Motherhood, mental illness and beyond

Do you love yourself?

My daughter asked me this last night as I was tucking her into bed. We had been talking about family and love and she was earnestly insistent that everyone should love themselves as well as other people. I smiled and replied “Of course I do!” and she went to sleep happy.

I lied, of course. Not a little white one either but a big fat whopper of a lie. Some days I loathe myself to the point of repulsion; some days I merely dislike myself. But I certainly never even come close to loving myself. I just don’t want my children growing up to feel this way about themselves and the longer I can hide my self-loathing from them the better.

So what’s so bad about me? To be honest the reasons are pretty feeble. The first one, always top of the list, is that I am fat. But then I have always hated my body and been convinced that I was fat, even when looking back I can see that I plainly wasn’t. However these days I really am. Measuring in at around a UK size 20 I have rolls and flab and looking at my body fills me with revulsion. For a variety of reasons losing weight isn’t easy for me but the 2 main ones are that exercise is difficult because of my back pain, and that my eating habits are disordered to the point of possibly having an eating disorder (I’ve written about this before). I don’t really believe that though – I’m just greedy and have no willpower. My size is my own fault.

Moving on, another reason I dislike myself is that I am needy. I want others to approve of me and other people’s opinions, even those of strangers, matter to me. That’s why the previous paragraph was so hard to write – I don’t want online friends to know what I look like below the neck, I don’t want them to know how awful I look. I crave friendship (after the events of the last few years I have few real friends left) but I struggle to bond with anyone offline, perhaps for this reason.

There are yet more reasons and I can’t go into them all. But off the top of my head? I despise my inability to cope with normal, everyday life when I used to be highly successful at a complex job. I hate what I’ve become & hate that I seem unable to escape this fate. I loathe my anxiety because I know that I am being irrational. I detest myself for not being as good a mother as I want to be, as I had always assumed I would be. In short I am ashamed of both who I am and what I look like.

And yet…

And yet there are things about myself that I quite like. I am intelligent. I have a great sense of humour. I like my green eyes. I may not be as good a mother as I thought but I’m not a bad one either. I like my breasts (even if they do make buying clothing tricky!). I’m not bad at baking. I am a good friend. I care about people.

So maybe I should try to stop focusing on the negatives and recognise the positives. This may sound easy but it is a daunting prospect – even writing down those few good things took me ages. There’s a constant little voice in the back of my mind criticising and rubbishing and belittling my every attempt at positivity:
“You think you have nice eyes? It’s a shame the rest of you is so hideous”.
“You’re a good friend? That’s easy to say when most of your friends have vanished from your life” and so on.

But I am going to try to drown out that little voice and attempt to like myself a bit more. I would hate to see the sadness and disappointment on my daughter’s face if she ever learned how I really feel about myself so I need to change that. I need to learn to like myself despite my faults and flaws instead of focusing on them to the detriment of everything else.

It seems an impossible task but I have to try.

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Comments on: "Do you love yourself?" (11)

  1. This really resonates with me. All the very best fighting that annoying voice, kick its arse 😉

  2. Claire SA said:

    You’re not alone here! Women in particular are bombarded with stories and pictures for their entire lives, the majority of which intimate that you’d be better off in life if you were other than you are now. Think about the quintessential princess: Cinderella. Needed to disguise herself to get a man interested in her. Maybe we should read into it that he was even more bowled over when he discovered she was the lovely lady in the rags, but that’s not the version most little girls remember.
    So loving yourself is difficult – no matter what size you are. Even the most physically ‘perfect’ women are ripped apart by the press when they’re actually caught being a ‘normal mum’ or the like for 5 minutes. My point? You need to please yourself, not society, and unfortunately that means fighting against a whole load of indoctrinated twaddle that is as firmly embedded in your brain as your love of all things chocolatey.
    So how can it be done? Just like cleaning a house, learning to walk, ride a bike etc, the key is: baby steps. You’ve been hating/disliking yourself for a long time – that’s not something that’s going to change overnight. Appreciating the good things is a great step forward. Write them down. Put the good things on post-its and stick them on the mirror. Draw a smile on a mirror in lipstick so that every time you look at it, you see something funny and happy, and start to associate it with your face. Stick with the face for the time being – I know not a single woman who adores her own body – as it’s smaller than the body and therefore produces positive results faster. There will be bad days. There will be hideous days – time of the month, anyone?! Another two fingers from Mother Nature who thought women might have things easy – here, have mood swings and a pizza face every 4 weeks! – Ahem.
    But there will also be good days. Writing good stuff, noticing good stuff will pay off eventually – one day you’ll wake up and think “actually, yes my breasts are fairly effing fantastic” or “I’m funny AND sexy, let the world know it!” And after a while, you won’t need those post-its.
    Remember it’ll take time to recognise about yourself the same good things that your friends, and your husband & children, see everyday (that was bad grammar, but you get what I mean! :-P).

  3. Hallelujah to the penultimate paragraph!

    I’d just like to say a few things though:

    “The first one, always top of the list, is that I am fat.” My Gran was way bigger than you, and I loved her with all my heart and so did everyone who met her. Tell you what, I’ll let you keep this one on your list if you can give me a good reason why someone’s weight has any bearing on how likeable they are. Do you hate me cos I’m unhealthily underweight? No, thought not.

    “I am needy. I want others to approve of me and other people’s opinions, even those of strangers, matter to me. I crave friendship.” Why are these bad things? You shouldn’t worry about the opinions of idiots and it’s good to learn to have confidence in yourself, but I think most caring people have a need for acceptance. We want to be liked. That’s a normal human trait and not a bad thing. All the people I’ve ever met who didn’t care for friendship were selfish, arrogant bell-ends. And they didn’t have any friends.

    “I struggle to bond with anyone offline, perhaps for this reason.” More likely because, as @SillyBeardy says, people are idiots, I’m fairly certain your adorable online personality is just your actual personality,

    “I despise my inability to cope with normal, everyday life when I used to be highly successful at a complex job. I loathe my anxiety because I know that I am being irrational.” So you despise yourself for having a MENTAL ILLNESS? No, thought not.

    “I detest myself for not being as good a mother as I want to be.” Sorry, where has this even come from?! Can’t reliably comment until I meet your children but I certainly will when I do.

    “And yet there are things about myself that I quite like.” Oh good, we’re getting somewhere.

    “I am intelligent.” Yep. Probably one of the most intelligent people in my timeline.

    “I have a great sense of humour.” See above.

    “I like my green eyes.” I’ll have to be careful about remarking on your physical assets in case @SillyBeardy thinks I’m trying to steal you again, but (waits till he’s out of the room) you’re very pretty.

    “I may not be as good a mother as I thought but I’m not a bad one either.” Er, no. See above.

    “I like my breasts.” Not seen them myself, but they sound impressive. Though to someone with my figure *all* breasts are impressive.

    “I’m not bad at baking.” Can you teach @8tozers then? She wants to learn.

    “I am a good friend. I care about people.” You’re an amazing person. So many times, you have helped me when I’ve been feeling low. You are a constant source of hilarity and fun in my timeline; you’re always there when I’m feeling rubbish, by text as well as by tweet, and it’s obvious that you really do care about me and so many others. You really are awesome – if you could only see a quarter of what the rest of us see you would be worshipping at your own altar. And don’t just take it from me, take it from all your other Twitter friends who love you, and most of all, @SillyBeardy. I do find that he talks (mostly) a lot of sense,

    • Another friend speaking a lot of sense – you and Claire should get together! You’re right, I don’t judge other people for their weight. But neither can I be happy being as vastly overweight as I am. I know that I’m the only one who can do anything about it…

  4. There’s a comma in the fifth paragraph where there should be a full stop, after ‘idiots’. Sorry about that.

  5. Just read the comment above from Claire and it’s spot on.

  6. Ah the above 2 commentators have said everything so well!

    Liking yourself won’t happen overnight but the trick is to fake it until you do. Stop trash talking yourself, focus on what you see as the positives. If you wouldn’t say it to a friend then don’t say it to yourself.

    As for the weight and making friends, well I don’t know about you but my criteria for making a friend is are they a nice person who I connect with, not what is their waist size.

  7. No matter how crap you feel please take comfort and satisfaction in knowing you have raised a clever,sweet natured little girl who clearly adores you and shows such a positive trait in knowing we should love ourselves and each other.It’s because of you she is like this.Respect.xxxx

  8. As one who has known you forever, I want to give my reasons why you should love yourself – and why I love you:
    1. You’re one of the nmost caring people I know; you do anything you can to help others, even though you have so little yourself. (PS Mumsnet thinks you are too!!!!)
    2. You are a great mum; despite your problems, your children are happy, well looked after, bright and funny, just like their mum.
    3. You are so intelligent that I sometimes wonder whether you’re a changeling :-)!
    4. You cope – much better than you think you do.
    5. You have managed to keep everything together through the very thinnest times, even when the light at the end of the tunnel turned out to be an oncoming express train!
    6. You make me smile.

    I love you xxxx

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