Eight years ago, I sat on the loo at London’s Southbank Centre, glanced down at my thighs, shook my head from left to right, sighed out loud, and then made a decision.
No more, I said to myself. No more.
I’d just been attending an event highlighting the pervasiveness of eating disorders and self-harm amongst women and girls around the world and I was riled.
I was angry.
I’d had enough.
I was a few days off my 40th birthday and I realised, in that moment, that I’d spent most of my life – from my early teens until that very day – criticising myself, especially my body, my shape, my size and my appearance.
My thighs were one of my main targets. I disliked the way they touched at the top. I especially didn’t like looking at them on the loo, as sitting down made them spread out.
But I’d had it.
I was about to turn 40, for goodness sake.
This had to stop.
Was I really going to go through my 40s the same way I’d gone through my 30s, 20s, and teens – giving myself a hard time, finding fault in my body, ripping holes in myself and my looks?
I didn’t want to do it anymore. I didn’t want any more of my precious headspace to be taken up with these negative, self-harming thoughts.
Back then, in 2011, it was the eve of Lent and I decided that instead of giving up chocolate, sweets, bread or crisps, as I usually did (to try and slim down), I’d abstain from negative thinking about my body, my appearance and my achievements.
I also decided to write about my efforts everyday on a blog I called, Just As I Am – An Experiment in Self-Acceptance. You can read my Day One post from 2011 here.
(That was my very first blog, which turned into this blog, which helped me write my book – so good things can come from moments of anger and frustration.)
And here we are again.
On Day One of Lent. 2019.
Eight years on.
And I can still slip back into some of those old behaviours and thought patterns, beating myself up, giving myself a hard time, finding fault in my appearance and everything I do.
Yes, I’ve come far.
I’ve come a very long way since the days when I self-harmed with food – bingeing and starving and constantly running – with alcohol and with dysfunctional relationships that left me feeling rubbish about myself.
But I still have negative thoughts.
Of course I do. I’m human. And I’m a woman.
That’s why I’m committing myself again to abstain from negative thinking about my body, my appearance and my achievements throughout this period of Lent (and hopefully beyond), and I’m inviting you to join me.
Why is this important?
Well, I hope that’s obvious. But I’ll spell it out just in case.
Every time we run ourselves down, berate ourselves, criticise ourselves, give ourselves a hard time, poke and prod at ourselves or tut at our bodies in the mirror, we send ourselves a message that we’re not good enough, that we’re faulty, that there’s something wrong with us, that we’re not valuable, that we’re not acceptable as we are.
And then that message, that belief, grows and grows and impacts our lives in so many ways. It affects our relationships, romantic and otherwise, our work lives, the way we dress, the way we carry ourselves, our hopes and our dreams.
Life is hard enough as it is without this constant stream of negative thinking.
Do you agree?
If so, will you join me on this Lent of Love journey?
The goal is to become more compassionate, more self-loving and more self-accepting by forming new habits around our thinking.
I accept it’s hard to stop the first thought, but what we can do is intentionally turn our minds to something else when the negative thoughts come. We can intentionally stop the flow of negativity and self-criticism.
Here’s an extract from my Day One post back in 2011 that explains more:
“So I am challenging myself – for this period of Lent – to give up those nasty thoughts about my shape, size, form, skin tone, complexion, hair etc etc etc – that go through my head numerous times a day. This isn’t going to be easy. As I realised this morning as I showered and got dressed, self criticism is deeply ingrained in my psyche.
But the best I can do is to challenge those thoughts – so every time I’m tempted to pinch at my waist, look critically at my legs or tut or groan when I look in the mirror, I’m going to try not to. And every time I look at another woman and am tempted to think I want her figure, hair, face etc, I’m going to celebrate her beauty and also celebrate mine. I’m going to smile and say ‘Thank you God (or Universe, Mother Nature, whatever concept works for you) for creating me just as I am’.”
Self-acceptance and body acceptance are especially important for me right now because I’m shopping for a wedding dress (eek!). I’m seeing myself in long mirrors, at 47, almost 48, and observing my body, my flesh and my skin.
Wouldn’t it be a shame if I spoiled this precious gift of getting married and buying a beautiful dress with negative, nasty thoughts about the way I look?
And wouldn’t it be a shame if you spoiled this day, or the next day, or the next with similar self-critical thoughts too?
Let’s give ourselves a chance. Let’s not put ourselves down.
I hope you can join me for this Lent of Love. I’ll post again here in due course but if you’d like more regular reminders, why not join my free Facebook group, Being Real, Becoming Whole, or follow me on social media, on Instagram, on Twitter, or via my Facebook page.
Thanks for joining me on this self-loving journey. I need all the support I can get!