REAL STORIES | Our Perfect Imperfections
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.
BARING OUR BITS FOR MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS WEEK
Well you can imagine the response when I messaged the Blog Squad last week ahead of Mental Health Awareness Week 2019 this week and told them that I wanted each of them to jump right out of their self-loving comfort zone and send me an image of a body part that they aren’t entirely comfortable showing off for their own reasons. Or a part of their body that has been critiqued by others, or, just as Vicky has below, an image to show just how incredible the female body actually is.
Just look at these amazingly strong and brave women – in support of Mental Health Awareness Week 2019 – proving just how incredible the human body is, and putting their own self-criticizing demons to one side in favour of some self-loving body positivity. Proving that we are all beautiful, even with our perfect little imperfections.
Vicky – 35
It still amazes me that my body created and carried two healthy (6lb10 and 6lb14) babies at once all the way to 37 weeks. Physically and mentally exhausting, my tummy was stretched to its absolute max. Throw in two c-sections and severe muscle separation with the twins, it’s safe to say my stomach has taken a fair battering over the last four years.
Amy – 35
I have never been confident with most aspects of my body and have had issues with many bits over my 35 years. One part of my body I love to hate is my giant calves.
They measure 43cm in diameter and have my petite (a word that cannot be used to describe any other part of my body) feet stuck on the end of them both. A massage therapist once said to me “my, haven’t you got little feet….. you know in comparison to the rest of you”. This has obviously resonated with me but do you know what? My beasty calves have walked me down the aisle to marry my Wonderful Mr G. They have walked me behind my beautiful mum’s coffin at her funeral. Carried me through a 15 hour night shift from hell and regularly take me up to the top of big hills to make my mind happy. They carry me around every day. They are there for me. I am not in a wheel chair, I have two healthy, scarred, rather large legs that sport cellulite but they are healthy legs. They get me where I need to be every day. So thank you super-sized calves for the job you do every day in supporting me. I am happy with them. Me and the bespoke boot makers.
Sarah – 43
As daughter number 1 was taking this picture, my son walked past and told me I was “One Strong Woman!” I nearly slide tackled him to the floor! I remember my mother telling me when I was about 10 that I would end up with “horse-riders’ thighs” and that I had ankles like my Granny. Perhaps it was comments like this that made me slightly insecure about my thighs.
Then the teenage cellulite didn’t help. Nor did the in-growing hairs. I remember hating my thighs as a teenager and being self-conscious about them in my twenties. Now, I have much more important things to worry about.
Last summer, we were on a family holiday in the south of France. I was putting sun cream on daughter #1 who was 9 at the time. She caught sight of herself in a long mirror and said, “I’ve got legs like you mummy,” as she prodded her beautiful thighs. “They go out at the back!”
I took a deep breath and tried not to feel too hurt, then explained to her that the “out at the back” bit was perhaps just my muscles because I do so much running. She wasn’t convinced and later that same week commented about how fat her legs looked when she sat down. “They spread out and look really big and ugly!” she said.
She is slim, athletic and I might be biased, but stunningly beautiful. The fact she is seeing something else when she looks in the mirror frightens me. So, I have forced myself to change. I need her to see me loving my strong thighs. My thighs that can squat weights and run marathons. My thighs that kept me safe on my horse for years. My thighs have helped me run from danger and dance with my friends. These strong thighs that supported my pregnant belly three times and never once let me down.
These thighs are not perfect, but they are my thighs and the only ones I will ever have, and they deserve my love.
Kirsty – 29
Baby bump, surgery scars and stretch marks! But proud of my tummy because it’s created two lives.
Emma – 31
How to get a bikini body:
- Put a bikini on your body.
I’m not sure what I’m most terrified about with the prospect of wearing this swimwear on holiday this summer. I can’t lie and say that pre ileostomy surgery I was prancing up and down sandy shores in a bikini without a care in the world. I wasn’t. I hate my legs and I’ve always had them, but faced with a new body hang-up courtesy of having a stoma bag stuck to me has made donning a two-piece even more daunting. But will anyone actually be looking at me and Winnie or will they be more preoccupied with their own body insecurities? The latter I expect. 6 years of getting used to her (Winnie the stoma) and gaining back some much-needed body confidence has given me the push to purchase and wear a bikini (so far only in the comfort of my own home!) So this year, this summer, this bikini – it’s happening. I hope.
Sarak K – 31
I was so happy in this photo, but I hate looking at it and avoid showing it to anyone.
Why? This sounds silly, but I’m really conscious of my jawline – of lack of. I used to be quite slim, so when I see photos like this I have to look away. All I see is a round face, a double chin and zero jawline. I also hate the large mole above my left eyebrow – it’s one of the reasons I have a fringe – to cover it up. I’ve looked into getting the mole removed and even considered having fillers to make my jawline more defined. I can get really self-conscious about these things and then I stupidly allow it to escalate into a full analysis of my body – comparing myself to other women with ‘perfect’, slim faces.
But, whilst I’m conscious of them, I don’t hate these flaws. I haven’t deleted this photo because of the important and simple fact that I’m happy here. I’m trying very hard to see my happy smile instead – the simple fact that my son and my husband don’t see a problem with this photo at all makes it all the more important to me.
As my body changes with age, my self-love has to adapt and change with it – and bit by bit it does. I’m learning to love my self a little more every day.
Lyndsey – 39
No make-up, big nose selfie! There’s not a chance in hell I’d have slapped this up on the World Wide Web 12 months ago.
I sit at my dressing table in my bedroom, scrutinizing my nose probably every day. I don’t have one of those petite little turned up pixie noses – it’s wide and bulbous, and one of my nostrils is bigger than the other. That’s what I see when I sit and stare at it anyway.
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. I never went ahead with it. Partly because I couldn’t afford it but also because I couldn’t stand the idea of having someone break my nose, file it down and stick rolled up bits of cotton wool up it. I was also worried that they would shave it down too much and I’d end up looking like one of Michael Jackson’s siblings.
I’ve learnt how to use make-up to even it out a little. And the older I get the more I realise it really ain’t all that bad. It’s my nose, it works, and it’s in proportion with the rest of my features, which, let’s face it, ain’t exactly petit either!
I have never been very body positive or confident and probably never will be, but after spending the first few days of this big group holiday in tears and turmoil over having to wear a swimsuit in front of our friends, I realised life is too short and I had to accept that’s how I looked otherwise I would have ruined the holiday for everyone.
My motto has always been ‘change what you can and accept what you can’t’ and on that holiday I was heavily pregnant for the third time in three years. As a rule, I DO NOT share photos of myself in a swimsuit, but I’m so glad I kept hold of this special photo – when I look back at it I no longer think ‘what a mess’ – I just remember that crazy, sleep-deprived, amazing time in my life, and remind myself that I have been wonderfully blessed – my amazing body carried my three beautiful sons – all within three years!
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.
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