I feel the need to share my story. What led me to this path and why I am now so passionate.
I have touched on it briefly, but I believe that if this is a place people come to gain a bit of inspiration for a better way of living, then they should know how and why I got here.
This is me in my late teens, and again after the birth of my daughter.
Self-love and confidence have always been a struggle for me. I never felt good enough. I was always too fat. I was always saying stupid things. I have no idea why I used to feel like this. I grew up in a loving and supporting home. And my parents are two of the most generous, loving and kind people I know. Yet I felt so uncomfortable in my skin.
I was always the chubby one. The “fat friend” to all the beautiful girls. The one that groups of boys dared one of them to kiss because it was apparently funny to kiss the fat girl. I can’t tell you what it does to the self-esteem of a girl who desperately wants male attention to think they are interested and then have them sneer and laugh at you.
I always wanted to look like someone else. Or be someone else. Someone I thought was prettier/thinner. Anyone but me. I used to think that if I was skinny, then I would be happy and that boys would notice me and I’d then get a boyfriend. Because for me back then, self-worth came from the knowledge that a boy had noticed me. I craved the attention of boys. It was my focus. A good night out wasn’t a good night out unless a boy had paid attention to me. I did stupid things to get them to notice me. Really stupid things. And I did even stupider things to hold on to them. I went through bad relationships. Destructive relationships. I had no idea who I was.
During school I was bulimic. A group of friends and I thought it was cool to binge on chocolate cake and donuts and then throw it up. “The two buck chuck” we called it. I can’t believe what utterly destructive and damaging behaviour it was. Throwing up after a meal became a bit of a game. And then when that didn’t work, I abused laxatives. I would binge and purge. Binge and purge. My weight went up and down like a yo-yo.
I remember one time when my Mum heard me vomiting in the shower after dinner. And she confronted me about it. I was still in school then. I thought I was so sly and clever, but she knew all along. As all mothers do. It breaks my heart to think of what this did to her. To both my parents. Watch their daughter go down that path and try to help her but have it thrown back in your face. I never want to witness that as a parent. And I am eternally grateful that through it all – through the lies and the deceit, they never stopped loving me.
In 2008 I met my husband. And he opened up my heart and made me see what true love is really about. He loves me. Like proper soul shattering love. He didn’t care what I looked like. He loved me for the person he knew I was inside. The person I was still trying to find. The day I got together with my husband is the day my bulimia stopped. And thankfully, it has stayed away.
But even though I had the love of an amazing man, I still didn’t love myself. Not even slightly.
When I became pregnant with our daughter, my weight ballooned. Unhealthily so. And while it was a magical time, there was still so much self-loathing there. I would look at my body and rather than marvel that I was growing another human, I would pick and pick at the bits I hated. And after our daughter’s birth and the rage of hormones that followed, my self-esteem was at an all time low. I was big, heavy, unhealthy and miserable. But this time I was on a mission. We had our wedding ahead of us, so I had to lose the weight. I had to. There was no other choice. So I researched my big behind off (quite literally really).
I discovered a whole new world of nutrition. I learnt what it was to eat well and I started discovering superfoods. I loved reading about the world of healthy eating. I went to bootcamp 4 times a week. I worked hard. And it paid off. But it came from a completely superficial place. And even though I did feel incredibly beautiful on my wedding day, I still didn’t love myself.
Then I got pregnant with my son. And while this time I ate healthily for the majority of the pregnancy, after he was born I still felt so disgusting in my own skin. I was exercising and eating well and I dropped a bit of the weight quickly, but healthily. But I still couldn’t see any beauty inside myself.
One day, a few months ago, I looked in the mirror. I mean REALLY looked. And then I sat on the bed and looked deep inside myself. What was holding me back from really loving who I was? I have a man who is completely devoted to me. I have two beautiful children who think I’m the best thing since Peppa Pig. Why couldn’t I see it? Why did I keep talking to myself like I was my own worst enemy? Feeling like this had been holding me back my entire life. It had to stop.
I decided then to make changes. Subtle changes. But for me, with those subtle changes became a huge shift. I started reading these beautifully inspiring blogs written by self-loving, confident women. I wanted to have that confidence. So I changed the way I spoke to myself. I started using affirmations and I let go of a lot of negativity that had been holding me back.
I wanted to fill my life with goodness. So it was out with the crappy food. It was out with the diet coke. Out with the processed junk. Out with the gluten. It was out with toxic, negative friendships. I only wanted to (and still do) surround myself with people who I walk away from feeling uplifted and positive. I can’t take on other people’s negativity. It’s not part of my story anymore.
Now I eat well not because I want to lose weight but because it makes me feel good. I know enough about calorie intake to know that I could have a one-off McDonald’s meal and I won’t put on any weight – but I don’t. Not because I’m afraid of the calories, but because it makes me feel like utter shit afterwards. And that is when the penny dropped. I realised, that I now do really love myself. I love myself enough to feed myself food that makes me feel good. I love myself enough to really listen to the messages my body sends me. I love myself enough to not put myself in situations that don’t nourish me.
And I swear, as soon as I properly started making an effort to love myself – so many incredibly beautiful and inspiring things have happened to me. I’ve found my way, and all the negative thoughts, experiences and people that I had to get rid of, have made way for some seriously amazing thoughts, experiences and people.
The irony of it all is that when I started to love myself, I lost weight without even trying.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I didn’t wake up one morning, suddenly love myself and then it’s been a dance amongst the roses everyday since. It’s a daily practice. And I often hear that voice in my head that wants to say something mean. But I don’t listen to it. And when I hear it, I say something positive to myself instead. It’s something I have to work on every single day.
I want to work on it every single day. I do it for my Mum, in the hope I can repay her for all those years of worry. I do it for my children, because I want to be the healthiest, most positive influence I can be. I do it for my husband, because it makes me a better wife. But most importantly, I do it because once you start feeling like this, it’s the best kind of drug there is. I’m a better person for being kind to myself.
This is me today. Right now, sitting at my desk (green smoothie in hand), so happy to be me.
From what I’ve experienced, I know this – no person or experience or possession can give you self-validation. These things don’t make you truly happy. You can’t have complete happiness until you truly and completely love and accept yourself. Warts and all. The beauty is, that with loving yourself, comes contentment, confidence, strength, grace and so much more. A whole new world opens up.
Who I was then, and who I am now are poles apart. But I am grateful for that girl, that time and the lessons I had to learn. They all brought me here. Where I am supposed to be.
If I can do it, then you certainly can too. It takes courage, but you can do it. And how do I know you can do it? Because you deserve it. You deserve to be happy and healthy. You deserve to be treated with love and respect. You deserve to shine.