5 Ways to Bring Beauty to the World Today

Backstory:  When I was in my 20’s, I thought I was fat.  Growing up I had been bombarded with messages from lots of sources that the ideal weight was 8 1/2 stone (thats 54kg).  My mum had been a fashion model before getting married and her perception was that a body should be hairless, as thin as possible and perfectly manicured at all times.  Oh, dear, I kinda fell down on all counts unfortunately for me.

The first time I became aware of my appearance, really, was when I was maybe 8 or 9 years old.  I had long long hair, and for whatever reason my mum decided that she would cut it.  And cut it she did.  Short – really short.  First morning at school (I went to a tiny country school where everyone knew everyone) and I think the first words out of anyone’s mouth was “oh, look, Sonia’s a boy!”.  Wow…I mean, wow….it was pretty confronting at 8yrs old!

Then I hit puberty.  Those of you who know me will also know that I have always had big boobs.  No point trying to hide the fact (impossible really!).  Well, the girls (as I fondly call them) decided to present themselves to the world before any of my peers had the same development happening.  The girls were jealous and were quite merciless about it.  The boys stole my bra while I was swimming and merrily paraded it around the school ground…I was 11.

When I got to high school – after mum had me on the “hip and thigh diet” for months, because my pubescent weight had bloomed to 9stone (57kg) – I got bullied relentlessly for my boobs.  To the degree that I spent probably the first 3 years desperate to avoid any sport, or any activity where I had to take my jumper off, even in summer.  My biggest trauma was always swimming sports, which was pretty sad because I was actually a bloody good swimmer!  By the time I was 15, I was certain I was enormously fat and I spent inordinate amounts of time trying to hide; I didn’t want anyone to see me.

Life carried on. At university I found a tribe more accepting and I hung there.  But the scars were deep by that stage – my relationship with men was always difficult.  My perception of my attractiveness was tied up in my perception of how much I weighed.  I focused on my brain – lucky for me I turned out to be pretty academically able, so that is where I put my energy.  Ironically, I was told time and time again that I was intimidating…I became harder and harder to reach.

Now, this is no sob story.  This is merely the experiences of many young women in my country – they pale in light of the experiences of women in other countries.  I stop this story at the age of about 22 – it did carry on and on and on.  The point is that we, as women, have a responsibility to end the body shaming of our daughters…In my life it has almost always been my fellow sister who have dealt the cruelest blows, and the harshest critic has been myself.

my beautiful body has only ever worked to serve me, and I understand that perceptions of worth, value, attractiveness have nothing to do with my weight

I would like to think that we are becoming more enlightened, more accepting, choosing to celebrate more diversity.  But just a couple of weeks ago, at a little girls 10th birthday party, I listened to 12 of these girls discussing how ugly the fat woman in the music video was, how disgusting she was…and I wondered – have we learned anything?  Young women have so many more pressures on them today than I did.  Yes, I got bullied, but I could come home and be safe in my house – there was no social media, television was limited, I didn’t see women’s magazines until I was well into my teens.

The funny thing is that now at 45, and extremely hormonal, I am fat…certainly not the “fat” that I thought I was when I was in my teens.  But this time I can look at the fat and see it for what it is – hormonal response, too many chippies, some less than ideal decision making in terms of food.  What has changed is that I no longer equate “fat” with “disgusting”…fat is simply my body responding to the decisions my brain makes…my beautiful body has only ever worked to serve me, and I understand that perceptions of worth, value, attractiveness have nothing to do with my weight – they are constructions in my mind, and I can choose to be aware and in control of those.  My focus these days is not loosing weight as such – but gaining health and well being…and if that means the post menopausal me is a few kgs heavier than the pre-menopausal me, so be it.

So All I Ask is This: