How to love your body when it’s broken

At the beginning of September I sprained my knee (did you know knees could be sprained? I didn’t. It was very educational). The nurse told me it would take at least 6 weeks to heal, which turned out to be seriously optimistic;  12 weeks later and I’m now counting the days since it last hurt, although not quite daring to call it healed.

strapped-up-knee
At least the KT tape was pretty.

 

Because I’ve been out of action for 3 months, my fitness level has pretty much reset to zero. Absolute zero. I can’t describe the feeling of looking at all my running medals while I gasp for breath after climbing one flight of stairs, but trust me when I say it’s not a good one.

I suspect my knee is only better now because I was forced to rest completely last week by the worst case of tonsillitis I’ve ever had. Swallowing hurt so much I couldn’t even take water, and solid food was so out of the question I was actually glad my appetite had vanished. The antibiotics are finished, but my throat is still sore and my glands are still swollen.

Then I woke up at 3am on Monday with a cracking headache, and ran to the bathroom to be sick. I’ve caught a bug that’s making the rounds at work.

And of course my knackered kidneys meant I couldn’t take ibuprofen for my knee, had to lower the dose of antibiotics for my tonsils, and tried to get rid of my headache by drinking a lot of water and leaving the lights off when I was at home. Is it bad that I sometimes daydream of taking nurofen?

It can be difficult to love your body when it feels like it’s broken.

I confess over the last few months I’ve cursed my body several times, for taking so long, for letting me down, for turning against me. As though ‘me’ and ‘my body’ are separate entities that can be at war. As though either one would be anything without the other.

That’s how I’m working at still loving my body, even though I’m so, so tired of being ill. I remind myself that it’s as much a part of me as the voice that moans about it. That it isn’t some malevolent thing that wants to be ill; my tonsils didn’t get infected just to annoy me, my stomach didn’t decide to make me sick just to see how I would react, and I’m positive my kidneys would really rather be whole.

Rather than being against me, it is me. And one thing I’m getting better at is looking after myself. So I’m taking my sore throat to the doctor again, even though I don’t like going. I’m resisting the urge to jump back into running and salsa and ceroc and pole, even though my knee feels fine, because I know I need time to get well again. I’m even taking naps if I need them, much to the horror of my must-always-be-doing-something-useful brain.

Of course I’m more than just my body, but it is a part of me, and I’m working on giving it the love and care that every bit of me deserves.

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Belonging smile

#‎SmileChallenge

I’m smiling because I’m in Glasgow, and right now that’s exactly where I’m meant to be.

This is my home, where I belong, as I have never belonged anywhere else. Where I discovered who I really am and became my full self.

I love this city. Really, honestly, truly love it.

 

My bus pulled in not long ago to this infamous old town

A foreigner when I arrived, but a mutual love has grown

The beggars and the buskers beat. I weave along Sauchiehall Street

A warm smile on a stranger’s face makes me welcome in this place

Oh, I belong to Glasgow And she belongs to me

I wasn’t born and bred here, but we were meant to be

Sandstone mixes up with green amid steel and smoky hues

I squint the sun out of my eyes, watch the river run right through

A melting pot, a meeting point. Giving hope to those with none

Sharing a home with everyone

A foreign native I’ve become

Easy peasy

“Well it’s easy for you to be confident when you look like that.”

I’ve heard variations of this sentence from several different people recently. Mostly from friends, so it’s probably meant as a compliment. But if you look closer there are some not so good things about it.

Firstly, I want to look at what these people didn’t actually say out loud. The unspoken second sentence, which sounds a little like “But what hope have I got?”.

Of course I used to do this. I used to hand out compliments like “your hair is so much better than mine” and “I wish I had your legs” all the time. Every possible variation of ‘you are worthy and I am not’.

I was so entrenched in society’s belief that I was not good enough, so afraid of being seen as cocky or arrogant, that I could even repurpose compliments as fuel for my own self-loathing. This is what we are trained to do, from so early an age that I didn’t even realise I was doing it.

Until I did.

And then I stopped. Because there are more than enough things in the world trying to tell me how unworthy I am; they really don’t need my help. Because there is nothing arrogant about not hating your own body. But mostly because what’s the point of making one person feel good just to bring another person down?

If you’re going to compliment me, thanks! We should absolutely build each other up every chance we get! But only if it builds you up as well, or at the very least doesn’t attack you. If I had to choose between a compliment that put somebody else down and no compliment at all, I would choose no compliment. Every time. You deserve so much better.

 

Secondly, the suggestion that body confidence is easy for anybody, especially women, in our culture is quite frankly ridiculous.

Billions and billions of pounds are spent on telling us that those with straight hair must want it to curl and the curly-haired must want it straight. Dark skin must want to be lighter, and lighter skin darker. Fat must strive to be thin, and thin must do everything in their power to stay that way. Every woman must aspire to walk that line, as thin as a razor blade, of being both slim and curvy. No matter what we do our bodies will never, never be enough.

All so that we will buy things. Products to control our hair, plastic surgery, diet books, gym membership, pills, weird vibrating belt things, ANYTHING that could possibly help us become what we are not. It’s a lucrative, well-honed business, and it’s everywhere.

So no, it was not easy to become this confident. It’s taken years and years of fighting the unceasing negative thoughts about myself, learning to walk away from harmful body image conversations, ignoring adverts telling me how I could be ‘better’, telling myself that I’m worthy and enough even when it seemed the least believable thing in the world.

I’ve worn tight or revealing clothes that I loved, while believing it would make people explode through sheer disgust. I’ve shouted that my body is beautiful while crying because I can’t stand the sight of it. I’ve spent hours smacking down snipey comments about my appearance, trying to ignore the voice in my head that whispers “they’re right”.

How dare you tell me it was easy.

In this society, just deciding to not hate your body (especially if it’s fat) is a radical, divisive, and difficult decision. But it is so entirely worth it.

I wish everyone could experience that amazing moment when I realised I am enough. I wish everyone could know how it feels to look in the mirror and not start listing the things they would change if only they could. To actually like what they see. To feel self-love, which is a love like nothing else I’ve ever felt.

It’s a long, hard process, but you could begin right now by deciding to pay positive-only compliments.

Replace “your hair is better than mine” with “I love your hair today”. Say “your legs are so toned” instead of “I wish I had your legs”.  See what a difference it makes just removing some negativity from your life.

Or you could jump straight to the master level and try to positive-only compliment people on anything other than their physical appearance. Because we are all so much more than just the way we look.

It’s not easy, but you won’t be disappointed. Give it a try : )

New year. Same me. Still awesome.

happy new year
Check out these HD graphics.

Welcome to 2016!

I hope everyone had a good night (apparently greasy food is the answer to a hangover. You’re welcome.) and you’re all ready for a brand new year.

I’m not going to do a big review of 2015, mostly because I can’t remember a lot of it. I’m just going to say it was a good year; I jumped straight into body positivity, learned a lot, and changed a lot. I’m super proud of the person I am today.

So, on to 2016.

For (I think) only the second year running I am not resolving to starve my body into eating itself smaller. A moment of silence for every younger me who believed she had to do that.

Instead my resolutions are all about adding to myself. Because no matter how amazing I am, there are always chances to be better.

  1. Start learning again – I’ve signed up for an OU course in a completely different area to my degrees, because my curiosity is never sated.
  2. Grow even more confidence – doing more things I thought I couldn’t, more positive self-talk, more challenges overcome. It’s gonna be so much fun!
  3. Share more love – this could be commenting on blogs, giving compliments, buying gifts, hugs, or anything else that can brighten someone else’s day. The more love you give out the more you get back, so this one’s win-win!

They’re pretty simple, but I know even simple things can lead to huge changes.

Time to get going on the best year yet!