Whether you know me IRL or not, you’re bound to have an opinion of me and it’s likely to be a strong one. I’m known for being outspoken and having a love of quirky fashion, but otherwise I play my cards pretty close to my chest. What you might not know is that I’m pretty lacking in the body confidence department, sure, you might look at me and think that I’m not an obvious candidate for low body confidence, I’m not big and I’m not small, but I’m far from perfect or even where I’d like to be.
I’ve felt like this to some degree for my whole life and veered between two main eating disorders before discovering a love of exercise and joining the clean eating movement which looking back, probably exacerbated my orthorexia but hey, I was happy. The happiest I’ve ever been in fact. I had a strict regime that I loved and it kept me sane, I was boxing and fighting within my weight division at a fighting weight of between 64kg and 67kg and maintained this lifestyle pretty happily. If you’re waiting for me to tell you I spiralled into something the you’ll be disappointed, that’s not what happened. This time in my life is when things were good, I felt happier with my body than I have in a while and although I had my issues, they were in check to a degree and my body was strong.
After my last fight I dislocated my shoulder, not something that’s uncommon for a hypermobile person, the problem was that it was reset on-site by non medical professionals and that caused a problem with ligaments, tendons and connective tissue as well as with the joint itself. So began months and months of rehab, cortisone injections, physio and a massive pause on my boxing career until we knew exactly how much this injury could impact my ability to fight or even just do regular stuff. I was ordered out of the gym until scans, MRIs etc had been done and a second opinion from an expert was sought. This expert told me I’d never fight again, not only that but I’d never box again, my shoulder and wrist had weakened as a result of the damage and the risk of surgery far outweighed the benefit. I still believe I’ll defy this expert and regain the control I once had, but that’s a whole other story.
During my health MOT I was also told that a trapped nerve in both my neck and lumbar spine and a torn but ill repaired hamstring would further impact my recovery. To speed up the story, 18 months passed and I got fat and depressed. I lost the muscle tone that I worked so hard for, the control over my hypermobile joints and the little bit of body confidence I had in my strong body.
Today I’m around 30lbs heavier than what I would consider my ‘best’, I’m a whole lot weaker and a lot less confident. I don’t like the way clothes look on me and I whinge about it non stop behind closed doors. See success breeds success, when you feel good you’re more willing to work to maintain it. The gruelling schedule I had at my gym, with my trainer and at The Barre were good for me, they made me infinitely happy at the time. When all that went away due to injury, I felt bitter and ultimately was the architect of my own destruction, sabotaging anything I’d previously achieved and slipping back into a cycle of bingeing and then starving myself. Age, injury and a self destructive attitude are a dangerous mix.
Over that 18 month period I had six surgical procedures, not all of them related to this particular raft of injuries but each of them requiring anaesthetic, recovery and rehabilitation and every single one of them a pain in my ass. I got chatting to a Blogger who specialises in body confidence and really loved her posts on how every single body is ok. See now here in lies my problem, I support the body confidence movement, I see people out there doing stuff and championing the cause and I think its amazing, but I’m a little different because my body isn’t ok, it’s failing me. At least that’s the way I feel.
Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Ehlers Danlos Syndrome are all invisible illnesses that cause chronic widespread pain and fatigue and I am the not proud owner of all three. It makes me furious that one day I can do something and the next day I can’t. That I can run out of energy just climbing the stairs, worst of all is that it’s become a dirty secret, pushed further and further underground because people doubt you when you have an invisible illness, they see you moving and think ‘nah’.
So, when I joined the Free to Be Ok movement, I wasn’t the typical candidate. I read up on the project and loved the images they post daily to their Instagram account and the massage is simple, everybody is entitled to feel good about themselves no matter what. If you like your body and it’s not what society deems as perfect, so what? If you don’t like your body, that’s ok too but you’re most definitely free to be ok with you. Now as you now know, I’m not ok with me, but I’m with the movement and when I took my Summer vacation this year I set myself a challenge which would push me out of my comfort zone.
I decided that I’d create and post images of myself in ways that I wouldn’t normally, in order to force myself to see my body. You’ve read about my breast surgery and so that was one area I thought I’d focus on as it’s one I never show, you may or may not have noticed that I only wear t-shirts or high necked tops and never expose my chest. Another was my ass. This is one part of my body I’m very uncomfortable with, when I was training every day I’d travel to and from the gym with something tied around my waist to hide it. So with tits and ass, the industry faves high on my agenda, I set about creating some images that I could use to maybe feign some body confidence in the hope that seeing it would make me believe it, and to maybe inspire others to realise that being you is ok and was interested to see what the reaction might be.
Incidentally given the rise of social media, nobody reacted differently than they would to my regular type of social media post. It seems to be the norm to post this type of shot, particularly during a vacation and it turns out that it’s actually me just being a dick about it. Showing my body in this way made me nervous and I wanted to delete the posts many times but held strong on it. Why is a big deal? I don’t know, but it is.
I had mixed feelings about my self assigned project. Seeing it just made me self critical and yearn for what I used to have but I also realised that other people were looking at me and wishing they had what I have now. I guess you could say that I learned that the statement The grass is always greener….. is true for everyone and not just me and we can all take some comfort in not being the only ones to wish for something that isn’t ours.. So what’s next? I don’t know, maybe a little light gym work and more self love, it’s a tough one because wanting body confidence doesn’t mean you get it but hey, I’m working on it and that’s the best anyone can ask for right?