Lent and my Lenten experiment – abstaining from negative thoughts about my body, appearance and achievements for 40 days – officially came to an end on Easter Sunday. Unlike giving up chocolate, bread or crisps for Lent, however, this doesn’t end here. What I’ve learned from this blog and this experiment is that self-acceptance, self-love, self-care and gratitude do not come naturally to someone with a long history of self-criticism, self-harm, self-neglect and negative thinking. What is required is a gentle, daily effort to be kind to myself, to try to practice gratitude at all times and in all circumstances and to love and appreciate myself, just as I am. I have to say, though, that I’m proud of myself for starting this blog, for writing on it almost every day and for my diligence and commitment in putting together some pretty decent posts – if I do say so myself!
One great by-product of this blog that I hadn’t really anticipated is the community I’ve found. I have connected with so many amazing individuals and organisations that are championing body confidence and self-love and challenging the thought processes and the industries that feed low self-esteem and self-hate. This blog has also given me confidence in my own creativity, my writing and the value of my experience – it’s a tentative confidence but a confidence all the same. For all of the above, I’m deeply grateful. And I’m equally grateful to all those who’ve read this blog, commented on it, connected with me or supported this endeavour. I hope you learned something too or found a little more freedom from whatever you’re struggling with. And let’s face it, we all struggle with something!
But since the journey continues, so does my writing. ‘From Forty With Love’ is the next step in my blogging journey. I’ve used that title once before – on my 40th birthday post. Very soon, it’ll be the name of a new website and I hope to be able to move my registered readers over there with the help of technology – and a technologically minded person! – or that you’ll want to come and join me there anyway. ‘Just As I Am’ documented the first 40 days (or 46 days if you count the Sundays through Lent) of my self-acceptance journey and it was fitting that I turned 40 during that period. But I know this year is going to be one of great transition, much learning, some changing and more and more freedom around the things that have held me back in the past and I’d really like to share my progress. I’d also really like to share the thoughts and stories of other women of a similar age. So ‘From Forty With Love’ will be a space for sharing experiences around some of the issues that are peculiar to this time in our lives – anything from career change to fertility to exercise to spirituality to relationships. Hopefully we’ll learn from each other and the site will be a space where other women can go to for hope, inspiration, knowledge or a good old giggle. So more about that very soon.
It’s interesting, however, that to get this site up and running I have to challenge some of those very things I’ve been blogging about over the past 40 days and that I hope to write about in the future – the very things that have often held me back from taking a leap of faith. Not so much the body image stuff but the low self-esteem, the perfectionism, the fear of making a decision and making a mistake and the procrastination. To get over my fear and my procrastination, I’ve been checking out the words of best-selling author, entrepreneur and motivational speaker Seth Godin. Is watching videos on YouTube procrastinating?! Anyway, if you’ve never come across him, check out this short video in which he describes his theory about the ‘lizard brain’ – the source of our angst, fear, limited thinking and inability to ‘ship’ or complete a project.
And for a much more amusing take on Seth Godin’s theories, check out this cartoon video.
Whichever video you prefer, the message is pretty much the same: get on and do it.
But before I do (I’d put a smiley face here if I didn’t think it looked unprofessional), a word about maintenance. Why is maintenance so hard? Am I alone in finding maintenance hard? Is this a female thing or do men also struggle with maintenance? I’m talking about maintaining anything from our physical body to our car. So on Monday morning I washed my scooter and checked and topped up its oil. It hadn’t been washed for about 2 years, maybe more, and I usually leave the oil check to the mechanic at the time of its annual service. Now, scooters don’t use much oil so I’m not being overly reckless but I had been scootering around for a good six months wondering if I needed to top up the oil, living with a little bit of anxiety, living very slightly on the edge. And how good did I feel once I’d given it a good clean and checked the oil? It felt really good. I felt like a grown-up, like a responsible person who looks after her belongings. I even added a touch of oil to my bicycle chain although I ran out of time so couldn’t clean the bike properly. Still, the chain no longer squeaks so that’s also a result.
The episode made me ponder how difficult I find maintenance, and that includes my physical body. I’ve always been good at the exercises that might give me an adrenalin high or lose lots of calories, but when it comes to the slow, methodical ankle or Pilates exercises that are essential to strengthen my joints and muscles, that’s where I fall down. I know I’ve mentioned this before but I think it’s worth mentioning again.
Now, in the spirit of this blog, I can accept where I am today. I can accept that, until now, I’ve never been very good at maintenance or at doing anything slow and gradual that doesn’t give instant results. But I can also take steps to change. I’m learning that maintenance is good – for the scooter, the body and the soul. Now I smile every time I look at my scooter instead of groaning at the grime. And I can ride it in the knowledge that the oil is topped up and I’ve taken care of it. Taking care of ourselves feels really good. I guess it’s just about getting into the habit of doing it more often.