Okay all you Wonderful Wild Women (and men) out there. I need to have a word with you.
As we are part of this pretty amazing community I think it’s safe to assume that you like the outdoors. In fact, you probably LOVE being outside. I expect you are a life ‘doer’, you embrace life and have an adventurous spirit.
You will probably swim, or enjoy a bit of climbing. You may practice Yoga, Pilates, and you may also run or do a bit of cycling. You might practice mindfulness and/or meditation.
What I am getting at here is that you all collectively make up a community who enjoy the outdoors. We all share this amazing place that is the outdoors.
And with this, I can guarantee you have great chats with amazing, awe-inspiring friends who share similar thoughts on life and who have similar aspirations. They also want to go places, take on epic challenges, live life on the edge and they are also trying to make sense of this crazy world. You will probably be very self aware and reflect on your own thoughts and actions (and actions of others).
This community shares the love for the outdoors, which then flows to sharing amazing experiences with others. You will want to lift others up in this community.
Here comes the all important question: Why don’t you give the same respect to yourself as you do to others?
It’s so common for people to say wonderful things to others but never do the same for themselves. They don’t feel good about themselves. In fact they go out their way to berate themselves (myself included – this was pointed out by my friend Lyds when we were traveling in Australia). So, from this observation I can guarantee that you don’t treat yourself with the same respect as others. What happened to that golden rule of treating others like you would like to be treated? And why don’t you give yourself the love your body deserves?
So why am I talking to you about body image? You may be skeptical. I am a 23 year old lacking life experience, right? I would be skeptical too! But here’s a a little insight into my ‘body image’ journey:
From since I can remember I have struggled with body confidence.
Now, you may be thinking “Do you really suffer with body confidence?”
You may think that because I do sport, because I may look slim, because I am lucky to have my body, because I seem to eat what I want etc, that means I will be confident in my own skin… Well, ignorance is bliss, isn’t it?
And I don’t blame you for this perception because I have also fallen in this trap numerous times times when looking at others. Even my Mum didn’t understand why I was insecure with my body: We used to go shopping together and she would get frustrated with me because I never liked the way I looked when trying clothes on. In fact, I had a full blown tantrum every time I looked in the mirror. In my eyes I used to think I looked awful. The word F-A-T always jumped into my brain. In the end I gave up trying on clothes and would wear the same clothes I was comfortable in until they had to be replaced. (I still have a pair of running leggings that I have had since I was 14 and a pair of high-waisted shorts since I was 15! They are both still going strong – even if they have stretched a little!)
Then, during University there was a period where I had a very unhealthy relationship with food and sport. Essentially I didn’t eat enough food because I thought this would make me a faster athlete. I managed to get out of this self-inflicted punishing mentality before it developed into anything more serious.
I realized that the subconscious thoughts of my appearance were very unhealthy and I was horrible about myself. But with the help of friends I have began to ‘re-wire’ my negative thought processes: I have consciously told myself to ACCEPT who I am and the way I look. This is a HUGE work in progress, but I know it’s worth it. And I know deep down that I owe this to myself.
Recently I went through a rough patch – post-travel-blues hit me pretty hard and I suffered with anxiety and depression for a few months. I was unenthusiastic about life and became an anxious mess. During this time I became lazy and stopped doing any exercise for 2 months (for those who know me, that is unheard of!). This meant I lost muscle and gained weight.
This photo below sparked the blog idea.
Me at my ‘heaviest’ [Gurnal Dubs, Potter Fell, December 2017]
I wasn’t going to post this photo on social media for a number of reasons.
- I felt my tummy looked big.
- I thought people would think I had got out of shape.
- I wasn’t happy with the way I looked.
- I wanted to project to the outside that I am still as fit as I was.
I wanted to project the best version of myself. I wanted to get the best angle. I was clinging onto the ‘Lauren at her fittest’ perspective.
But then I stopped and reeled in these thoughts. For a minute I stopped with the ‘what other people think’ stresses.
Were the thoughts of others greater than the enjoyment I got from this memory? And does it really matter? Plus, do other peoples thoughts on my body even matter? My answer? No, they do not. I could stress that this photo isn’t flattering or I could accept it. Accept where my body is right now.
Yes, my body has changed. Yes, I gained weight. Yes, I am not as muscular as I have been in the past. But what is important to me? I realized it is the memories I am making and the amazing things this body of mine can do. The open water swims, the walks and runs on the fells, the biking, the time spent outdoors with amazing friends. Yes, I may ‘get more in shape’ and I may get fitter again. But equally my body is going to change and I am not going to fight that.
My main body ‘hang ups’ include: the cellulite on my legs and bum, my tummy, my broad shoulders and I have ‘no hips’ (which means I unfortunately don’t make the cut for all important hourglass figure). I have also always struggled mentally with being ‘bigger’ than other athletes (particularly runners). But can I re-frame this? Instead of these being ‘body hang ups’ I want them to be ‘quirks’ about myself that I appreciate. For example my broad shoulders can get me across lakes, my legs can lug me over mountains, it’s natural to have a tummy and I am learning to accept my cellulite and body size. So, I owe a big fat thanks to my body!
Alnwick Beach [January, 2018]
The main point I want to make is that I am focusing on the incredible things my body allows me to do and adventures I can go on. I am learning to embrace the changes in my body because bodies change, priorities change, people change. At the moment I have more exciting things to do than worry about my physical appearance.
The memories I am making and the amazing things this body of mine can do are pretty damn cool. Open water swimming, walking and exploring the fells, road and mountain biking, I could go on… Rather than obsessing about what my body ‘should’ look like I am focusing on all the amazing things my body is capable of.
A friend of mine rightly said on the day this photo was taken “We are only young once so we may as well embrace it now whilst we have ‘got’ it!”( Sarah Hodgson – an inspirational sportswoman!)
#Buoy13SwimmingClub [a morning swim, Lake Windermere]
So, in a nutshell, I have body hang ups. But don’t we all? It has become accepted in our society to dislike our appearance. We have created an impossible conundrum: If we love our bodies we are vein and arrogant, yet if we are insecure we are told by friends to get more confident and appreciate how good we look. [Oh, hello cosmetic companies you must love us and our insecurities – but that’s my ramblings for another blog post!].
Confusing? Yes. But does it need to stay like this? No. I’m saying this needs to stop.
Another #Buoy13 Swim [a windy morning, Lake Windermere]
YOUR BODY IS AMAZING
It would be amazing if we could all form habits which focus on the amazing things our body is capable of rather than getting caught up with our insecurities… And if you can embrace your own individual body quirks, well then, that’s even better.
So, repeat this out loud (go for it!… I said LOUD!): “Our bodies are so amazing and beautiful and capable!”
Mariama, a close friend, said this after discussing the issue of body image and body insecurities, “Don’t get hung up with our body ‘quirks’. Instead, remember the adventures your bodies were the driving force behind: the walks and runs, the beautiful views and the epic adventures, the enduring sessions you may have put your body through and even just the daily processes that we take for granted.”
Our body is working non-stop, 24/7. I mean, that’s pretty incredible in itself.
New Years Day swim [Rydal Water, January 2018]
This post is dedicated to learning to love your body, quirks and all. Embrace your totally unique amazing body and go and get out there to experience the amazing world we live in. Loving your body for what it can do is not vain or arrogant. It’s accepting how truly incredible our bodies are, what they are capable of, where they can take us and what they can do. Lets celebrate our unique bodies. Lets give our bodies the credit they truly deserve. Let’s marvel at your body’s amazing-ness.
Join the #bodypositivity movement.
(P.s. Thanks so much Sarah Gerrish, founder of this fantastic WWW community for letting me share my thoughts on this topic!)
Wonderful Wild Women [Gurnal Dubs, January 2018]