Posted in fitness, relationships, Self-Discovery

The Bikini

Last night I went out for a little celebratory dinner with my team at work. It normally takes me at least an hour to prepare for going out because I believe in always looking your best on any occasion, and probably because I’m really really vain (self-awareness, people, this is what it looks like).

I went to my closet, which I’ve downscaled by about half last year. I threw away anything I haven’t worn in the past 6 months, which includes all those size 8 dresses that I’ve stupidly been hanging on to out of some delusional hope that I’ll ever be able to wear them again.

I picked out and put on one of my favourite jumpsuits, placed my hair in a ponytail and accessorised it with a gold clip on the side for added flair, wore comfortable flats, bit of eyeliner, my signature red lipstick and I was done. 10 minutes flat and I was ready to go.

Now let’s talk about what I would have normally done before I started out on this new positive body image mindset that I’m trying really hard to cultivate within myself.

First I would have agonised for ages over what to wear, and even when I’ve made a decision I would have changed my mind at least three times, because when I look at the mirror all I would see were the bulges, the gut, the protruding tummy, and the thighs that looked like they would be substantial enough to feed an entire third world country.

I would have then gone through my arsenal of tricks, and I do hope I’m not violating some sacred female code of here. But let’s be real. Who among us could deny owning a nice pair (or two) of spanx? Think about all those tummy-control knickers you own, the ones that promise to be so effective you’d feel as if you’ve had liposuction (LIES). Think about the bras that promise to give you so much lift and support that you’d feel like you have porn star boobs (WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO?), those corsets that enable you to fit into that overpriced but really sexy LBD (little black dress, hello).

The reality is that you would probably feel confident and sexy for all of 5 seconds. You’d make your grand entrance and people will ooh and aah and tell you how good you look…before they turn their attention back to their gin and tonics (where it rightfully belongs) and move on with their lives.

5 seconds of admiration and applause, in return for a whole evening feeling like a trussed up chicken, squeezed, tied and stuffed, ready to go into the oven. Is it REALLY worth it?

I am not denying the power of a good outfit. But the power lies in how it makes you feel. It should make you feel confident enough to take on the world. I don’t think it will make you feel confident to force yourself (squeeze yourself, I should say) into a size 10 dress when you’re really a size 14. I don’t care how good you think you look. If oxygen can’t get into your lungs and you’re unable to breathe properly because of your vanity, well, cyanosis is not a good look on anyone.

I’d like to end this with a little anecdote of me and the bikini. The Bikini used to be my mortal enemy. It represented every insecurity I’ve ever had about myself. In the Philippines, where being a size 4 is the norm, if you’re plus-sized and you had the audacity to wear a bikini, people would look at you from head to foot, and titter behind your back because, come on, who do you think you are? How dare you show your lack of abs and your legs full of cellulite?

When I moved to the UK I realised that over here people don’t give a shit about what you wore. Live and let live. If you want to wear a bikini then for godsake wear one. Between global warming and modern slavery and all the other important issues the world faces, IT REALLY DOESN’T MATTER in the grand scheme of things.

The Bikini is a metaphor for all the unfair expectations we women impose on ourselves. Like, honestly, 80% of the female population will not have Victoria’s Secret Angels bodies. Men will just have to deal with it. Its not like each and every one of them are Henry Cavills or Chris Hemsworths themselves. We are all wonderfully, imperfectly ordinary. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Getting to the point where you’re comfortable with your body is a long and tedious process. One day you feel like you’ve made a giant leap forward, the next day you’re back to castigating yourself in front of the mirror. Its a constant uphill battle to focus and celebrate on the good parts of yourself. For some reason as human beings we seem to be programmed to see the negative first. We really are our own worst enemies, aren’t we?

The only thing I can say based on my experience is to bear in mind that there are things more important than weight and physical appearances. Like enjoying what you do. Like learning. Like finding fulfilment in doing your life’s passion, whatever that may be.

Every day, I try to find at least three things I like about myself, physically and non-physically. I like my skin. I like my teeth. Today I’m having a good hair day. My blood pressure has been normal all week. I make people laugh (even when I don’t intend to). I can write a blog that is as long as an academic essay in 10 minutes, that’s a talent isn’t it?

Be brave. Wear a bikini. Go parading down Oxford Circus naked (or maybe not). Set yourself free from caring about what other people think. They don’t matter. Besides, the only people worth keeping will think you’re awesome regardless of how you look and what you wear, even a bikini.

Posted in bloggers, fitness, Health and Well-Being, Lifestyle, Self-Discovery

Confessions of a Body Shaming Victim

Last week, in the middle of a stressful theatre list where I was worried about having sets and instruments for the surgical procedures we were about to do, one of my male colleagues told me that he thought I was looking “a little chubby“.

Now normally, I would be able to brush off a comment like that. But last week I was especially vulnerable because I had spent the entire week before that binge-eating as a result of the combined effects of hormones and the natural stress of having made some big career changes.

I won’t deny that my self-esteem has always been inversely proportional to my body weight. I come from a country where a UK size 4 is considered the norm and a UK size 12 is almost bordering on fat (if not outright obese). Growing up, I’ve always accepted that this is the standard of beauty against which I will be measured and I am painfully aware that in that regard I have always fallen hopelessly short.

Anyway, this one thoughtless but probably  innocent comment sent me on a downward spiral throughout the day, to the point where I couldn’t even look at food without feeling sick. That day, I saw food as the enemy rather than something that will fuel and nourish me.

My sister and I finished late that day and she asked me whether I wanted to order takeaway rather than go through the hassle of having to cook dinner. I had to tell her that I can’t even think about what to eat for dinner until I’ve stepped on a weighing scale and confirmed whether I have indeed gained weight or not.

I know, I know. Berate me all you want about how stupid and illogical this was, you’re not telling me anything I haven’t already told myself. Rationally, I know that beauty is skin deep, and there’s more to me than just my physical attributes, everyone is lovely in their own way yada yada yada

Rationally, I know that it is INCREDIBLY UNREALISTIC AND DELUSIONAL to think that I will ever be, say, a Victoria’s Secret model. To start with, I just don’t think I have the genes for it. But how do you deal with that irrational part of you that just wants to fit in? How do you deal with that part of you who just wants, FOR ONCE, to not worry every time you want to eat a brownie?

I always say to myself that I exercise and workout for my health and because its fun, not because I’m chasing this picture in my head of what a “sexy” body should like. Someone once told me that confidence is the new sexy anyway and most of the time I have confidence in spades.

I’m not one to deprive myself of food, nor do I usually stop myself from wearing certain clothes because I think I’m too “fat” to pull it off. My favourite outfit is a cropped top for goodness sake. I think there’s nothing you can’t wear as long as you choose the right size for you. Don’t stuff yourself into a size 8 when you’ll look and feel so much better in a size 12.

I guess what I’m saying is that even though I’m a well-adjusted person most of the time and I’ve developed a healthy relationship with (and a healthy acceptance of) my body over the years, my weight will continue to be the one aspect of my life that I will always be incredibly sensitive about. There’s nothing I can do to change that.

Blame it on a childhood full of teasing and being called a member of the “Spice Pigs“, a nickname my friend’s brother called my circle of girl friends because we were all “healthy“. Blame it on a culture that glorifies being skinny. Blame it on the media. But it is what it is, I will always be sensitive about it.

Not even 24 hours after the incident with my colleague, I was at a Bruno Mars concert and, as is expected in these things, people turned up in their summer outfits. Which means to say there was a bare minimum of clothing present. We saw a girl wearing a really tight stringy top that looked three sizes too small for her. Honest-to-god, she looked like a burst sausage.

But you see, what does that say about me that I have those kind of thoughts? What does it say about me that I joke and laugh at someone else’s expense when I know how much it hurts to have the same thing done to me? It doesn’t matter that I didn’t say it to her face, the mere act of mocking her behind her back makes me the worst kind of hypocrite there is

And that is the true confession. We are all of us simultaneously victims and perpetrators of body-shaming.

One of my friends once tweeted that you should change the world by example and not with your opinions. Writing this blog is my way of admitting that I also have my faults, and a way of promising that I’m going to try to be better.

I just think we should all be kinder to ourselves and to others. Believe me, whatever criticisms you make of someone does not match the amount of self-criticism that that person has already given herself. No one judges us more harshly than we ourselves do. Having other people say what we’re already thinking just adds insult to a self-inflicted injury.

I hope that this story makes other people think twice the next time they feel the need to tell other people something potentially hurtful about themselves. Try a compliment the next time. No matter how a person looks I believe you will always find something good to say about them, and it will make them feel better as well as making you feel better about yourself.

You know what I want? For once, I want someone to come up to me and say “You look chubby and its awesome”. Full-figured doesn’t have to be a bad thing. People need to know that as long as they’re happy and healthy, its okay to look the way they do. 

SAY NO TO BODY SHAMING. Focus on the positive rather than the negative and do the world a bit of good.

Posted in relationships, Self-Discovery, Stress Relief

A Letter From Me to Me

Dear Self,

For as long as I’ve known you, you’ve always been a fast learner. However, there’s one lesson that you’ve wilfully and consistently failed to learn: the lesson that, no matter what you do, you will never be able to please everyone. 

It’s frustrating for me to see how you bend over backwards in an effort to be “universally loved”. IT’S NEVER GONNA HAPPEN. Not because your efforts are lacking, but because that’s just the way the world is made.

Whenever someone comes up with an idea, you can bet your bottom dollar that there will always be one naysayer for every fifty supportive comments. This shouldn’t bring you down or stop you from making similar efforts in the future.

No, what you have to do is to file experiences like these under the heading of Character-Building. Its not good for anyone to think so highly of themselves anyway. We need detractors to keep us humble and to keep us grounded.

We need negative people to inspire us to do even better next time. Success truly is the sweetest revenge; if you can’t change their minds and their opinions about you or about what you’re doing, you can at least prove them wrong when you throw proof of your success in their face. 

The point is, you just have to remember the reasons for why you do the things you do. You’re not doing it to gain praise or for people to like you; you’re not looking for appreciation or any sort of reward.

No, you do the things you do because you genuinely believe in them. And that kind of conviction is a strength to be cultivated; it is what will make you go far in life despite people trying to drag you down.

There are more people who appreciate you than you know. They may not always say it explicitly but they are there to support you, your ideas and the essence of who you are. Those are the people worth listening to.

Actually, if I could have one wish for you, it would be this: that you’d have a better ability of filtering people’s comments so that you only give credence to the opinions of people who are worthy of your respect.

Don’t ever let anyone dull your sparkle. I know its difficult to stay enthusiastic and engaged when you’ve been disappointed by people so many times before, but if you lose sight of who you are (and if you become negative as a response to the negativity being thrown at you), you’re letting them win.

DON’T LET THEM WIN.

So yeah, you can’t please everybody. And nor should you try to. You are not obligated to set yourself on fire just to keep somebody else warm. Do not take to heart comments that are so far beneath you that they’ll need a shovel to dig them out.

Have a little cry about it, its a natural response to people hurting your feelings. But pick yourself up and remember the eternally wise words of one Taylor Alison Swift:

Don’t you worry your pretty little mind, people throw rocks at things that shine

Chin up anj, everything always looks better after a good night’s sleep. If not, well, that’s what chocolate is for.

Love,

The More Rational Side of You

 

Posted in Careers, Lifestyle, Self-Discovery, Writing

That Little Voice in Your Head

You are your own worst critic.

That’s just a fact.

When you try on the most beautiful dress and everyone else tells you you look fantastic, but all you can see when you look at the mirror is that bulge in your stomach that makes you think you look fat. So you return the dress and promise yourself you’ll buy it later, maybe after you’ve gone on a diet.

When you want to try something physical like muay thai and imagine people you know laughing at you for attempting something so athletic when you’ve always been just the smart one, and you ask yourself what in the world makes you think you could ever do this, so you nearly miss your first class.

When a higher job post becomes open and you think to yourself that there’s no way you’re qualified to do this, your colleagues will only intimidate you and its not your field of expertise so what have you got to bring to the table anyway? So you nearly miss the deadline for the submission of applications.

When you meet someone you fancy, but you think he’s in such a different stratosphere from you that ‘out of your league’ is an understatement, so you don’t even attempt to strike up a conversation…and you miss out on the possible love of your life.

One more.

When you try to fulfil your childhood dream of becoming a writer, so you decide to enter a short story writing contest, but halfway through writing your first story you read your draft and you think its absolute rubbish, so you nearly give up on the whole idea.

But you power through. And think to yourself that you don’t write to win, or to be published, or even because you’re hoping someone else will think its worth their time to read whatever it is you put out.

You write for you, for the sheer pleasure of putting into words the many things you have swirling in your head. You write because you have something to say and you want to say it, and you write because it is the best way for you to express yourself.

So you write a short story. And another one. And just because you grow up thinking that the more entries you send, the more chances you have of winning, you write a THIRD entry and submit it ONE HOUR BEFORE THE SUBMISSION APPLICATION CLOSES.

AND YOU WIN. YOU ACTUALLY WIN.

That third and desperate attempt at an entry actually wins.

So what have we learned from this?

Do not let yourself be defeated before you even get on the ring. Give yourself a chance to try. 

Don’t be so afraid to fail that you talk yourself out of even making an attempt. You don’t fail when you lose; failure will only add to your experience. There is no failure so spectacular that you can’t bounce back from it to become BETTER.

And sometimes fate and the universe will collide with passion and hard work and you can actually get everything you’ve ever wanted. Or at least be one step closer to it.

So that little voice in your head telling you you can NEVER do something, that you’ll never achieve some of your more far-fetched goals and dreams?

IGNORE IT.