It’s nearly 10 years since I wrote my first ever blog, on a site I called Just As I Am – An Experiment in Self-Acceptance.
It was the eve of Lent, 2011, and I’d had it.
I’d had it with self-criticism. I’d had it with the way I poked and prodded at my body and judged it for not being slim enough or smooth enough.
I’d had it with the way I stared at my thighs on the loo, making them wobble and wishing they wouldn’t.
And I’d had it with the way I treated myself in general – the way I judged everything I did and said so harshly.
I’d had it and I was finally ready to do something about it.
Here’s an extract from that first blog on Just As I Am, published on March 8th, 2011 (Lent started late that year):
Today is the first day of Lent – a 40-day period of sacrifice, abstinence and self-denial. Yesterday, as I contemplated what to give up for Lent, I decided to forego Starbucks soya milk decaf coffees for the next 40 days and give the money to a good cause. I also thought about giving up bread or sweet stuff. But as the world celebrated International Women’s Day, I decided there was something else I needed to give up – something much more unhealthy and far more costly than coffee or chocolate: negative thinking about my body and appearance.
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 for creating me just as I am‘.
Now, I know this may sound a bit like a Bridget Jones moment and I admit I’ve stolen the line ‘just as I am’ from that romantic scene when Mark Darcy tells Bridget he likes her ‘just as she is’. I also admit I’m approaching a milestone birthday which may make me contemplate my life in a Bridget Jones fashion. But this is rather more serious.
Over the past few days, as I attended events to mark International Women’s Day, listened to speakers and read a lot, it dawned on me that all the struggles for women’s rights and equality over the years are worth precious little if I continue to put myself down. I have been my own worst enemy. And it seems I’m not alone – in a Glamour Magazine survey, women admitted to having 13 negative body thoughts daily. Imagine how much extra thinking time we’d have if we didn’t have those negative thoughts, or imagine how great we might feel if we replace every one with a positive thought!
End of Day One
It’s the end of Day One and this is already proving harder than I thought! I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had to say ‘sorry’ to myself for almost slipping back into what we’ll call that ‘stinking thinking’. After all, it’s not easy to admire the way my hair looks after wearing a helmet for 45 mins to ride my Vespa. But at least I’m now aware of how those thought patterns creep back in, which gives me a better chance of changing them.
It also occurred to me a little earlier that despite Mark Darcy telling Bridget Jones that he liked her ‘just as she was’, it wasn’t enough for her – she still went back to Daniel Cleaver! I guess you have to believe it yourself first.
And now it’s the first day of Lent, 2021, 10 years on, and I’m approaching 50.
It’s incredible to think how much time has passed and also how much has changed.
Even though I can still be hard on myself – I remain a work in progress – I honestly feel that I am much kinder to myself than before, and especially to my body.
I am much more loving and accepting of myself, much more compassionate towards myself.
And I like to think that the other huge changes that have happened in my life over the last 10 years are connected to that decision I made, in March 2011, to be more accepting of myself and to love myself more.
Self-love led to more self-love and greater self-acceptance and eventually to romantic love and a wonderful marriage.
Self-love helped me to believe in myself and my writing and to turn my Just As I Am blog into this From Forty With Love blog, which I continue to write today, 10 years on.
Self-love empowered me to believe in myself enough to prioritise my dreams and to write and publish a book, How to Fall in Love.
Self-love gave me the courage and strength to follow my heart out of London to live by the sea in Dorset.
Self-love helped me to build a purpose-driven business, which focuses on supporting other women and men to love themselves, to find love and to create lives that they truly love.
As I said, I remain a work in progress. I have to remind myself every day to be kind to myself and not to push myself too hard.
But so much has changed.
And it began with a decision, with a choice I made – a choice to change some harmful repeated patterns of behaviour, a choice to do things differently, a choice to prioritise self-love and self-care and to let go of self-criticism, self-punishment, self-harm and self-neglect.
Would you like to make that choice today?
Shall we make it together? Because I need all the support I can get to continue on this journey and if there’s one thing I’ve learned from the past few decades, from all my healing work and from hosting healing courses and retreats based on the principle of self-love, it’s that we are stronger together.
We can do this together.
Sending love, courage and strength x
Resources to support you to love yourself
My book, How to Fall in Love, is based on my own journey to self-love and self-acceptance.
My courses are also built on self-love and self-care. How to Fall in Love – Laying the Foundations and Date with Courage, Clarity & Confidence are available as self-paced courses and as small group courses.
My group courses start soon so please take a look at this link and then get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to join us.