Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Does my self-esteem look big in this?

I bought two late 1970's Diana annuals from a charity shop yesterday. I can't resist them, it must be the lure of double-entendre laden stories, the photographs of legends such as Gary Glitter and Alvin Stardust, and the excellent advice on how to make the most of yourself.

Romance, make-up tips, pop music and basic home-economics, all in one easy to read book with the odd quiz and crossword - a tried and tested formula to entertain teen and pre-teen girls for generations.
One article made me smile, it offered advice on staying fit and making yourself look attractive based on whether you live in a city or in the country. I'm guessing you city girls take the bus or get Dad to drop you off at school? Trouble is, not walking enough will make you unfit and won't keep you trim.

If you live in a remote village though, "such as the Orkneys" you may really be up against it when it comes to hair care. There's also an assumption that living in such a place will mean your parents don't allow you to wear eye make-up (but who needs mascara when there's Vaseline?).

Findings of a study recently conducted by Girlguiding UK were recently published. 1,100 girls aged between 7 and 21 were asked questions relating to issues such as weight, body-image, plastic surgery, marriage, the environment and education. None of the 'worrying' findings surprise me (click the link to see survey results).

I don't blame the media, men, mothers, or anyone/thing else for the lack of body confidence and general positive self-esteem in today's young woman. It's just nature, surely? Men are programmed to look for a mate who will make good breeding material, and vice versa. Child-bearing hips, boobs suitable for feeding a baby, healthy hair and skin, and knows how to cook a chicken? Perfect.
I just don't know where this notion of  ideally being THIN comes from. Thin means malnourished, possibly infertile and weak, or does it? Do men like 'thin' women? Maybe some men do because it makes them feel stronger, protective or paternal.

What is the ideal body shape? Tall, slim with big boobs, tiny waist, rounded bum, slim legs and nice feet (models always have huge feet!)? Do you know anybody this shape? I'm not even sure being tall is desirable, sweet little girlie type celebrities often end up being in the top 5 'world's sexiest/most beautiful women' category.

I know I've never felt 'right'. I see myself as clumsy, heavy on my feet, fat-bellied, awkward, ungainly and unkempt. I could do something about all of these things, and have tried in the past. My weight always goes back up, periods of grooming myself well don't last, and any attempts to behave more ladylike go out of the window after a large glass of wine/pint of beer. I pretty much turn into my father; become one of the lads.

Personality counts for a lot with both sexes, I just don't think you believe this as a female when you're young. It's competitive, a hormone-fuelled battle to win the top prize (the 'top prize in my fourth year at high school turned out to be gay). You don't work on your jokes, on your finer understanding of the rules of sport, on your slow-cooked leg of lamb with a redcurrant reduction, you just obsess about your face and body. You realise your face and body were OK when it's too late (despite warnings from your mother and other females). Someone can say "you look nice" 100 times, but if you don't feel it, there's no way it will sink in. Someone can tell say "you look fat" just once, and that's it. You will forever feel fat and unattractive.

Women try to look younger, slimmer, prettier and always have, we always will. That's not a bad thing. The bad thing is thinking that the path to happiness lies in 'becoming' something or someone. I think I'll always struggle with that stupid cycle of diet-weight-gain-diet-self-doubt, self-hate and unrealistic self-imposed standards of being a good 'woman'.  If it means trying your best though, I'm definitely doing that, just not all the time!


  1. I couldn't agree more with your last paragraph!! There will always be that self imposed pressure to better ourselves regardless of taking into account the media etc but if our very happiness hinges on the version of our perfected selves we see in our heads there are problems. It's such a battle to accept the imperfections and realise some of them are the ones that make us different, but changing the little changeable things is such a funny thing - there'll be good intentions for weeks and then patches of sod all effort. Would love to get consistent one of these days!

    Jem xXx

  2. Totally agree but I find it's getting easier with age- strange that I accept my body/ face more as it heads downhill! When I look back on photos ten years ago I think 'bloody hell, I look amazing then!' (not in a vain way, just compared to now) yet I'm far happier in myself now. I think as I've aged I'm just more forgiving and am proud that even though my bodies changed a lot after child birth, I'm pretty proud of it too.Rx

  3. Hello Lucy:
    Although, of course, we have never met, we do, however, through your blog, the comments which you leave and all that we can glean, know you to be an exceptional woman who, without a shadow of doubt, has enormous personality which positively shines through all that you write. Additionally, you write with such fluency, have a keen sense of humour, laugh, as one should, at the absurdities of life, and keenly observe, with an intelligence to be envied, the world around you, observations which you share with us all in such a highly entertaining and spirited manner. 'Being of Sound Mind' is, for us, and many others like us, required reading. Forget 'Diana', forget 'Girlguiding UK', in fact forget it all. We love you as you are.

  4. My first Degree was as a Health Scientist and my Dissertation was Women and Body Image, I interviewed over 100 women and fat or thin, none of them liked their bodies and when asked to choose from 7 body shapes nearly all chose 2 stages bigger than they actually were! It was really interesting!

  5. ALVIN!GARY!Sorry,just slightly distracted by my love of glam rock;despite Gary turning out to be such a dodgy slimeball,I still love his music.
    Ahem.I don't know what this "thin" obsession is either!And I really don't know why women are so cruel to each other!From my observations,men don;t really care about the physical things we care about.They just want to shag a nice girl who isn't gonna nag them or bankrupt them....I fret as much as the next person about my weight,blah,blah,I jsut don't make a song and dance about it.I'm fairly realistic,and at 45,it's bloody hard to lose it,so I opt for being happy and reasonably fit and wear foundation garments when I feel the need!My G still fancies me,so I figure that's a good measure!I don't blame media,I think some are just prone to going overboard about this shit,and some are happy to deal with their cards and just get on with it.I prefer to avoid the drama as much as I can!

  6. i really love the comments that jane and lance hattatt post on your blog!
    did you see this article i've pasted a link too?ashley judd has written a response to people writing about her appearance.. i thought it was pretty interesting.

    also, i know how you feel! but having met you that once briefly i know that you are quite the fox.xxxx

  7. Jem - the problem with becoming consistent is that we then lead rather dull lives with little room for spontaneity! Perhaps we HAVE got it just right?

    Rachael - Hi! Thanks for your comments. I think you have a great attitude, and I realise that now is the best time to accept and love my body, especially considering what it's been put through. I have good weeks and bad weeks, I'm having a bad few weeks because I haven't been eating healthily at all.

    Jane and Lance - I hope you got my email.

    Annie - fascinating study, and we should really be suprised by your findings, but aren't because so many will recognise that same deluded view!

    Helga - you are an inspiration to me and I think about your style a lot when I'm shopping. There's something about the way that you, Krista, Sarah, Vix and Desiree carry yourselves. It's not 'look at me, I'm so sexy (even though you all are), it's more the way you're all comfortable with embracing your unique style and sharing it. Don't EVER change!

    Sian - Jane and Lance's comments on every blog they follow are so well considered and supportive.
    Thanks for the link, such a difficult read, because the whole time I'm (nastily) thinking " your eyes look a bit wonky, surely that's surgery". Slapped wrists for me!
    I also read comments written in the Chicago Sun Times about The Hunger Games'actress Jennifer Lawrence's body shape/size:

    I thought she looked just right, personally!

    1. ha ha, i also thought that she'd had surgery.... but i guess not... hee hee.
      love the new blog design

  8. Lucy first off I love the new header and stripes, these colors suit your contemplative blog posts. I have to admit something to you as a matter of fact I was thinking about blogging about it, I still might. I have big old fake boobs, yes I do and I got them because I used to not really like myself or so I thought. I dated a man for years who convinced me that I would look better this way, somehow be more desirable to him. I did and to this day I still wonder why. My point is your are correct no matter what, women will always find something they do not like about themselves.

    After I left CA, land of the beautiful and shallow, and moved to Oregon I started to realize there is more to me and every woman than being overly sexy. I finally got it and I have been so much happier. As long as I feel good I look good.

    I love your honesty and I love you lil beautiful lady!

  9. I dont like looking at photos of myself, because i dont look like i feel (i feel younger and cuter than i look in photos). better to focus on how you feel if thats good, and probably better to focus on how you feel, even if it's bad i think.
    groovy blog tart up btw luce x

  10. When I was growing up in the 70s my mother told me how important it was to work hard and go to university to be able to compete with men and not be judged on looks.

    It took me years to discover that being feminine did not equal being a bimbo, and also that I was reasonably attractive.

    There is a happy medium to find between urging girls to fulfil their potential intellectually and telling them they are attractive to boost their self-esteem.

    I have come to terms with all of that now, in my 40s and am much happier for it. Also my dearly beloved loves some flesh to get hold of and prefers me nearer to a size 12 than a skinny bag of bones.

    It's very clever the way the stripes are the same colour as the image. A cool new look. :)

  11. Working in a school I find it interesting if not a little sad that girls now are even more caught up with their image...weight in particular...and far younger than in decades past.I have worked with eight year olds who are properly angry at their 'size' and discuss dieting in a matter of fact way.
    I remember doing a lesson on Rubens and some of the girls voiced their repulsion at the 'fat woman' in the paintings!

  12. Someone can say "you look nice" 100 times, but if you don't feel it, there's no way it will sink in. Someone can tell say "you look fat" just once, and that's it. You will forever feel fat and unattractive - this me exactly! It's vastly unfair - I'm trying to get round it. I only believe it if it's to do with my weight, if someone mocks my intellect, I don't believe them

  13. Luce: Love your (blog's) makeover.
    I seem to be the only guy commenting on this post so far (?), so: I've always liked women with a few extra pounds. Women who are too skinny can slip away from me too fast!
    And as for you, you don't need a makeover at all.
    Keep postin' the great stuff!

  14. Love the new look, Lucy! I'm pretty happy with the way I look now too even though I'm showing a few signs of age now. Partly it's because I'm much more invisible, now that people no longer look at me as I'm older and wear quieter clothes, I don't worry so much about how I look. And ironically, it's my 19 year old daughter who has made me realise how slim I was even in my 30s. She looks great to me, and yet wears many of my old clothes...they're vintage now you know :)

  15. Krista - please do blog about your boobs! I'm fascinated with the whole implant thing. Your dedication to fitness and healthy living inspires me greatly, I wish I could discipline myself like you.

    Max - I really hope the camera DOES lie too. If I look anything like the pictures I see of myself, then I demand a face transplant!

    Sarah - you seem to be in the prime of your life, maybe there's hope for me yet! I can''t fit into any of my size 12 clothes, they must have simultaneously shrunk in the wardrobe.

    Em - I saw some portly girls trying to look grown up, but at the same time behaving like little kids should at the park recently. They were dolled up to the nines; make-up, trendy adult clothes, handbag, it was sad. They were very self-conscious, couldn't just play and have fun because they were adjusting their outfits. They looked like middle-aged women, not in a good way. I felt for them, they are probably being told to lose weight, and needed to. If only they could just play at the park instead of trying to be ladies, they'd look much better. Under 16s should not even be thinking about losing weight. Modern life eh?

    Miss Simmonds - what is the answer for us!? I think you are like me - happy 90% if the time? That's a good start.

    TAD - makeover courtesy of the Diana annual (image stolen) and Rob. I'm guessing the males steered clear of this post for fear of saying the wrong thing! I do need a makeover, badly. I'm getting a haircut tomorrow, in a salon. It's been years!

    Blue Sky - Angel sounds like me at her age! I wouldn't want to be that age again - I felt a freak.

  16. Women nowadays are overly conscious on how they look. This is because it has been inculcated on their minds that fat women are ugly and cannot be loved. I wish that women would just stop thinking about this because every woman is beautiful in their own way.

  17. I've been pondering my response to this post for a bit, Lucy, which is why I'm
    late commenting.
    First - love the blog look. Need to do mine, but too lazy.
    Second - I remember Diana very well, before I moved on to Jackie! I picked up that Jackie "complilation" annual in a charity shop and was instantly transported back in time.
    And sometimes, I feel my brain hasn't developed as much as it should since those early teen years. I still feel self-conscious and scared to be different and nowhere near pretty enough, etc etc. I've just learned to challenge those beliefs.
    I think they still ARE my core beliefs (my Cognitive Behavioural past is coming out now!) which is why we store all the "you're fat/ugly/weird" comments in our mental library, and ignore/forget the "you're gorgeous/pretty/unique" comments. The latter don't fit, there's nowhere to file them, so they get lost.
    BUT as any good CBT therapist would tell you, you can work on challenging those assumptions by experimenting. It's what I did. If I dress how I want - what will happen? Nothing happened. People looked. Often complimented me (filed those). And then it was business as usual. I'm no slimmer, no younger and no prettier. But I AM more confident, and happier. It's all just a behavioural experiment or two away, Lucy!
    And men don't give a shit about any of this, generally. It seems to be a stick we women like to beat ourselves with.
    I've seen your photos, you're a gorgeous beautiful woman, Lucy. Now please file that somewhere! xxxxx

  18. Luce,
    Amor I have self concious moments like any other girl ,but as I gotten older,fatter,balder I have learned to love and truly embrace myself more.
    I always struggled with weight issues and big boobs most of my life.
    If you feel fat change your food habits ,but do it for yourself.I know I feel a lot better giving my sugary cakes. buy nice things that make you feel special and have a dress up days all for yourself.let your inner child out because one day you will look back and regret all the fun you missed out on.
    You know I never take myself seriously.. except when I am doing readings.
    What you on about? your bloody gorgeous!
    I love your new header and profile colors.
    Besotes amorcito

  19. Firstly i am loving your new header and stripes (vertical stripes are very slimming *wink*).
    I really enjoyed reading this post, ive been every difference size, never quite getting to "thin" but with age and motherhood ive come to the point that im going to stop fighting it, if im going to have a big bum then let it be, plus i cant see it so who its the others that have the problem haha.
    You are blooming beautiful hun so here's to letting go of all the self concious rubbish that us ladies get pushed into thinking :o) Scarlett x

  20. The new look is great! I'm impressed.

  21. Gaaaaaah! Just lost a massive comment. I will try again later.

  22. Having been out for the day and come back to this, I think it's probably a good thing my comment got lost, it was possibly a little 'woe is me'. I love your new blog look though, I feel scruffier than ever next to my stylish friend!

    But seriously, we've both said favourable things to each other about our appearance and presumably meant them, isn't it odd that we don't believe others' objective opinions rather than our own subjective ones?
    Faith Hope and Charity Swap 2012 Sign up now OPEN!

  23. Hmm.. a couple of things occur to me when I read this. The first one is just how ashamed I have felt of me few extra pounds and years when women I have been around in a social setting start obsessing about some chap being "buff" and getting all phwoooarrr about for instance, some calendar produced by their national rugby team. It may have been a problem for women from time immemorial, but now there is equivalent presure on men (for evidence look at the shameful statistics for the increase in teenage boys suffereing from eating disorders).
    Secondly, speaking as a man, I don't find weight per se to be a turn off. If there is that gleam-in-the-eye which implies fun in all possible spheres of human experience, then this can cause a powerful attraction.
    However, it goes a bit like this: "If I put on ten pounds, would you still fancy me?" "Yes, of course!"
    "Twenty?" "Yes, certainly!"
    "sixty..?" "well... hmm... probably not..."
    Unpopular as this may be, there is threshold above which desire struggles to function. I could struggle to find some attribute to admire, but desire will do its own bidding.


Sorry I am having to filter comments at the moment