REAL STORIES | When It All Goes T*ts Up – My Body Image Battle
Mental Health Awareness Week 2019 will take place from Monday 13 to Sunday 19 May 2019. The theme for 2019 is Body Image – how we think and feel about our bodies.
Body Image | Lyndsey’s Story – Founder & Editor of Girl About
Every single day we are met with a shitstorm of images of so-called perfection: perfect lives, perfect bodies, perfect children – all slapped across social media, held up for inspection, critique, adoration, judgement.
ITV & Channel 5 garbage such as The Only Way Is Essex, Geordie Shore, Love Island and Ex on the Beach feature girls in their 20s that are slowing morphing into replicas of each other – a result of over-pumped up lips, too much filler, an expensive bouncy blow-dry and, possibly the most alarming – surgery that has a worryingly high mortality rate – the Brazilian Bum Lift – often referred to the BBL. A procedure deemed so dangerous in the UK that Brit surgeons refuse to do it!
So, these silly little girls fly to Turkey to get their puppy fat sucked out of their midriff and injected back into their arse…and don’t get me started on Katie Price!
It’s a high price to pay to have a flash-in-the-pan career on TV. It’s an even higher price to pay when it inevitably impacts on their mental health because of the vile comments that flood in every time they post of social media from the tragic little trolls who have predictably got their own body image demons to deal with. And these revolting little creatures do just that by fuelling this disconcerting underworld of self-hate and jealousy, tucked away in the dark shadows on the Internet.
I know all too well how it feels to be trolled on your physical appearance, and believe me, it’s the most mentally destroying, anxiety fuelling act of malevolence – and my little dice with the trolls was a pretty isolated incident so I can only begin to imagine the severe mental impact these little shitbags have of those girls’ lives day in, day out.
I’m also more than familiar with how plastic surgery impacts on body image.
Really, I’m a big f**k off hypocrite if you take into account that I’ve had my boobs done – abroad – my teeth done, and I am partial to a bit of Botulinum Toxin every six months to freshen up my 40-year-old boat race – so really, I’m no different to these fake-as-fuck girls that grace our collection of screens, every minute of every day.
I’m also more than familiar with the disconsolate feeling of low self-esteem and how my need to look like the stereotypical size 8, big boobs, perfect white teeth, blonde hair, spray-tanned pretty have much controlled my life for the most part of my 20s and early 30s.
I feel for these girls on these God-awful reality TV shows I really do. I know all too well how they are feeling. The aching need to confirm aesthetically. To fit into the sexual mould and the constant craving for attention – mainly of the male variety.
That was me. For so long that was me. Sometimes it is still me. I sit at my dressing table in my bedroom, scrutinizing my nose and my chin in the mirror. I don’t have one of those petite little turned up pixie noses – my mum has always told me I have my dad’s nose.
‘Your dad’s the one with the big nose, you got that from him!’
I remember my dad telling me that we had a Roman nose. Roman-all-over-our face.
Of course, it was said in jest, but it stuck, and at the age of 22 I went for a nose job consultation. Only I hated my teeth also – I name-called at school thanks to my rather crooked teeth and the gap between the front two. Bullied is possibly too strong a word – I was called names such as Watford Gap and Bugs Bunny. Not exactly the most malicious of names, but still, they stuck with me. So, I opted out of the nose job in favour of braces… I couldn’t afford to do both. Later I went on to have £5,000 worth of Veneers. To be fair though, the £5k I’ve spent on my teeth over the years was well worth the money.
My boob job, not so much. I was a very slim size 8 in my mid-20s. A lot of my mates at the time had had their tits done and of course, I wanted mine done ahead of my wedding to Mr T.
Yes, I wanted big tits on our wedding day. I wanted to conform to the serotype of mid-20s female perfection and, sadly, I thought having fake tits would make me look better than ever in my wedding dress.
I stupidly decided to have them done whilst we were backpacking around the world together. Iain wasn’t so sure, in fact, he was very against it, but I got my own way and after some research, I booked myself into a posh clinic in Rio de Janeiro.
Oh they were great for a bit. Or so I thought. Two great big footballs bounced around under my chin. No bra needed. And If like me, you’re a bit of an attention seeker – most people who have suffered childhood bullying of course are and have very low self – then having your tits done is a free pass to getting them out at every opportunity, in public. Everyone wants a grope to ‘see how they feel’– meanwhile I’m basking in all this attention that comes with my new big tits.
Only, they weren’t to last. We got back from our backpacking adventure and about a year later – a couple of months after we had got married, my left implant started to drop and a lump formed to the side of it.
I ignored it. I had no aftercare – my surgeon was a 13-hour flight away in Brazil – so I just left it. And before I knew it, I was in intensive care.
I had to have the implant whipped out and a hole the size of a 50 pence piece that had formed when the lump mutated into a blood blister – which popped – trimmed of the dead flesh and sewn up. I could actually stick my finger in the hole and feel the implant, and only at this point did I drag my sorry arse to the Royal Free hospital.
That wasn’t the end of it. I then had to spend four months with only one implant as I waited for my left breast tissue and my muscles to heal – the plan was to replace it with a new implant just as soon as I could.
For four months I filled my left bra cup with plastic chicken fillets, Mr T, who was now my husband – we were in the throes of our honeymoon period – was only allowed near me from behind and I certainly wasn’t allowed anywhere nearby top half for some time.
sadly, still only consumed by how I looked, rather than just being grateful for being alive and having a husband that loved me, no matter what – one tit, two tits, 22 tits, he married me, not my tits. Oh it’s all very well saying this to myself now.
I suppose this incident could have driven me into a really dark place. I could have sunk into a dark depression, hated myself, even more, gone to the doctor and pleaded with him to fix my totally fucked up chest, covered in scars and with one tit ridiculously bigger than the other…
But I didn’t – thank the Lord I saw the light. I realised what I had done to myself all in the name of what I thought was a pre-requisite of being ‘sexy’ When all it was, was low self-esteem and self-hate.
I didn’t have my tits done ‘for me’ – I had my tits done to conform to a stereotype. To be attractive to the opposite sex. To be noticed, desired, wanted, liked. Needy traits of someone with seriously low self-esteem.
It’s worth noting also, that from the age of 6 to around 13 I had severe eczema. I was covered from head to toe in scabs. I dreaded PE and home economics as I would be forced to display the redraw creases in my arms the backs of my legs with short gym skirts and rolled up sleeves. Then the name calling would kick in – boys shouting scabby queen across the sports hall. I mean I totally get why I went on to crave attention when I grew out of my skin condition in my mid-teens. But the low self-esteem and self-loathing had taken hold by then and it would consume me for many years – and many girls with low self-esteem and self-worth, it manifested itself into attention seeking, loud and leary girl who had to be at the centre of everything.
Anyway, back to the boobs – so, after four months of one boob considerably bigger than the other, I decided to have the right implant whipped out. I could no longer bear the thought of that big sack of silicone being inside me.
Yes, I was self-conscious of my deflated, tiny breasts for a little while but it was also a bit of a turning point to realising that I didn’t need to tick all of those boxes to be an attractive human being.
I didn’t just have this complete change of character overnight. I was still very consumed by how I looked and still craved a lot of attention, but it was most certainly a turning point to being on a less self-destructive path. The realisation that my husband loved me no matter what, and that was more important than trying to always be as near as I possibly could be to what I and the media perceived as ‘perfect’.
Our kids came along soon after. I absolutely hated being pregnant. I hated feeling ‘fat’, but at the same time, I realised that my body was never going to be what it was pre-kids. For the first time in years, I relaxed my diet, had to wear flat shoes, developed cankles, a double chin and stretch marks.
I’ll admit, I was eager to get back into my size 10s after both my kids. And I did, quite quickly. Would I have enjoyed being pregnant a lot more had I have not suffered from such low self-esteem – probably? Would I have not been so bothered about squeezing my arse into my size 10’s a few months after giving birth – I expect not.
I’m never going to be someone who is totally happy with myself. But I am very aware of how destructive my actions and my opinions can be, especially towards my 5-year-old daughter.
I worry what the future holds for her, and for every other little girl. I worry about her self-esteem, about how she will treat others and above how she will view herself. I worry about her mental health and how social media might impact it.
I do my best to reinforce positive body image to Ferne (5) and her brother Ted (8) – I’m very mindful of how I talk about myself and others in front of them, I’m always conscious of the language I use about their body size, shape and appearance.
One thing’s for sure – should she ever be given the chance to appear on a reality TV show, I will go to hell and back to convince her otherwise.
I’ll never be 100% happy with what I see when I look in the mirror but I try and keep my thoughts to myself. I am very mindful and aware of those thoughts and feelings now though, and when I do find myself critiquing myself, I know to tell myself that I am so much more than what I look like.
Yes, I have a little Botox twice a year. It makes me look a little less knackered. I’m 40 next and I suppose I’ve got a little bit addicted to the effect it has on my boat race.
You could argue that I haven’t learnt my lesson by sticking needles of what some like to refer to as poison into my face. And you might be right. But I’m very careful about who administers it and their qualifications and experience, and that’s the only way I can defend my choice to go ahead with it. I don’t have to go to a nightclub and show it off, or slap it all over social media – it’s a subtle enhancement to my perfectly average, perfectly imperfect face and it makes me feel a little better about myself.
Try not to judge me.
I’ve learnt to accept my ‘Roman’ nose and my big thighs and my knee fat. I’ve learnt to be ok my very sensitive skin that breaks out into a god-awful heat rash whenever we go on holiday. I wouldn’t say I love these features individually, quite the contrary, but I refuse to let these hang-ups of mine dictate my life, because if they did, it would most certainly impact on my children.
Mr T didn’t have to learn to love all this imperfection of mine. He thinks they’re all perfect.
I’m in control of my self-esteem now. I’m not consumed by what I look like anywhere near as much as I used to be. I don’t compare myself with others anymore. I’m me. I’m unique. I’m perfectly imperfect.
I’m healthier, happier, heavier, older, wiser, with cellulite and scars and my tits are like a couple of wet tea bags, but I’ve got two beautiful children and an amazing husband who prefers my little teabags to those God-awful blown-up bags of silicone.
Most importantly, I’m alive.
I hope those 20 somethings that are gracing our social media and TV screens see the light and realise that there is so much more to life than what they look like. I hope they don’t end up slicing up their bodies at 40, in front of their Children, like others have chosen to do.
I hope that my little Ferne grows up with grace and dignity, and the confidence to be just who she is supposed to be and the courage to love herself wholeheartedly. I pray that she is kind and caring to everyone around her, and accepts and embraces everyone else’s flaws like she will her own. (Christ – I sound like one those bloody flying fairies casting my wish on Sleeping Beauty!).
Find out more about Mental Health Awareness Week and the support on offer here: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week
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I’m a primary school teacher and I’m a mum to a beautiful, bright and bubbly six-year-old. I witness the ups and downs of wellbeing in children every day. Every parent faces the same dilemma – how to ensure the wellbeing of our children – particularly from a mental health perspective in a world that is more pressured than ever in more ways than one.
A year to the day and myself, my husband and our two children were midway through our 10th Wedding Anniversary trip of a lifetime to Sri Lanka and now this incredibly beautiful and captivating little country is in mourning.
Emma Stirk is a Business Success Coach and Legal strategist for small businesses, she left her corporate career as a high flying solicitor to set up her own business and has never looked back! Emma is passionate about empowering women to identify their purpose and goals, plan and strategise their next career or business move and create a positive, strong and confident mindset with high performance strategies to increase productivity and efficiency so you can work less, achieve more, and make burnout and overwhelm a thing of the past!
Jo Swann has 15 solid years of experience in Public Relations and runs award-winning Leeds-based PR Company – Chocolate PR after working in media, marketing and PR agencies. She has worked with companies of all sizes including the likes of Whistles, NSPCC, Marriot Hotels, Yo! Sushi to name just a few and won many awards along the way but her mission now is to help small businesses, and particularly female entrepreneurs harness the power of PR.