Hello, my name is Annette and I’m happy.
I’m usually a pretty happy soul, but something about today has me feeling extra happy.
I did wake up with utterly awesome bed hair this morning. That started my day off with a chuckle. So much so that I did an impromptu photo shoot of my rockabilly quiff and recorded a silly little video which I posted on social media.
Can I tell you something?
I like myself. I truly enjoy the person I see in the mirror each morning.
More days than not, I’ll give myself a wink and a smile as I’m brushing my teeth.
I like my emotional smarts, my intelligence, my ability to make other people smile by engaging in a bit of silliness. I like my face. I like my choices. Most of all, I like liking myself, just as I am.
It’s so good to like yourself, and it seems that a lot of people struggle with this.
Perhaps, and I’m just reflecting on what I see, hear and think here, somewhere along the line, messages about liking ourselves have gotten entangled with liking our physical attributes.
So, to the physical – I have great boobs (particularly when they’re well supported!). I have shazamy blue eyes. I have a great laugh. I like my height, my hands and my short haircut. And I am overweight. Being overweight doesn’t make me like my eyes less or worse yet, hate myself. My knees would probably like me more if I weighed less, it’s true, but when I was a ‘normal’ sized teenager and young woman, I didn’t think more of my slimmer body. In fact, I didn’t really think of it at all. I never have.
I haven’t worked out if that’s a 1 in 100,000 anomaly or a deeper disconnected from the body thing – which is quite common in adoptees – but either way, this skin I’m in has never determined my happiness, or lack thereof.
I am not my body.
You are not your body either.
I’m willing to bet, sadly, that some of you reading this can pretty easily rattle off a litany of supposed faults you see in the mirror – you may not like your thighs, or your nose, or some aspect of your face… and I have to tell you, that breaks my heart.
Where did we, particularly as women, decide to measure ourselves in this way? Who tricked us into buying into the absolute power of this external measuring stick?
Why are we sometimes so viciously hard on ourselves?
And what is this teaching the girls in our lives?
I was out shopping with my sister and my niece, maybe a year or so ago, and Little Miss Five wanted to hang in the change rooms with me. I was fine with that, and as I took my tee off to try on some tops, she made a comment about my size – her mother and I have vastly different physiques – and I knew it was an opportunity to show her that I accepted myself and was not embarrassed for her to see me in my bra and jeans. I can’t remember what I said, something to the effect that we all come in different shapes, but I do remember thinking of that moment as a small victory. I didn’t push her out of the room or hide my ‘fat’ body from her. I didn’t feel ashamed of myself. I was hanging out with a little girl I adore. A girl I desperately hope will not fall victim to the incredibly narrow, judgemental messages young girls are bombarded with about beauty and self-worth.
Don’t worry though – I won’t be lighting up Instagram with any half dressed images of myself! I like myself, but I’m still vain. I’ll still crop a photo if I catch myself at an angle that highlights my chins, but I don’t hate myself because of them.
This may seem a strange path for a post that started out about happiness, but for me, the way that I like myself, and CELEBRATE myself, is a fundamental aspect of my happiness.
I have climbed out of some deep, deep places of feeling worthless and broken, of being convinced I was unloved and unloveable, but those places of pain were never about my weight or skin or freckles or thighs. I spent so many years in a head space that was anything but loving and accepting of the girl in the mirror. Years and years. I’m sad it took so long, but it did.
I have some long time friends who could tell you about the tears and anguish along the way. So many tears. So much doubt and anger and fear and rejection.
I had to go through the fire. It was an excruciatingly slow burn at times, but I made it.
What the long road away from those destructive places has taught me is that I’m the only me I’ve got. I’m responsible for my happiness, for the tone of my inner dialogue. I do have power over the inner critic, and I can, and have, learned how to shut that voice down. Does it still pipe up every now and then? Yep. Particularly when I’m learning new things or am out of my comfort zone, BUT I can talk myself off the ledge pretty quickly. I often speak to myself, kindly and logically, and recalibrate my expectations to a more reasonable scale.
Wherever you are at with what I’ve described as the furnace of coming into genuine self-acceptance, I want to tell you two things from the depth of my soul:
you can look at yourself in the mirror with love, and
coming to that place is an inside job.
LIKING YOURSELF IS AN INSIDE JOB.
The only detox we really need is from is the poison we allow ourselves to believe about the things that stand between us and “I like myself”.
There’s no magical quick fix formula, but I reckon a really good place to start is tonight when you’re brushing your teeth.
Hold your own gaze.
Hold it with compassion, and kindness. Hold it without critiquing what you see.
Do that again in the morning, and tomorrow night, and the next morning. Rinse and repeat. Rinse and repeat.
My deepest wish for you is that one day, you’ll give that girl in the mirror a wink and a smile.
I do, and when she smiles back… there’s nothing better.