Anxiety & My Body; Being Mid-Size in a world that sees only our sizes
‘in celebration’ sounds like the wrong phrase.
In ‘the same vein’ as mental health awareness month (that sounds a lot better), I did a previous blog post on my journey and my coping with anxiety. It’s an issue that I have dealt with for basically all of my teenage and adult life.
I now want to talk about my anxiety in relation to body positivity and self esteem, because this is one of the biggest ways that it has affected me.
I talked about it previously in my last post on anxiety, where I detailed how the anxiety affected my view of myself and how I though others viewed myself, but I want to go into it in a bit more detail, to raise awareness of these issues which plague a lot of people, and to share my story. And, most importantly, to let others who are feeling this way and hear these thoughts in their own head know they are not alone.
Being someone who has never been the skinniest person in the room, nor the fattest either, I've had a hard time being average. Everyone when you’re young and impressionable wants to be a model-like waif of a creature.
When you're younger, with the magazines and the websites telling you you have to be a certain size, you have to be skinny with big boobs and a big bum. But not too big, just a nice big, it’s hard to think of your body which, 90% of the time is not that shape, as anything other than wrong.
I've previously spoken about the media’s impact on people’s body image in another article about my journey with my weight.
But for me, my anxiety turned these thoughts that a lot of young people have into something so toxic.
It ruled my life for so many years. And, unfortunately, I still catch myself thinking about this in the same way.
My anxiety has never gone away and I don't think it ever will and that's something I'm okay with. I've learned to cope with it.
However, there are still times where I do catch myself thinking negative things and I have to reiterate to myself. No, Ci. What you think isn’t right. It's okay. You're okay. You're going to be okay.
If you’re me, or someone like me, out on the wild, Wild West of the internet every day, telling people to look at the things you’re wearing, using your own body as a model, it's a pretty tricky thing to do. Sharing your thoughts and ideas on the internet is pretty difficult too- I doubt myself all the time.
Initially, I was quite hesitant and quite adamant about it. I knew that I wanted everybody to love every body that they're in, regardless of size, ethnicity, nationality or disability.
But, I didn't quite know how to do it myself. It was a classic case of ‘Do as I say, not as I do.’
By putting my photos out there into the world, I know that I'm going to be judged, and I know that there's going to be people out there that aren't going to be the most positive towards it (let’s phrase it like that).
But I'm okay with that.
This is the real world. Not everybody's nice.
Especially, when you're trying to promote such a positive message.
Unfortunately, there are people out there that will try and go against this and try and refer to previous beauty standards that were once held by the wider public, as if the ideal woman's body was one body only.
We now know as a wider society that women's and men's bodies come in all shapes and sizes and each one of them is okay.
How this impacted me is that I thought I had to be this certain shape when I was younger.
And, unfortunately, one of the hardest things I had to cope with was the fact that me and my sister were three years apart, but we have completely different body types.
My body is a carbon copy of my mother's, body part for body part.
I'm the exact same same shape as her- the only difference being about a centimetre in height, whereas my sister took after my dad's side of the family, which my brother also has, which is to lean and athletic.
Growing up she was the more... let's just say aesthetically pleasing one.
And I had to deal with being the ‘not so pretty’ sister, as it were.
Most of the boys in my year fancied her as we got older and for me that was quite hard.
Now looking back on it, I realised that I was just extremely uncomfortable with the comparison.
Why could people not look at us differently as two different people? Why could people not see our unique attributes and personality traits that made us ‘us’ instead of comparing us just because we're the same flesh and blood?
Why could they not see that she was the football athlete and played on most school teams, whereas I preferred writing and creating art.
Furthermore, to me, the media played a big part in this.
Every book, magazine and TV show refers to women in this particular light of being sexy, but they can't realise that they're sexy and of being smart, but they don't know that they're smart.
There's a very particular type of woman that was portrayed, especially a few years ago when I was growing up, which was detrimental to young girls minds at the time, including my own.
But a lot has changed in the past couple of years regarding this.
I knew that I wasn't any of these things. I knew I was intelligent. I knew I was creative. I knew that I was different. I knew that I enjoyed different things to different people. I would rather spend my time drawing and painting and writing poetry and writing silly little books, as opposed to doing my makeup and getting my nails done and gossiping.
But this wasn't okay for some reason, which just made my anxiety worse and worse.
It was quite a hard thing to take in- to know that I was different. It was also quite hard to read one after another pages of a magazine telling you to love your body with a size 6 model telling you that and then, on the next page, giving you a detailed workout regime regime to get that perfect summer body.
(Newsflash, if you have a body, you have a summer body.)
The way this plagued on my anxiety was that it would create all these negative thoughts within myself.
I would always think I'm not good enough. I'm just not good enough. I'm not good enough to be good looking. I'm not good enough to be attractive. I'm not good enough to be skinny. (which led to a whole other disordered eating regime that ruled my life)
I'm not good enough to be worthy of love because I don't look the right way. I genuinely thought that for years- and the fact that I thought that makes me feel ill.
I'm not good enough to be funny or sexy.
And the anxiety would worm its way through my brain, making me believe this!
I would get this horrible feeling when I looked in Mirror- I would hate everything about me and it would just turn into this awful downward spiral of self hatred.
And I say hatred with such passion because it was real hatred. I really hated myself- the way I looked.
I hated myself for many reasons. For my curly hair. Why wasn't it poker straight and blonde?
Why did I have freckles and pale skin?
Why couldn't I be tanned?
Now I'm glad I have thick, curly hair- it’s a part of me that's instantly recognisable, and a part of the Irish in me. And, I love it so much. It's as wild as I am.
And the freckles, I've inherited from my granny who i idolised and I'm so happy for them.
And the pale skin... I just look after my skin. Factor 50 baby! Fake tan and foundation isn't really me.
The core attributes, the main ‘Me’ as it were, haven't changed much in my whole life actually.
I still like to read, I still like to paint and draw and create over gossiping, getting my nails done and doing makeup although there's nothing wrong with that if that's what you enjoy!
It’s just not me.
And that's what my anxiety has taught me.
That it's okay to be different to other people.
I used to have this horrible feeling inside myself because I felt different and thought I looked different. Because I’m not skinny and never have been. Where you get panic attacks because you're not a size eight, you're a size 12 which is actually a perfectly normal, healthy size to be. It has taught me that it's okay to be that way. It's okay to be different.
Because at the end of the day, everybody's different and that's what makes you. Your body is yours and that’s what makes it special.
Looking back on it, I don't think many people really cared as much as I cared.
I think the anxiety made it 10 times worse for me because, on the inside, I hated myself and I projected those feelings on to other people.
When you hate yourself, you think other people hate you too. I don't think they care that I was one dress size bigger than them when I was 16. Although, that's all I obsessed over. I know that the panic attacks that I had were in vain.
I realised that my body is mine. And that's what makes it so damn great- People find me attractive and sexy and that's bloody wonderful!
My mind is mine now too- it's not overrun with horrible feelings of self hatred and self doubt like it was for so many years.
I'm coping with it now.
The anxiety I felt about myself and about the way I looked inhibited in my relationships too. I didn't want to go out with people- I didn't want to go on dates, I didn't want to do normal things that normal teenagers and normal young adults do because I thought I didn't look the part. My anxiety in its warped and twisted way told me that I wasn't good enough.
As I said before, there's no easy journey into coping with the feelings that you're feeling and the thoughts that your anxiety is telling you. For some people, that might be medical, it might be therapy. For some, it might be the people around them. For me, I think it was growing up in some ways and realising the people do actually find me attractive and that my body isn’t repulsive.
I think it was overcoming the obsession I had over my weight and my body shape. And I think it was also coming into my own style, experimenting with a different phase every month- whether it was grunge or emo, or Lana Del Rey or Urban Outfitters or so many other silly phases. I went through them like I was trying on different personalities and I was trying on different clothing styles that suited me- eventually I found one that worked. And guess what? It isn't actually a specific style or subculture.
And that's why it works so well on me- because I've taken bits that I love from every subculture and every scene out there and I've made it into my own. So I’m dressing the way that I want, the way that I like- expressing myself.
And the way that it suits me has made me just that little bit more confident. It's given me enough confidence to go out into the world and say, ‘This is me’. And this is my outfit and my body and I love them, regardless of whether you do or not.
Dress- Mint Velvet
Jacket- Marks and Spencer