Its the start of Mental Health Awareness Week. The Mental Health Foundation are focusing their attention and raising awareness around Body Image, with the hashtag #BeBodyKind, so naturally, I felt compelled to write!
I was shocked to read this morning that “1 out of 8 adults have experienced suicidal thoughts or emotions because of concerns about their body image”.
Now without sounding too weird, before I had a bath this morning, I stood in front of my full-length mirror fully naked and asked myself what I saw. I saw my obese frame. My cellulite thighs. My wobbly tummy. My protruding tummy. My even wobblier bum! My flat chest. My surgical scars. My bruised legs. Flabby arms. Hairy legs. Sad looking feet with fragile toenails. A body that looks alien to me. Is that body really mine? I felt sad looking at my own body. My own body that has endured so much over the years and miraculously, still works!
So I asked myself another question. “What would my friends say about my body”? (Again, perhaps this sounds a bit weird. Not many, if any of my friends have seen me completely naked!).
I doubt anyone would call me obese. If anything, I’m pretty sure my friends would say its not too bad a body for a 43 year old! Most people have cellulite. My tummy expanded to be able to grow an amazing human being. It was stretched and stretched so that my healthy baby could grow to the weight he needed to be before entering the world. My tummy is a reflection of my biggest achievement in life. The greatest gift I have ever been given. I am thankful for my wobbly tummy!
Most of everything else I see on my body is a result of my treatment for Breast Cancer. My surgical scars where my breasts were removed. The permanent radiotherapy tattoos. The exit wounds of multiple surgical drain sites. The flabby arms where muscle has been removed due to invasive cancer cells. The remains of battered veins, destroyed by toxic chemotherapy drugs. My body is quick to acquire bruises due to the medication I take to keep cancer at bay. My hairy legs and bedraggled hair remind me of how far I have come from my cancer days. There was a time I didn’t have a single hair on my body. For some body parts that was ok! But for others it was actually painful, the loss of eyelashes and nasal hair in particular. And don’t get me started on the horrific sight of toenails coming off.
So I look at my body, my tired and achy body, knowing that it has been through some very heavy shit in its time! Yes, I would very much like to be 3 stone lighter, toned and radiating youthfulness. But realistically, that is not going to happen!
My son does not care what I look like. I am his protector. His advocate. His guide through life. My appearance is never going to affect that. My son accepts me for who I am, not what I look like. I don’t hide my body from him. But I have only just stopped hiding my body from other people. I used to pretend my body was something it wasn’t. And now I want to celebrate it. To give it the credit it deserves for getting me out of bed every morning and enjoying life with my little boy.
To have a positive relationship with your own body is very difficult. I want my son to grow up knowing everyone is different. Everyone comes in different shapes and sizes. I want to remove the words ‘fat’ and ‘ugly’ from his vocabulary. He is noticing changes in his own body and has started to compare himself to others. His father has a very physical job and this shows in his physique. My son is wanting to be ‘strong’ like his Dad and often asks me if I can see his six pack. He is just 7 years old. I just want him to be happy in his own skin. I want to be happy in my own skin.
In two weeks, my boy and I will be relaxing by the pool in sunnier climates. He won’t have a care in the world apart from how many ice lollies he can eat before lunch time! This no breasted, overweight mummy, will be taking a leaf out of his book. My bikini and I will be singing from the rooftops “THIS IS ME”!
Be Kind to yourselves.
Be Body Kind.