Monday 19 May 2014

When did I learn that my body wasn't good enough ?

If I keep saying it maybe I'll buy it ?
You may have seen an article by comedian Sarah Millican recently about the criticism of her outfit - and her appearance in general - at the BAFTAs last year. Her point was that she's a comedian for a  living, not a model, and her appearance should be irrelevant. The unkindness directed towards her is a symptom of how we treat women in society and how judgemental the media is. It is something a lot of women can identify with. Well maybe not the full on assault of Twitter, but certainly being criticised by other people for what we're wearing or how we look is not unfamiliar to most women. 

I was thinking the other day about how I hear the voice in my head that criticises what I'm wearing or how I look and no matter what Hubbie says to reassure me it is irrelevant. Not that his opinion is irrelevant, but the fact that he is ok with how I look just isn't good enough for me to accept as a valid opinion. I wondered when I first heard an 'outer voice' that made me feel there was something wrong with me. Our inner voice comes from somewhere and I wanted to know where mine had originated.

I think it was when I was at school and a few of us were going for a horse riding lesson. No I didn't go to a posh school, it was a one off. We were all in the back of the minibus when one of the girls said that they would need to know our weight to decide what horse to put us on. I had no idea what I weighed. I'd never stood on scales and while I knew I wasn't thin I didn't obsess over statistics, just about my 'fat knees.' As each girl in turn said what they weighed I didn't know what I was going to say as I genuinely didn't know. When they got to me I took a guess based on what the others has said, "I don't know, maybe 8 stone ?" Alison snorted in derision and she and Michelle rolled their eyes at each other as she said, "Yeah, like hell."  I felt ashamed and humiliated. We had been friends at some point and she had decided not to be friends with me any more, but this was the first time she'd actually been a bitch to me.

It was also the first time I'd been made to feel bad about my body. From then on I knew that I was not good enough. That I was too big, too heavy, not tall enough, not pretty enough. My clothes weren't fashionable enough and my style was too weird to fit in. I was teased and picked on for having 'nurses shoes' because my Mum didn't let me wear heels. As a result I found that being sarcastic and caustic was the only way to ward off the nastiness of the other girls. I still catch myself sometimes and think, woah that's a bit too far, no need to be that unkind. It was a defence mechanism back then and it seems to have stuck.

So when I hear that women are being trolled or criticised or threatened for not being feminine enough, or pretty enough, or not wearing a designer dress or for speaking up it makes me feel angry and sad and powerless all at once. As if those school bullies are still getting away with it.

This weekend we had some friends and family over for a barbecue and I wore a dress that's flattering and pretty - for a change from my usual jeans and t-shirts. One of our friends - who is gorgeous - complimented me and I thanked her. Then her husband and I had the following exchange:

Him: "You do look nice, very fifties chic.'
I laughed: "Well I am living the life of a 1950s housewife these days."
Him: " Oh really ? You're not working ?"
Me: "I'm parenting and blogging and doing my radio show."
Him: "So you're not doing anything then ?"

I felt humiliated, ashamed, pointless. Again. The compliment of only a minute before snatched away. Probably my own fault for trying to make light of it, but it was still hurtful.

So what did I learn ? You can either be complimented as nice to look at or you can be respected for having a purpose. It would appear it's not possible to be both.

Either that or I should make new friends.


  1. What a brilliant, insightful post. You are right - we settle for this kind of rubbish constantly. I'm glad I read Sarah Millican's article because it just goes to show how women are vilified, no matter how much they succeed.
    Maybe sometimes we need to bite back and retort in order to make people consider their comments.
    Glad I found your blog - new follower definitely.

    1. Hiya,
      I just realised that I never thanked you for your lovely comments. Delighted to have you as a new reader :) x