The Whale in the Mirror

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I’ve lost 12kg (around 24lbs) since the new year started.

It’s not been easy.  I have pushed my body to its limit:  running,  speed walking,  cardio,  weights, aerobics.  I’ve sweated tears.  I hate working out;  hate it with a passion.  Can’t for the life of me see how someone could push themselves like that every day,  and enjoy it.  Who,  seriously,  likes crunches?  I love food;  I don’t eat to sustain my body,  I eat because it is a passion of mine.  Yet,  I have cut out all of the foods I find irresistibly divine.  I haven’t cheated.  I haven’t taken the easy route and purchased a year’s supply of WW food;  I have simply started to cook everything from scratch.  I no longer eat white flour products,  I bake my own whole-wheat bread,  and use bananas in muffins rather than fat.

It is no exaggeration,  then,  to say that I have felt every one of those ounces leave my body.

So,  you’d imagine I’d feel pretty proud of myself;  that I am flaunting my new svelte body at every opportunity?  Well,  that’s what a normal,  rational woman would do.  Not me.  No, instead,  when I look in the mirror,  I see the biggest whale you can imagine.  A gargantuan,  big-boobed,  jelly-bellied,  thunder-armed woman.  That’s what I see.  I am only a couple of pounds overweight (if you go by the BMI),  but I truly believe that even if I lost 100 more pounds,  I would still see myself in this way.  I hate this part of me – not the body (although we ain’t best friends),  but the self-loathing,  self-critical me.  The one that scrutinises every inch,  and finds nothing of worth.

Rational thought does kick in.  I know that there is a big difference between how I was before I started,  and now.  Sheer biology tells me that I can’t possibly look the same after losing 24lbs.  But, I just don’t see it.  As a young girl I was slim,  but even then found it hard to appreciate my appearance.  I look back at photos now and literally cry at how slim and beautiful I was;  not because I wish I still was that girl,  but for sadness at how my 20-something self was SO unable to see it,  or accept it.  I wonder how different my life might have been,  if I had been able to?  I envy people who effortless glide through life blissfully aware of who they are,  what they look like;  and are happy with it.

When I see myself (especially in photos) now,   part of me just wants to crawl under a stone; even today,  after I have shed all of those pounds.  I am not sure why.  I really don’t know.  I have done a lot of soul-searching in the last few years,  and have been able to fit a lot of random jigsaw pieces together.  But this inability to see me as others do?  I just don’t know.  I have low self-esteem,  bucket loads of insecurity,  that I do know.  Perhaps it is linked?  All I know is that it is horrible.

When I was younger,  this low self-esteem about my appearance was often misunderstood by the people around me.  I can’t really blame them.   When you see a good looking, slim girl stand in front of you,  telling you how ugly and fat she is,  it is hard to not take that as vanity.  I’ve done it myself with friends:  we’ve all got those gorgeous people in our lives who tell us how horrible they look,  and it is hard not to smash them in the face;  pummelling them until they admit that they know they are beautiful,  really.  But,  perhaps,  they are just like me,  they aren’t saying it just so that we stroke their ego,  but that they genuinely believe it?  There’s food for thought.

Even if you told me I looked good,  I wouldn’t believe you.  I’ve been admonished in the past for not being able to take a compliment.  I can’t stand them.  They make me feel squirmy,   and uncomfortable. I appreciate the sentiment,  just don’t believe it.  Ironic, eh?  Here’s me craving confirmation that I am attractive,  and therefore accepted (because acceptance is really the crux of all this),  yet when it is offered,  it is rejected quicker than you can say “low self-esteem sucks”.

This is probably the only part about  me (and my life) that I would change.  Although I have personality flaws (who doesn’t),  I know on the whole that my heart is in the right place,  and I am one of the good guys.  I am a positive person,  one who is genuinely so happy with her life,  and I would not change a second of it.  I am appreciative of everything.  So,  why this one part of me,  a part that I just can’t ease up on,  can’t stop for just a minute and thank myself lucky that I am alive;  to be grateful that I have two arms and legs,  and say bugger to everything else that lies in between?

I am rapidly heading towards 50,  so I’ve kind of missed my chance at being Miss World.  So does it really matter what I look like?  Surprisingly,  I am going to say not to me.  Not even to my partner of 15 years.  If I lived on a desert island,  with just my immediate family for company, I wouldn’t care if I was the size of a house.  No,  I want to look good because it matters what other people think of me.  I want them to gasp at how gorgeous I am,  not snicker at how fat I have become.  I want,  no,  NEED,  to be admired.

Despite what I’ve said,  I am sure this reads as vanity.  Sure of it.  But believe me when I say it isn’t.  Not really.

I might sound like a lost cause,  but I do fight it.  I fight it for the sake of my children.  I don’t put myself down in front of them;  I tell them how gorgeous I think I am,  and how well I am doing to lose some weight (for fitness, and to be healthy, not because I feel fat).   I don’t want them going through life disbelieving what they see in the mirror (or more importantly, to help them understand that it doesn’t matter what they do see in the mirror).  And who knows – if I keep going at convincing my children,  a little might rub off,  and I may be able to convince myself.

Here’s hoping.

 

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

None of us are perfect

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Being a mum. Tough, eh?

It’s a multi-faceted role that is littered with mistakes, worry, regret, irritation, and pretty much every other emotion under the sun.

It’s a job I never feel accomplished at, rarely feel satisfied by my efforts (and if I do, it is always very short-lived), and I always have a pervading sense of not quite getting it right, however hard I try.

Let’s give an example of what I mean: I live in absolute dread of forgetting something important to do with my kids and school. Like not remembering they are going swimming, not packing school books or forgetting homework needs doing, having the wrong food in a packed lunch for a school trip, or a whole host of other things I could get wrong. This is a lot about me. I do worry that by forgetting something, my kids are going to get into trouble, or teased, or miss out. But I have to be honest and say that a lot of it is about how it reflects on my parental abilities. If you forget their PE kit, you are a crap mum. Right?

A prime example of this happened last week. My big boy told me that his class would start having PE outside, and he needed outdoor  trainers. So, I got them ready for him. I panicked for a fair bit beforehand, mind you, because he can’t tie his laces, and all he has for outdoor trainers are a pair with laces. So, I spent ages fixing them just right, so that he could put them on without undoing them, yet they would stay tight enough that they didn’t fall off when he ran. I put more thought into it than scientists did researching the atom. But what I forgot to give any attention to was packing tracksuit bottoms or a hoodie (he went with his usual shorts and tee shirt), and as a result, he was so cold he had to put his clothes back on, and then wasn’t allowed to participate; instead, he had to walk around the football pitch. He cried, he told me; he said it felt horrible to be secluded like that. And yes, my heart just about broke; I’d let him down and I was a crap mum. Self-flagellation a-plenty that night, I can tell you.

I know, I know. I know that he will survive, may even have taught him some lesson (pack your own things for school, perhaps?), but I felt like the worse mum in the world. He’s a sensitive boy, and whereas most kids would be able to shrug it off, I think he feels embarrassment and humiliation more keenly, and it lingers for longer. And what would his teachers think? Would they talk privately about the mum that sent her child to school with shorts and a tee shirt? Didn’t she realise it was cold? Didn’t she care? Would they scoff, discussing how some parents were just rubbish? Maybe. But they couldn’t say any worse than I felt myself.

So, imagine my absolute delight, when I discovered that another mum – one I don’t know very well, but have always regarded as clued-up, and with it – sent her six year old to school with rain trousers that were too small for him. My youngest came home and told me that his friend had been crying because they were too short. I asked how short. He said they were half way up his leg. And my reaction? I laughed. I laughed a secret little chortle, riddled with glee, but also relief: I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t the only mum that got it wrong sometimes. I didn’t waste one moment imagining how she (and her child) felt. This is kind of odd behaviour for the highly sensitive, empathic women I usually am. But, nope.  I was too busy smiling to myself, revelling in the relief that it wasn’t me that went to bed that night with thoughts of failing my kids reverberating around my head.

I think a lesson can be learned from that. We shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves. No mum, especially one that has a busy life, is going to get it right 100% of the time. And if they did, really, what does that teach children? I would imagine that it would set them up for a fall; that’s what. A less-than-perfect mum makes them realise that the world is less-than-perfect; it allows them to face disappointment, and to deal with it. Not a lesson I would ever deliberately place on my children’s shoulders; yet, surely, an invaluable one, none-the-less?

 

 

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net