-up every now and then isn’t the worst thing either.
It may have taken a stupid experiment to prove it, but I’m finally able to see past the ‘perfect’ facade and realise that being the girl who’s delighted to walk out of the house looking like a babba because she isn’t caked in make-up is actually quite the achievement.
And to me, that’s pretty much as close to a sense of perfection as I’m ever going to get.
P.S. I promise I’ll keep the personal blogs to a minimum from here on in.