#PrettyHealthyProject: I am Ashamed

My house has too many mirrors. 

There’s one in my bedroom; two by my wardrobe; two in the bathroom. Even the windows when it is dark outside, hold the same image as the mirrors do. This house is awash with reflections of myself, and I am ashamed.

 

I am ashamed

 

I wrote those lines last Wednesday, after a body-image crisis which took up my entire evening. It had taken a while, but I finally settled on the right word, the word which has evaded me for months, the word which describes how I actually feel. It’s been disguised as disgusting, as scared, as jealous. The word is ashamed.

On Wednesday I was ashamed of my body. I was ashamed of what it looked like and of how it felt. I was ashamed of myself for making the wrong choices, for not working for what I want.

Today, though, things are different – but I’m still ashamed.

I’m ashamed of how I treat my body; of how I think about it. I’m ashamed that I let my insecurities define me. In fact, I’m ashamed that I feel insecure in my body at all. I’m ashamed that how I feel about my body shapes how I feel about my whole self. I’m ashamed that I subconsciously buy into society’s concept that fatter bodies are lesser bodies, and fatter people are lesser people.

Thinking about my body in this way means that I am part of the problem. I am a functioning part of this society which actively shames bodies with more fat, because a fat body is associated with character and personality treats deemed negative. A fat body means a lazy person, a thick person, a scrounger. A fat person is not associated with hard work, or cleverness, or a busy social life. It pains me that we are taught to make such negative snap judgements based on a person’s looks, and that such judgements can be disguised as concern for a person’s health or wellbeing.

I don’t want to be part of the problem; I want to be part of the growing community which says no to all body-shaming, and therefore part of the solution. But in order to achieve this healthier mindset about all bodies, I think I need to start with my own.
 

“There is nothing wrong with my body”

 
Behold my new mantra. I have no legitimate reason to dislike or feel bad about my body. My body can do everything I could possibly need it to – it can walk, run, dance, lift weights, ride horses, make music and more. It works perfectly, and it’s pretty amazing. The first step is recognising and accepting this as fact.
 

It’s okay to want to change your body – for the right reasons

 
Having accepted my body as brilliant just as it is, I’ll then be able to work more on actively feeling happier in my skin. Although my body is great, there are still things I would like to change, but not so I can wear a bikini or post a picture of myself online because I can already do those things, and so can anyone else. Instead, I want to become fitter and stronger, because I know that doing so will help me to feel more confident both in my physical appearance but in my mental perception of myself.
 

Time to build each other up

 
We still have a long way to go on the road to body positivity, but things are improving. Many online communities are committed to helping people to feel good about their bodies, but it needs to happen ‘on the ground’ too. One of the best things we can do for one another is provide support and encouragement of others’ individual choices, whether that be losing weight, building muscle in the gym, getting cosmetic surgery or changing absolutely nothing at all about their appearance – so long as they are making those choices for the right reasons.

Changing how you look can have a positive effect on someone’s self-identity and confidence, but in other cases it can have little to no impact because the problem is more than skin-deep. Before we make any changes to ourselves, we need to be sure that we will be making a positive difference to our lives, and that means starting with a healthy mindset and supportive base – and each of us can help create that for those around us.

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I’ll be back to doing these posts fortnightly from now on, and in each one I’d like to highlight a few blogposts which are relevant and useful for the week’s theme. So, here are three great posts on body positivity:

  1. Back in January Tara at Cattitude & Co gave us some straight-talk on why we should all love our bodies
  2. Megan at bodyposipanda offers five fantastic tips for body positive fitness (it’s now bookmarked on my laptop to refer back to!)
  3. A bonus here, because Elena the Mermaid has two brilliant pieces on this topic: Spots, Stretchmarks and Wobbly Bits: Why I don’t Photoshop feat. “the Worm” and Cruel to be Cruel: Body Police are Horrible, a powerful response to painful words.

Finally, the #PrettyHealthyProject is at its heart a personal challenge I’ve set myself, so at the end of each post I’ll outline what I’ll be focusing on during the next fortnight to set me up better for a pretty healthy lifestyle. I’ve got a list of things I need to improve on, such as exercising consistently, sticking to routines and being more body-positive, and although they’re all in the back of my head each week I’ll choose just one to really focus on.

I’m hoping that by working specifically on one each week I’ll be able settle into new habits a little easier rather than trying to make lots of changes all at once; what I’m not allowed to do is forget about all the others while I pick one to focus on!

This week my main focus is drinking more water. I’m not setting a specific amount to drink each day, but I’m trying to ensure I drink a glass before and after each meal, and take lots of sips throughout the day to keep hydrated as much as I can.

Next week I’ll be working on making more positive food choices. I’ve come to the conclusion that being more healthy is all about choice and all too often I take the unhealthy option, such as having a handful of biscuits as a mid-afternoon snack rather than choosing some fruit. I’m doing my health no favours when I make decisions like this, so from Monday I’ll make a concentrated effort to step back from each food-related choice I make and ensure I’m picking the right option.

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How positive do you feel about your body? What are your main health focuses at the moment? Let me know in the comments below, and feel free to join in with the project on Instagram and Twitter using the hashtag #PrettyHealthyProject!

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7 Comments

  1. 19/07/2016 / 5:17 pm

    Hey Lucy!
    I just came across your blog, its interesting every time I read a post I am forced to re-evaluate myself. I love the topics you write about especially this one.

    In this day & age we are surrounded by society’s definition of “beautiful”. What I have learned over the years is that you need to start re-defining beautiful for yourself. This is definitely a post I will be coming back to. I wrote something similar to this a few weeks ago, it is called

    Comparison Is the Thief Of Joy.

    http://herdaringthoughts.blogspot.com/2016/07/comparison-is-thief-of-joy.html

    I wrote about how we pay so much attention to the things we don’t like about our body, sometimes we forget about the things we do like. As well as Personality because that is a big part of being genuinely “beautiful”. Tell me what you think of it! 🙂

    Keep up your blog, I love it

    • Lucy Furneaux
      19/07/2016 / 9:25 pm

      Hi Nikki!

      Thanks so much for having a look at my blog and taking the time to comment. What a generous response – thank you. I’m glad that what I write can have some kind of impact!

      I love what you say about re-defining beauty for ourselves; that’s so important, and yet so hard to do! I absolutely love your piece and it’s so true. We spend so much time comparing ourselves to other people that we don’t pay enough attention to who we really are and respecting & loving ourselves.

      Personality is such a huge part of it too, like you say – who we are is so much more important and makes a way bigger difference to how people see us than what we look like. And I also totally believe that if we make an effort to be kinder to others it can massively affect how kindly we treat and think about ourselves.

      Thanks so much again for reading and commenting – I hope life is sunny where you are!

      Lx

  2. 08/07/2016 / 9:17 am

    Wow, this was such an inspiring post! I’m so glad you managed to turn your view of your body around and are taking the time to spread a bit of positivity! I think we could all benefit from loving our bodies a little more, as I have definitely been where you were and looked in the mirror and felt ashamed, and no one should have to feel like that.
    Awesome post! 🙂

    • Lucy Furneaux
      10/07/2016 / 5:06 pm

      Hi Laura – thank you so much! That is the ultimate goal with this series. The act of working out what I feel bad about and turning it on its head so it becomes something positive for me and, hopefully, others, has already made such a difference to my own mindset. I hope it can do the same for somebody else, too!

      I definitely agree. I read a post a few days ago which said that we should “love our bodies enough to want to improve them” and I think that’s a much more positive mindset towards exercise and healthy eating than many people have. So often the will to change our bodies comes out of hatred for them, when really it should be an act of love and respect for them!

      I hope life is sunny where you are!

      Lx

  3. 07/07/2016 / 10:40 am

    This resonated with me so much. I’ve been struggling with body image issues off and on for the past five years. I think what really gets to me is the fact that I’m body positive about everyone else’s body, except my own. For me I think it boils down to not being able to accept that my body has changed as I’ve gotten older. I think it’s really easy to think you’ve not internalised all the stigma around female bodies, until you look closely at your attitudes towards your own body.

    I think it’s important however to remember that, whilst it’s good to be body positive, you shouldn’t beat yourself up if you can’t manage it all the time. I wrote a post ages ago (http://petticoatsandpatriarchy.com/on-hating-your-body/) about why it’s okay to hate your body – but to cut a long ramble short I think it’s important to remember that it’s okay if you can’t always love your body, because your body isn’t the most important part of you.

    I really love the idea of this project though, and I think focussing on one thing at a time is definitely the best way to go. It’s so easy to decide to make a lifestyle change in whatever way, and want to jump into it full speed ahead. It’s better to take it slowly and really solidfy new habits into your life so that they stick.

    • Lucy Furneaux
      10/07/2016 / 5:13 pm

      Hi Liv! Thanks so much for your comment. You are so right – there are so many times where I’ve felt like the biggest hypocrite ever for being majorly body-positive about and towards everyone else, and not managing to do the same for myself. But it’s a lot harder when it comes to our own bodies! That’s really interesting, for you it’s about the development of your body over time – my body-hangups started when I was about six years old and have just never left, for whatever reason. And I totally agree about how we internalise all of these attitudes totally subconsciously. Once we know about it though – once we’re conscious of those attitudes – we can start to consciously correct them and shift that mindset.

      I think I’ve read your post but I’m going to go back and have another look because I think you’re so, so right, especially when you say ‘your body isn’t the most important part of you.’ That’s something I find it so hard to remember – even if I’m feeling really good about an accomplishment, it’s so easy for my body to come back to the forefront of my mind!

      Thanks so much – that’s the plan at least! I like it because there’s no end goal, so technically I can’t fail – it’s just about steady improvement and making better choices!

      Lx

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