Life is unpredictable.
It’s Mother’s Day tomorrow and I’m melancholy. I’m spontaneously bursting into tears at the silliest things and two of my children (those that are able) question my sadness and hug me. I’m not sad. I’m devastated that my Mum isn’t here to hug and to cherish, to have a glass of bubbles with and for me to spoil with presents and a home made cake (a skill that she taught me). I’m remembering all the wonderful creative things that I learned under her loving guidance; the traditional talents, abilities and dexterities, the manners, the survival skills and the important things that I try every day to relay to my children. I constantly worry that I’m a good enough Mum. I had direction and advice, up until last year, a coach, a confidente and the most trustworthy friend, All of a sudden I’m in a lonely place and worryingly I’m just winging it! Hell – I miss you Mum!!!
I’m hyper critical of me and everyone else for that matter and that’s one thing I really dislike about myself … but I’m trying to change.
I do see all the wonderful things that my friends do and say and I marvel at their originality and love in the way that they raise their children. I see the challenges they face and the way that they overcome them. I share in their joy and I am equally proud of their accomplishments. Sometimes I’m more than a little envious of their exotic holidays, their amazing achievements – particularly of those things that I know (due to our limitations and constraints with Archie) we will never do.. but I try not to be bitter, instead I make mental notes of all the fabulousness, in the hope that opportunities may arise for us in the future.
Having children makes my focus in life very different. I bite back the words when I want to laugh and jeer and say ‘Oh look at her’ or ‘Look at him!’ ‘I can’t believe he said that.’ ‘How terrible’ and ‘How awful.’ Mocking someone else to make yourself feel better isn’t big or clever and I’ve come to realise that. Similarly trying to live up to unrealistic images of perfection isn’t big or clever either.
Justin Bieber – I salute you and your fabulous tune, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oyEuk8j8imI but the more I listen the more I play with your lyrics in my mind. I’m trying to decide if you scorn your ex-lover or you release her to just be … she obviously wasn’t perfect – that’s for sure!
… We all did that thing at school where we spat it out like an insult .. ‘Look at her she loves herself,’ ‘He’s such a show off he loves himself’ … and now I’m wondering if that’s such a bad thing. With all the hurt, the damage and the self-abuse in this world, I wonder if self-love is such a bad thing, it certainly beats self-loathing. I wish we had more of it this ‘self-love’. I wish I did.
Even at the tender age of seven my daughter points to what she considers flaws and that really, really vexes me. I go through periods of self-doubt (albeit in private and in the main in my head) and only recently, after having a Boudoir Shoot at Mark Swinford’s, (at which I was as nervous as hell) did I come to a truce with myself. Standing there under the harsh lights in front of a lens and that constant clicking I have never felt more exposed or more vulnerable. I spent the whole session apologising and making excuses for every part of my being from my particularly large nose, to the size of my thighs, to the multiple chins and the bingo wings. In fact the only thing I don’t remember excusing was the redness of my hair – something that I’ve learnt to love and to be proud of. Such a shame some of that fire didn’t extend to my belly. Lucy, the photographer, couldn’t have been more reassuring and not in a false – ‘You look fabulous’ sense – but in a ‘You’re a real woman’ sense, and if you lay like this, this angle works wonders, if you turn like this, etc, etc, However, she wasn’t bossy or steadfast in her style .. she encouraged me to show my personality and asked for suggestions towards the different shots and styles of pictures. We chatted throughout – discussing our hang ups, our families, her job, feeling empowered … the only silence was during the shots and even then she was showering me with words of encouragement!! I came away feeling a great deal more confident, and knowing that if anyone could get a good photograph of me she could.
When I was called back to the viewing I was excited, but incredibly nervous again. After the initial slideshow, I began hyper-critically discarding shot after shot, despite assurances from the lady operating things that these were in fact great shots. and that if I wasn’t happy this bit could be airbrushed and that bit could be photo-shopped. Now, I know I’m far from perfect, but seeing it there before my eyes and hearing this lady’s offers of modifications actually brought some clarity, and not necessarily in a bad way. Instead of being shocked or repulsed I began looking at the pictures again, from a different angle, embracing some of my imperfections and showing a little acceptance .
Only last week my daughter had screamed when she came into the bedroom, pointing out that I had a massive bruise on the back of one of my legs where a vein had burst. Unfortunately for me thrombosis and venous problems run in our family. My Mum and Granny both had horrific problems with their veins. Indeed I’ve already had a massive operation on my varicose veins a few years back…. Anyway, I digress. It turns out I actually found a handful of photographs that were actually pretty complimentary of my 40+ years and, more importantly, other than a massive bruise on one of my thighs that looked a lot like an ink spill, I said no to any great amount of ‘doctoring’ but chose for the odd black and white shot (more flattering) and the odd filter! If there was any major change, modifications and air-brushing it wouldn’t be me, would it? I don’t have to compare myself to the Victoria Beckham’s and Victoria’s Secrets models of this world because I’m not and never will be one of them. It’s time to accept myself as I am and show my beautiful daughter that we’re not perfect and that that is perfectly OK!
I’d be hypocritical if I had heaps of alterations showing a flawless body that belied my life in those 40-something years. I’ve had three children and more major surgeries than I can shake a wand at – and will never have a washboard stomach again – believe me I’ve tried and failed and however much I cut out sugar and do 1000 crunches of a morning it isn’t happening. I flatly refuse to forgo that glass of wine on a night … because that’s what keeps me sane.
So many times models, stunning girls, when not in front of the camera, preach about what a false world they live in. They look amazingly perfect and they are on screen and in magazines .. but back in the real world they’re not perfect. Many admit to having real hang ups too.
I’ve been in photographic studios and I understand what it takes to get those flawless images, the same goes for film sets. Photographers and cameramen alike know the tricks of their trade, they know about angles and lighting and how to defy age and gravity and I can only applaud them for that. I love to see magazines of beautiful women and men, and I love to see films featuring beautiful people too, but I live in the real world.
I do believe that if you’re happy it shines from your face, I really do believe that, however good an actor someone is (and I’m not talking on screen now!) – it’s hard to hide upset and turmoil of a certain degree. That’s not a bad thing, but when you’re truly happy it shows.
I think acceptance is key here. I believe everyone has flaws, whether visible or not. No one is truly perfect. What matters is being the best person that you can be. I don’t mean visually I mean inside where it counts. A good heart, a generous soul, these things hold far much more importance. I realise now I’d far rather be a nice person than look fabulous. I’d far rather be trustworthy than wear the latest fashions. I’d far rather go that extra mile in a pair of flats, that not even step outside of my comfort zone in a pair of 6 inch heels.
That doesn’t mean to say I don’t want to wake up in a morning and put some slap on and select an outfit that I look and feel good in … but it means I’m doing it for all the right reasons, ….. for me.
I want my children to learn that perfection isn’t the ‘ultimate’ and that we learn from all our flaws and our failures. That doesn’t mean that I don’t want them to push themselves to their limits and drive themselves to succeed, but I want them to be accepting of their capabilities and to understand themselves and their limitations. Yes I want them to be fabulous and to be the best at everything, what mother wouldn’t … but I want them to be happy more.
Acceptance is key.
So, here we go – I’m not a size 0 … on a good day I’m a healthy looking size 12/14 and on a bad day I’m a bloated and cranky 14/16! Most days I have at least 2 chins and the skin on my underarms, and on my thighs, flails a bit when I run (so these days I prefer not to go at any speed faster than a rushed walk). I like chocolate and I really like wine – so nothing is going to change any time soon. My nose is a little large and a little bulbous (but it’s a family trait) and my teeth are never going to rival Cheryl’s (I shan’t put a surname here as I’m at a loss as to what to call her right now) (but then I could never afford her pearly whites and I’m not a fan of dentists). I still love designer clothes .. but these days I’m more TK Maxx than Harvey Nic’s … although I have been known to splurge in a sale and hide things in the bottom of my (not so) walk-in wardrobe from my other half until a significant amount of weeks have passed so that I can say ‘Oh this old thing!’ I’ve never been spotty (I had to have one bonus point), but now my wrinkles are more prominent (although I like to refer to them lovingly as laughter lines). My maths still isn’t A-stream – but I can calculate the correct change and am happy to kick up a stink if I’m short-changed. I’ve been told I can string a pretty good sentence together and I still hold just enough determination and ambition to believe that one day I’ll write a novel that will get published. In the meantime, I’ll sit on the sofa, annoying everyone on Facebook and regularly blogging, whilst encouraging my children to both behave and to eat healthily whilst momentarily keeping my fingers out of the biscuit tin. Whatever happens I will take ownership and be master of my own destiny and ultimately try to love myself!
Jess Glynne, I’m with you. I’m all for pushing that dark cloud away! Don’t be so hard on yourself is the moral of this story; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THeLVhU53ow
Life and criticism is no longer a threat. I think it comes with age, but – I’ve realised that I’m not all bad and it’s ok to ‘love yourself’ for what you are and not at anyone elses expense! So, I’m doing just that…. I highly recommend it!