body image.

Recently a few blog posts & youtube videos about body confidence have popped up on my social media. These posts have come from girls of all shapes and sizes, mostly in their early twenties and/or attending university.  They’ve discussed calorie counting and exercising, late-night pizza’s and weight gain, and they’ve all had me nodding along at points. It inspired me to write a bit myself on the topic.

I don’t really want to write about weight gain as I’ve started moving from early to late teens and from school to college life (I have), or about how even when I weighed less I had body issues (yup) or about how I’ve overcome body issues and am now confident because we’re all beautiful in our own ways.. to be honest with you, that would be a lie. I don’t think I have overcome my body issues and I am not sure I ever will 100%, but I am more grateful for the body I have now than I have been before. It’s not that I prefer this body to the admittedly slimmer one that looked nicer in that dress three years ago, but I’ve learned to appreciate that there are parts of my body other people wish they had instead of their own and vice versa. So instead of pining over the bits I hate, I might as well try and see myself through their eyes and appreciate what I’ve got!

As a teenager, my biggest insecurity was probably my acne. As I’ve come out of my teens and my skin has improved it has become less of an issue for me, but it does still affect me. Going anywhere, or even having unexpected visitors, without at least tinted moisturizer on my face makes me feel insanely insecure. Now part of this is down to the fact that I’ve very pale skin and when I go completely barefaced everyone repeatedly asks if I am tired and/or ill (which is just fabulous for my self-confidence!), but I think the main source of this insecurity is that even though I know logically my skin is fine, that anxiety about my acne is so ingrained in me that I’ve developed some kind of body dysmorphia about it.

Even now, sitting here writing about body confidence, I can’t bring myself to actually talk about those two or three parts of my body that I am most insecure about. Despite the fact that everyone else can see my body and make their own assumptions about it, somehow pointing out what I see as massive flaws seems like inviting people to focus on them and make judgments – something I certainly don’t want to encourage! In the past when people have made remarks about these parts of my body, not even in a negative way but more just pointing them out for one reason or another, it’s made me feel so terrible I still remember it years later. This is something I am trying to work on, maybe in the future I’ll be able to write about these things without a sense of (ridiculous) dread, when I’ve begun to overcome them.

For now I’ll make a compromise of writing about one thing that isn’t a permanent feature, but is one of the most prominent body issues I deal with. A lot of girls out there will probably relate to feeling particularly down about their bodies around that time of the month due to hormonal issues which can cause lower self-esteem, spots and bloating. For me bloating is one of the biggest issues I have when it comes to body confidence and unfortunately, it’s one of the most common symptoms my anxiety causes. The more anxious I am the more likely I am to experience stomach cramps which may or may not cause bloating in and off themselves, or the medication I take for the stomach cramps cause bloating. Take into account that any kind of event like a concert, a houseparty, a holiday, a presentation etc triggers my anxiety (generalized anxiety disorder), I am usually bloated when I want to look my best. This is really damaging to my body confidence as you might imagine. I can order a dress online, try it on when it arrives and think yes that looks great, then a week later when I am actually going out, look down at myself and want to cry because my stomach is at least double the size it was when I last put it on! It’s incredibly frustrating but it’s also something I can’t really change, and the more I worry about it the worse it’s likely to get, so the only way I can deal with it is say fuck it!

When I think about it, anxiety is the cause of a lot of my body issues, another one being eczema  – nothing like patchy and irritated skin as a base for make-up and tanning products! But… after a couple of years I’ve come to understand that I can attempt to treat these problems with E45 and spot creams and the likes, but at the end of the day they’ll all persist or evolve in to something else until I learn to cope with the root cause itself. For me that means that accepting my body and not allowing it to exacerbate my anxiety disorder is particularly important, so all I can do is keep marching on and hope one day I can write a blog post about body image and know that I am happy where I am at.

This post was inspired by a number of lovely ladies including Eilis, Eimear, Arden, Hannah & Melanie (video below).