I don’t know about you but my ego has sure done a number on my body perception! My whole entire life this has been an issue for me. My earliest thought about body image would have started around 7 years of age. You might think that's early but this is when I started to compare myself to others. I was told I was bigger boned and it was just my DNA. My closest friend was tiny (still is) and I was tall. From here I absorbed every negative comment and made it my story. To this day I still feel I have to adhere to the typical standard of European beauty.
What I learnt was that if I am this harsh on my own body, so critical and judgmental, how does this affect my thoughts towards others? I didn’t think that I played this out on other people at the time, but I most definitely did. This is what was ingrained in me, I didn’t know another way. I was totally unaware of how my ego was playing this devastation game, fueling separateness.
So how did this play out for me? Let's do the quick version. I supplemented my happiness with food from the age of 12 when I went to boarding school. My mother would send me off each week with a ‘tuk’ box full of giant pebbles, biscuits, chips and fruit puffs (let's not fool ourselves here - these were lollies). My body was changing and I didn't like it. I had not been prepared for this. I tried not eating, I tried purging. At one stage I was escorted to meals. Do my parents know about any of this? No.
Then my breast came in overnight. Suddenly I was bigger in the chest than my sister who is 4 years older. I am blessed with a tall frame and amazing legs, now with a good rack I was sexy. I was too young to be sexy. I was naïve, innocent and to be totally honest I still played with dolls. People would say inappropriate things to me. Joking of course. However, being the impressionable youth that I was, I took on all this information, including from TV, magazines and my peers.
This is actually getting difficult to write. I have to remind myself that this is all just stuff. Without it I wouldn’t be who I am now or able to hold space for other women who resonate with this story. And that's what it is, it's a story. One I told myself over and over again. Mis-aligning myself with every word. The person I was portraying in the world wasn’t the true me. I was a child in a woman's body. A child pretending to be mature and grown up.
We attract what we put out into the world. Older men were attracted to me, my innocence, my nurturing, my figure and my … what's the word I am looking for? Brokenness, discomfort, awkwardness, my yearning for love, acceptance and safety? Hmm
My friends at the time (I’m still only 14 and 15 here) were 10 years my senior, partying, drinking, drugs. I look back and see how I was a toy for them. Don’t get me wrong I fully own my part in all this.
This mis-alignment with my true self continued to impact my body image as I grew. I didn’t stop gaining weight until I hit the Auckland party scene hard. I dramatically lost weight. I loved it. Soon I had lost 20kg. Because I felt so amazing having lost this weight, as I started to withdraw from this scene any amount of weight I put on was greeted with animosity and hatred. I was jealous of everyone smaller than me and judgmental of anyone bigger than me. I was self loathing.
Oh my goodness I am using all my might not to go for the Peruvian chocolate bar on the top shelf in the kitchen!
I experienced acute anxiety and at some stages unable to leave the house. I had to have a back up plan wherever I went in case I couldn't escape. I would panic in random situations. I was eating only macadamia nuts and tuna. I was living in Mt Eden, my partner and I were not getting along. I would leave the house and walk and walk and walk and walk. My lowest weight was 54kg. I am 1.75cm tall. I see the photos and I am gaunt, sad and exhausted.
It was soon after this that I plunged into the London Party scene. I had an amazing time, met fantastic people and was utterly disrespectful of my body even more.
Right now I am crying and filled with gratitude for my body. Knowing all I do now how can I still on a regular basis think unkind thoughts to this beautiful physical body. After all I have put it through, it stayed strong, it has given me 2 beautiful boys and helped me love them. This body has been a vehicle for love with my husband, allowing us to connect and love deeply. I look upon this body now and try to forgive myself for my wrong thinking.
My story isn’t original, so many women go through similar stories. How many of us then, actually take the time to repair, to reconnect with our body, stop the shaming and negative self talk? All this time spent separating from my truthful state of love. All the unconscious guilt I have poured over myself throughout the years. Doing this work, this 40 day guide is the very least I can do to repair the damage I allowed my ego to cause. I didn’t know what I was doing then, but I do now.
One of my long term goals is to create a safe space for young women (aged 8-12) to deeply connect with an elder, be it mother, aunty, grandmother or family friend. To nurture a connection to form a container so that these young women feel comfortable turning to these elders for their knowledge and guidance. These workshops would include real life training and conversations in a safe environment. There would be training on how to nurture the body, mind and spirit, tools for release and grounding and celebration of womanhood and all that it encompasses. I hope that some of what I learned can be of use to others. In doing this I honor that little 7 year old (big boned) girl.