Anger can sometimes get a bad wrap but it has its uses. In fact, it was anger that got me blogging.
When I launched myself into the blogosphere some 18 months ago, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I just knew I had to do something.
I’d been attending some events around International Women’s Day, including the Endangered Species women’s summit on body image, and I was incensed. After listening to statistics on eating disorders and to stories of girls who were starving themselves to death, I was furious at the devastation negative body thoughts and self-harm had wrought on so many lives, mine included.
As I left the summit on London’s South Bank, it struck me that I’d spent most of my life obsessing about my looks and trying to do something to change them. I’d starved, binged, dieted, taken slimming pills and laxatives, exercised and exercised and exercised. I’d poked and prodded, tutted and moaned and frowned over and over again at my body, my hair and my skin. Nothing, absolutely nothing had escaped my scrutiny.
Yes, I’d had an eating disorder since my pre-teen years but even after finding some peace around food in my 30s, I’d continued to wage war against my appearance.
So it was, then, that I lay awake for a whole night in March 2011 turning an idea over in my mind – to abstain from negative thinking about my body throughout Lent and to blog about my experience. I had the usual chatter going on in my head – ‘don’t be silly, you’ll embarrass yourself, who’ll read that etc etc’ – but fortunately my frustration with the status quo was more powerful. The next day, I published my first post on my newly launched blog, Just As I Am – An Experiment in Self Acceptance, and continued to write almost daily for the following 40 days.
Eighteen months on, I continue to blog, under a different title and with a different focus, reflecting no doubt the different place I’m in today. I’ve matured – turning 40 and then 41 – and I believe my writing has too.
But it’s great to remember where this blogging journey all began, which I did a few nights ago at an event with Body Gossip, the positive body image campaign I featured on Day Two of my Just As I Am blog. I was at the launch on Friday evening of Body Gossip: The Book – a compilation of stories and poems written by members of the public and a smattering of celebrities (such as Alesha Dixon, Jermaine Defoe, Anne Diamond and Craig Revel-Horwood, and with a forward by Gok Wan) to inspire and encourage us all to accept and love our bodies, whatever shape, size or colour they are or whatever ability or disability we have.
I’m pleased to say a poem I wrote – entitled ‘If Only’ – is included in the book. Those two words have occupied a lot of my head space over the years – ‘If only I looked like her’ ‘If only I had her body, her hair, her life etc’. You get the picture. But in the poem I conclude that my biggest wish is to accept myself as I am rather than keep wanting to be somebody else.
I haven’t had a chance to look at all the other entries in the book but those I have read have inspired, amused and moved me. Congratulations to Body Gossip’s Ruth and Natasha and to all their supporters for their tireless work. I look forward to reading the rest of the book and I recommend it to all.
Body Gossip has also got some new films out, based on submissions from the public, but ‘This One Is For You’ remains my favourite BG film. It’s incredibly powerful:
As I reflect on my own journey, what’s clear is that this obsession with our body and our appearance distracts us from life – at least that was the case for me. It creates a barrier between us and the rest of the world, it builds a wall not only around our bodies but also around our hearts and it takes away our freedom to be.
Life doesn’t necessarily get any easier without the body obsession or the eating disorder – this blog can certainly vouch for that. The rollercoaster continues. But at least we are well and truly on it. We are in life, feeling it, living it. At least we’re not numbed to the pain.
Of course, I understand why sometimes we might want to numb the pain. Sometimes – when things get a little too much – it can seem the only way forward.
But if we choose to numb out the pain, we also numb out the joy. And it doesn’t get any more harmful than that.