Getting Over ‘Summer Body’ Anxiety

Getting Over ‘Summer Body’ Anxiety

It’s been pretty warm in the UK lately. Alright, “warm” might just mean anything over 10 degrees for us, but still. We’ve had a little bit of sunshine and summer finally seems to be on its way. For a lot of us, that means getting our limbs out, or, to be more frank, our cellulite and stretch marks. That can be pretty scary.

As a fully grown 22 year old woman, my legs are full of cellulite, stretch marks, stubble, and scars from various activities (falling off a swing as a child, cutting myself shaving in the same spot 24 times as an adult), and my arms are hairy, pale, and absolutely not toned at all. When I was younger, I was an actual twig. 14 year old me had smooth, skinny, scar-less limbs that tanned easily, and I was all too eager to whip out the summer dresses at the first glimpse of sunlight. I had no shame when I lay out my little flat body on a beach in a bikini. I had nothing to hide, because I had a child’s body. Then I put on weight, AKA grew into my womanly body, and things changed. Cue the sudden worry about purple marks, orange peel thighs, and a slightly protruding stomach.

I wasn’t used to all of this. Being a slim child, I’d never had to worry about this kind of thing before. Adulthood sprung upon me suddenly and mercilessly. It took me a long time to understand that as an 18 year old, I wasn’t supposed to look the same as I did when I was just hitting puberty. Boobs were inevitable. My hips were bound to get wider, because that’s biology. My metabolism slowed down, but my eating habits didn’t. I still wanted to fit in the dresses I loved when I was 16, but my body just wasn’t the same shape and size anymore. I eventually realised that that’s just the way that things are, and I couldn’t have possibly maintained my childhood body no matter what I did. That’s not how life works. We grow into adults, and with that comes a few marks and scars.

I am fully aware that my body is perfectly healthy. I am not overweight or obese, but you don’t have to be either of those things to have cellulite or a podgy tum, and it’s normal to be self conscious about these little things.

But at the end of the day, that’s all they are: little things.

Yeah, my legs have dimpley fat-pockets. They have scars and spots and cuts. They have shaving rash, and big patches of hair that I missed while shaving. But who’s looking that close anyway? And what does it matter to them?

I am about to tell you something absolutely groundbreaking: nobody will die, or be sick, or cry, at the sight of your bloated belly or cankles. Really! They will not run away from you, because you are not a monster. They will actually carry on with their normal lives around you, maybe buy an ice cream, and get on with it. They’re probably worrying about their own wobbly bits, or that one weird toe that everyone can see in their flip-flops, or that they forgot to shave their armpits while they’re wearing a sleeveless top. Everyone has got their own things that they worry about, and nobody looks like a Victoria’s Secret model that’s been edited and airbrushed for the cover of a magazine.

In case you haven’t heard, websites like ASOS have given up editing out stretch marks and the like. Taking a quick peek at the swimwear section of their website, you can see that even the most toned, slender models have got stretch marks. It’s part of growing, and it’s normal. Having them doesn’t make you fat or ugly or undesirable. They make you a person with skin. You won’t catch these things on the cover of Vogue or Glamour, but even celebs and models have got wrinkles, discolouration, and stomach rolls. Don’t be fooled by their supposed perfection.

Here’s the good news: you grew a body! It reached adulthood. Your adult body looks different to your childhood body, and it’s supposed to, because it develops. Your body might have grown a whole human being in there and pushed it out, or it might have run a marathon, or it might have been the hand somebody held while they got a really scary injection, or it might have done none of those things and just really enjoyed eating slices of cake like mine has. Anyway, as long as you’re healthy, it’s fine. You have a body that is alive and functions and loves you. It keeps you alive by doing things you don’t even notice, like making new cells and attacking viruses. So maybe treat it to some sunshine and an ice lolly.

Bodies are gross, but not for the reasons you think they are. They’re gross because they make weird smells and your skin cells shed everywhere all the time. They’re not gross because they have a few scars. And if somebody thinks that your body is gross because of that, then maybe you should point them to the whole skin cells thing. That might give them some perspective.

I may not leap at the chance to put on a pair of short shorts like I used to do in my teenage years, but I’m still going to whack on a dress without tights (wild, I know) when it’s hot out, because, well, it’s hot out, and I don’t want to get all sweaty and uncomfortable. FEEL THE BREEZE ON YOUR KNEES! ACCIDENTALLY DRIP MELTING ICE CREAM DOWN YOUR FOREARM! EXPOSE YOUR SHOULDERS TO POTENTIAL WASP ATTACKS! But wear sun cream, that’s important. If you’re getting out all of your appendages, they do need to be protected from the sun.

To sum it all up, it’s okay. Bodies on the beach are okay. Bodies in the park are okay. Bodies with minimal clothes on are okay. Bodies with lots of clothes on are okay. Bodies, in general, are okay. Enjoy the sunshine, friends, because your body is okay. Over and out.

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Rebuilding

Rebuilding

So, it’s been a while. Over four months, actually. Sorry about that! But I think my break from blogging has been an important one.

It’s time for a long overdue catch up I think, so settle down with a cup of tea and let’s get on with the chin wagging! You might remember this post from back in November. If you do, you’ll know that I had a pretty bumpy time of things a few months ago. It was, in all honestly, a time I didn’t think I would get past. Well, have I got a surprise for you!

I think that one of the hardest things about having a low time is the belief that you’re not going to reach the other side of it. My mindset has had a complete transformation since those days in more ways than one, and I’d like to share with you some of the little things that have pulled me through, and how I have learned to (finally) love myself after years of self hatred and destruction.

It’s been a wild few months, but a good few months too. I am, for the first time in a very long time, exceedingly happy. What a nice thing to type. Of course, I have my wobbly days, but I have reached a point in my life where I have come to appreciate the little things enough to not let the bad things take over my day. For example, on Thursday, although life gave me a bit of a kick up the bum, my flatmate Jaz brought me cookies, I read a novel for pleasure for the first time in months (The Outsider by Albert Camus, in case you were wondering), and I made a really great curry for my tea. All small things, but significant things all the same. It is up to me to find beauty in even the most difficult days.

First of all, let’s talk meds. I am now completely free of all kinds of medication. Coming off antidepressants was not easy, and I’m not going to pretend that it’s the answer for everyone, but this was the best decision for me. Although they helped me at the time, I reached a point where I needed to give my head some space to breathe. I felt so suffocated and changed by medication that I just wanted a break to be myself again. It was hard at first, but I think I made the right decision, and I have definitely benefited from it in the long run. But citalopram isn’t the only medication I’ve booted. A few weeks ago, my doctor took me off the contraceptive pill because I was at high risk of developing blood clots (scary, I know). I was pretty scared of coming off it at first, because I’d gotten so used to it and the benefits that it brought. After being on the pill for about a year and a half, I’d never really noticed that it had such a huge impact on my moods, but within a week of ditching it I felt infinitely better. My mood lifted, I felt happier, more energetic, even more confident within myself. Of course it comes with its downsides, but the change I’ve seen in myself is so worth it. Since dropping all medication, I’ve learned how to handle my own extremes of emotion and bouts of anxiety a lot better, so I feel nice and stable and I’m learning how to balance myself in ways that I never could before. I have taken control of my own mind, my own happiness, and my own health, and I’ve pretty much kicked mental illness’s ass. Although medication (or lack thereof) has played a big part in this, it isn’t the only thing that’s had an impact on me.

I want to have a bit of a chat about social media. In a culture so obsessed with keeping the world updated with our everyday lives, it can be really hard to disconnect and switch off from everything. It’s far too easy to fall into the pits of negativity, jealousy, and self pity when you’re reading about how great someone else’s life is on their Facebook or eyeing up all their flashy new things on Instagram. It feels like everyone else has got it so much better than you when you see people getting amazing jobs on Facebook, someone’s new car on Instagram, your friends going out without you on Snapchat, or a festival you’re not going to on Twitter, and it dampens your mood for the day. At new year, when I was watching everyone else entering 2017 at a party with their best pals or with a kiss from their other half while I lay alone in bed with the flu, I decided that enough was enough. I deleted every single social media app from my phone, and I left it all alone for about a month. It wasn’t an excessive amount of time, but it was enough to take away the urge to see every single post on my timeline and to make me realise that there are much better things to be doing than scrolling through Instagram. I suddenly felt kind of free, and a hell of a lot happier about myself. I was no longer comparing myself to other people, and I came to appreciate my own life a lot more.

I eventually came back to social media, although I never got the Facebook app back. I didn’t come back because I felt like I was missing out, but because I finally felt comfortable enough in my own skin to know that it wouldn’t cause me to self destruct anymore. I learned a lot about myself in that month away, and I think that my social media presence is a lot different now. It’s certainly less frequent, and it’s much more focused on self love and bad jokes than self pity and complaining. I think it’s working out well.

More recently, I’ve started to realise my own value. I no longer want to take any shit (sorry mum) from anyone. If someone is treating you badly, if someone isn’t putting the effort in, if someone isn’t caring for you the way they should, don’t waste your time on them. It’s okay to end friendships that make you feel crappy, or to distance yourself from those who fail to see your worth. Surround yourself with people who see your value, treat you as an equal, and make you happy. That might be a very small number of people (hello Paige, George, and Elliott), but that isn’t what matters. In the words of Elliott Fudge, “giving things to other people and not getting anything back won’t make you happy. You don’t have to tolerate being around people who make you feel second best”. I’m sure we’ve all had our fair share of friendships or relationships where you feel like the only one who ever makes an effort. I know I have. I absolutely tore myself to pieces over people who wouldn’t even give me a second thought. That ends now. Frankly, life is too short and I am too great for that. I won’t let it happen anymore. Get yourself friends that bring you Kinder Buenos when you’re having a bad day,  get you books they think you’ll like, put your favourite song on just for you, make you toast after a night out, build you up to no end, and who never make you feel like anything less than important.

Speaking of friendships, and any other kinds of relationships, I have finally learned a very important lesson. In the past, I have always relied heavily on other people for support, and for my own happiness. I never really realised how unhealthy it was for me to invest literally everything I had into one person, and then when things fell through I would be like a fish out of water. I didn’t know how to be okay on my own.

It has only been in the past couple of months that I’ve finally learned how to be okay on my own. That doesn’t mean that I am literally alone, and I still have a ridiculous amount of support and love from friends and family, but I now stand confidently as an independent person. I don’t rely on other people for my happiness, which means that I also don’t let them cause my sadness either, if I can help it. This has been, admittedly, hard for me to do. But I have never had so much appreciation for myself and my own strength. I can do a lot more on my own than I once thought, and I don’t need to depend on other people anymore. I wish that I had learned this sooner, so that I could have saved myself a lot of tears. But I am finally my own person who is in control of my own happiness, and it feels amazing.

I have also closed certain chapters of my life that I left open for far too long. Dwelling on old pain and allowing myself to hurt over things that no longer mattered held me back and caused me unnecessary heartache. Closure is a wonderful thing that can put your mind at rest. Letting go of bitterness, dropping that grudge you’ve held for years, forgiving people who hurt you, and moving on from sourness is so freeing. Your present is more important than your past. You will thank yourself for letting go.

But finding happiness doesn’t have to involve huge, life changing steps. Little things can have the biggest impact. For me, making myself a playlist of happy and empowering songs really helped; I actually have a sassy independent woman playlist that gears me up for the day and restores my confidence when I need it. Exercising more makes a big difference to me too – it gets me out of the house, gives me something to do, and makes me feel great afterwards. I make sure that I’m eating proper meals. I try to make more of an effort to make myself feel nice, whether that means putting on my favourite lipstick or waking up a few minutes earlier to do my hair. For my 21st birthday, I received a gorgeous “thankful journal” from my family. You can write the date at the top, and then it has space to write four things that you are thankful for that day. It’s simple, but it works. It helps me to look for the positive, no matter how small, and to appreciate how lucky I am. Taking five minutes out of your day to write down a couple of things you’re grateful for is a wonderfully positive habit to get into, and it’s one that I’ll be sticking to. It’s little things like this that make all the difference.

Balance is a process. I am working on it every day, little by little. Mental health is about maintenance, and I think I’ve done a pretty good job of taking control and rebuilding myself. I have never had so much confidence in myself, and I have never felt so secure in my own being. I may not have all the answers, but I’m learning and making progress, and that’s what matters.