Following my post last week on weight gain (read here), I thought I’d share some of the ways I’ve learned to love myself more over the past few years.
1. Following Instagram accounts show more bodies like mine.
I made a conscious effort a few years ago to try and change the kind of body I see in the media. Growing up, my media was always TV, magazines and my parents’ copy of The Daily Mail, whereas these days my media is pretty much solely Instagram, with the odd lifestyle or news website thrown in for good measure. What that means is that for the most part, I have control over what I see. And I use that to my advantage.
I have filled my Instagram follow list with women who look more like me, I make mid-size and above the norm in my every day life. And in doing so, it’s helped me accept my own body shape as completely run of the mill, in the best way possible. I am not strange or hideous or a monster, I am, completely, boringly normal.
The women I see promoting clothes, talking me through their 3pm snacks and begrudgingly hitting up soft play on a rainy Thursday? They are me.
Oh, and my absolute fave account for cutting through bullshit diet culture is @drjoshuawolrich.
2. And unfollowing (or muting) anyone on Instagram who makes me question myself
In the same way I recognise which accounts make me feel good, I’m also quick to notice which accounts make me question myself or feel anxious about who I am.
This isn’t about them – they could be cool and amazing and happy and just fucking brilliant – but they could also play up to my own insecurities, and so sometimes, even if it’s temporary, I might mute them so I can avoid the triggers which make me feel anything less than an 11/10.
I don’t follow any fitness accounts or anyone who discusses diets or describes foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. I also tend to avoid account which only show the glossy glamorous bits of life – I need a bit of a reality check in there. Some of my fave celebs for this are @staceysolomon and @vickypattison.
3. Reminding myself of my achievements
I often look at my life now in the eyes of my 16-year-old self. I think of what she wanted, of what her big goals and dreams and ambitions were and I look at how much I ticked off just for her.
I look at the giant milestones like being in a position to get a mortgage and having an actual real-life child! And I look at the smaller, material things: the returning trips to New York City (her favourite place in the world), the fortnightly manicures, the glorious shoe and handbag collection and even though I might not be making a huge difference to the world, I am making a huge difference to her.
I have achieved a lot of things that would make her undoubtedly proud and I have changed her life for the better. When I feel weak and worthless, I remind myself just how many things – both big and small – I have achieved over the past decade for the Hannah Gale of 2005.
4. Finding everyday escape routes
I think one of the toughest parts of adulthood is a lack of escape – every waking moment seems to be needed for achieving something, whether that’s unloading the dishwasher, working on a brief for a client, or on the phone to bloody EE because your phone’s stopped working.
If I’m having one of those weeks where my head seems to be crammed with unfiltered poison about how awful I am as a human, then I make a real effort to use the time between my kid going to bed and me going to bed, to find as good as an escape from my own life as I can without leaving the house.
For me this might be a TV show which grips me so aggressively I cannot think of anything else – something like Grey’s Anatomy, or a really, really juicy book which sucks me in, or even the Nintendo Switch which allows me into a different world. My ultimate fall-back escapism is a Harry Potter film.
5. No longer commenting on other people’s bodies or choices
When you grow up as part of Generation Y, you grow up with a society-wide acceptance on commenting (and often, slating) other people – whether they’re your mate, a stranger in the street or a woman you’ve seen on Take Me Out. It’s deemed OK to bitch and shame and have an opinion on anyone and everyone, and not just to have the opinion, but to voice it.
Perhaps it’s becoming maturer and wiser, or perhaps it’s to do with feeling the all-consuming burn of reading comments about myself online, but I don’t judge others anymore, or at least I make a conscious effort not to.
We are all beautiful, we are all unique, and we can never see the whole picture of what’s going on in someone’s life – even if it’s someone we’re close to. Who are we to tear them down for doing something or looking different to how we expect them to? We should absolutely be raising each other up instead.
6. Focusing on my close relationships
When I feel at my lowest, when I am questioning myself and my very existence, I remember the people in my life who make it what it is. The very people who make me laugh, warm my soul, and fill my mind with a never ending film roll of happy memories. I remind myself that if they love me, if they like me, if they want to spend time with me, then truly, I can’t be that awful.
And then I spend physical time with them. I turn off my phone, I put on my tracksuit bottoms, and I sit and pour out all my ideas and fears and dreams with them, because that mends me. It puts plasters over the places that hurt and it reassures me that I am not gross or unloveable, I am just human.
I hope this helps in some teeny tiny way, you’re AWESOME x