Friday, 10 January 2014

Why Is Self-Esteem So Connected With Body Image?

I had a phone call from a lovely lady at Woman's Hour this week asking if I'd like to contribute to Monday's show on self-esteem and physical appearance. Unfortunately I'm attending the funeral of a close family friend on Monday morning, but I emailed her my thoughts on the subject and I'm reproducing them here.

I think that for a lot of women our self-esteem is hugely influenced by our appearance because we’re constantly told that it’s the most important thing about us. We get bombarded with messages every day that tell us that it doesn't matter how intelligent we are, or how funny we are, or how much time we spend looking after orphaned puppies; none of that matters unless we fit our society’s standards of attractiveness.

We see it in news reports where female politicians are ridiculed for their dress sense, or where the contents of their speeches are ignored in favour of what colour shoes they’re wearing. We see it in sport where female athletes are criticised for not being attractive enough instead of being praised for their athletic ability.

I personally don’t meet the standards of attractiveness that society has set. My self-esteem is very dependent on how I feel about my body for the simple reason that people don’t shout abuse at me on the street because I don’t like The Lord of the Rings, or because I don’t do the washing up as often as I should; they shout abuse at me because I’m fat. I’m always aware of my body and my appearance because people don’t let me forget it.

I've tried to lose weight my entire life and it hasn't worked, so instead of changing my body I’m working on changing my mind. Every time I look in a mirror I compliment myself, I don’t criticise the appearance or clothes of other people, and I’ve started to dress in clothes I like instead of clothes that hide me. Since I started thinking like this my health (mentally and physically) has improved beyond belief.

I still do things like dye my hair and wear make-up but now I do it for the fun of it, not to make myself look younger or thinner. My body is intrinsic to my sense of who I am, and the only person who gets to dictate what I look like is me.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Getting back to blogging

Yeah, I know, it's been four months since I last blogged on here. I'm a bad blogger, and you have my heartfelt apologies (all two or three of you).

I do however have a good excuse. It's because I've actually been doing things. Like, real things involving going out and everything! I know, I'm as shocked as you are. In my last post I mentioned that I was dealing with an organisation called Enabling Independence, but I've now been discharged from that service (and I'm missing the lovely Molly dreadfully!) because they felt I was doing so well. I'm now a lead volunteer at my local library, and I'm in charge of the library at Jack's school (on a volunteer basis, but believe me, I'd love to do this as a paid job). Oh, and I'm also thinking about being able to go back to work! That's been the biggest change, that I can think about working and not feel my heart racing and my lungs clamp shut from fear. Unfortunately what I'd love to do is work in a library, but I'm sure no-one needs reminding about the state of library funding these days. I'm not quite there yet, but I'm a lot closer than I was six months ago.

Somewhere I seem to have picked up some self-esteem too. I've looked in the mirror a couple of times lately and thought "Wow, I look really cute today.". It's a major difference for me. A couple of months ago I couldn't even accept a compliment without thinking that the complimenter was lying, and now I'm actually complimenting myself. When it happens I just want to cry with gratitude. I'm planning on writing a separate post about self image and body positivity though, so I'll expand on this a bit more there.

I have still had the odd bad day, it isn't all sunshine and kittens, especially now that it's October and bloody miserable (seriously, I'm starting to forget that the world has a colour other than grey). So while I am still having bad days they are far fewer in number and intensity, and I'm able to deal with them a lot better thanks to the CBT. When I do have bad days I make an effort to not beat myself up about it too much. I was feeling pretty crappy a couple of days ago so I posted a list I wrote of things to remember when I feel depressed.

I promise I'll try and blog a bit more regularly from now on!

Monday, 17 June 2013

Getting Better

Back in March I wrote a post about anxiety and seeing a new psychiatrist, and I wasn't particularly charitable about the psychiatrist. I was annoyed and scared that he was trying to get me to do stuff and I didn't want to do it.

It's now three months later, and I owe him an apology; for the first time in at least 8 years I feel hopeful that I'm going to recover. He referred me to a service called Enabling Independence and I was terrified that they were going to try to make me jump straight into looking for a job or something, but of course they didn't. I'm seeing a lovely woman called Molly every two weeks, and in the couple of months we've been meeting I've started to think about what I want to do with my future, something that seemed like a ridiculous thing to do back in March, and I've started volunteering at my local library for a couple of hours every two weeks, something that felt impossible not very long ago. I've started an online CBT course with a therapist as well which I'm also finding incredibly helpful.

It might be the medication, it might just be the right time for this, but something has changed. I feel more able to do these things than I did a couple of months ago. I know I've got a long way to go yet, and I'm bound to have set-backs, but I'm so thankful that things have started to improve.