Inside my journal this week I write about my battle with body image. How the war started, how I've fought for peace within and how my struggles still pull me into the war zone on the regular.
I've been in a battle with my body since the age of 11 and while I've worked most of my life to overcome the dark shadow that overhangs my thoughts about my body, I'd be lying if I said it's something I've healed from completely.
I can tell you the exact time that my issues with my body started. I was in year six at primary school and fell very ill with pneumonia. I was rushed to hospital, where on arrival my Mum was told my airways were so inflamed that I was barely getting any oxygen at all. I was a severe asthmatic so hospital visits weren't that rare for me, especially around the change of season. This time however the nurse asked my Mum if I'd had any life threatening episodes before and it was at that exact moment that she realised the gravity of the situation. The hard cold fact that my life was in danger and that I may not make it through. Lucky for me, and for my family, I did make it through and survived that ordeal, well at least physically.
Part of my recovery involved me being put on steroids to build up the strength of my lungs again. I was on steroids for months, at least that's what I can remember. Over this time I put on a huge amount of weight (um - steroids!) and unfortunately the kids at my school were not very understanding or compassionate towards me during the months that followed. One experience in particular I can recall like it was yesterday was a boy writing on my year 6 dress at our end of year celebrations. While all of the other kids in my year were getting comments written on their uniforms like "see you in high school", "best friends forever", this boy wrote on my dress "enjoy Jenny Craig". Besides the embarrassment of that being written on my dress in that moment, I had to endure this embarrassment over and over again as each person lined up to write on my dress and saw the comment that had already been written. Some would try to hide their laughs (they were the nice ones) while others simply looked at me and laughed to my face. I finally put my dress away that day not ever truly understanding that the shame and embarrassment I felt in that moment about my body and appearance would dictate the way I saw myself for the rest of my life. The truth is, I still wear the scars from that experience, only they're internal and not where many people can see them.
"The truth is, I still wear the scars from that experience, only they're internal and not where many people can see them"
The hardest thing about opening up about this is the shame. Not the shame from that day because as an adult I can see how helpless I was and how utterly terrible some of those kids were. It's the shame in admitting that as someone who has dedicated much of their personal development to health, wellness and mindset, I'm still greatly plagued by the battle with my body. It's never nice to acknowledge we have a weakness, that no matter how hard we try perhaps there will always be a part of us that we struggle with. I'm not even sure the word weakness is right or fair here, but nonetheless that's what comes up for me as I sit here and write.
Over the years, especially the last five or so, I have dedicated so much of my time to tackling my mindset when it comes to body confidence and self image. Going to battle again and again with that inner voice that just keeps telling me my body is not enough.
I began one of my most recent journeys three years ago, committing myself to my physical health (well at least that's what I told myself!) which included training religiously 6 days a week to attain some desired weight. "I'll be happy as soon as I'm a comfortable size ten", "I'll be happy as soon as I weight 65 kilos on the scale". The ironic and frustrating thing is that I achieved all those goals. I lost 12 kilos, fit into a size 10 with ease, weighed 65 kilos and guess what? It wasn't enough. See, this is the thing, enough will never be enough when it comes to my relationship with my body because I sold myself a story a long time ago that my body was not worthy and that it was the right of others to judge and shame it as they saw fit. A story I started selling myself when I was 11 and continued to sell myself throughout all of my teenage and young adults years. This story that I continued to perpetuate dictated the way I treated myself and the way I was treated by others, especially sexually as a young adult. I had respect for myself but not my body and this belief was echoed by partners in a couple of defining relationships in my early twenties. Defining in the sense that their treatment of me continued to allow me to perpetuate the story that my body wasn't enough and that it was there for others to judge (more on this another time!).
The absolute utter truth, that hurts me now even to admit, is that every day I live with that internal voice on replay analysing what I'm eating and telling me all the things "I should" be doing. Telling me, that if I have that snack I should definitely fit in that gym session on the way home. That if I have a beautiful lunch out with friends and enjoy that extra glass of wine, I should definitely fast tomorrow. This voice is a constant in my life, like an undercurrent in the ocean, it's always there but through my ongoing journey to self I now only sometimes get pulled into its rip.
I've learnt through a lot of self work, self reflection and time spent in meditation that I (and my body!) are worthy of deep love no matter how I look and that the only place I'm ever truly going to find that worth is from within. No-one can give that to me, but me! From a logical point of view I believe this and know this, but the thing is sometimes our brains aren't always logical are they? Sometimes they're caught up in a wave of emotion and thoughts that we know aren't serving us but that we struggle to detach from.
"Scars are beautiful and are a powerful reminder of the adversity we've already so bravely overcome"
The hardest thing for me to accept though is that I'm not alone in feeling like this, yet it feels so isolating. It's as if everyone around me is so self-assured and so full of confidence, while weak old me is at it again with the body issues. The problem is, it's a real issue and one I'm not facing alone. Research conducted time and time again on this subject highlights that this feeling is so wide spread. An article by Better Health Victoria, notes that 80% of Australian women are dissatisfied with their bodies to some degree. This is a huge number and one that shouldn't be ignored. It's also a number that deeply saddens me because we all deserve better, we all deserve to love our bodies.
I also conducted a poll on my Instagram page @stillwithsammy and as I suspected the results I saw echoed this same sentiment with 69% of respondents indicating that they've suffered from low body positivity. 92% of respondents indicated they've said negative things to themselves about their body (let that sink in for a moment, 92%!), with 31% saying they struggle with body image issues daily. While I acknowledge this information is in no way reflective of all of my followers, let alone the whole of society, it's still an important reminder that we're not alone in our battle with our bodies. You're not alone and I'm not alone. There are so many of us who have, or are, struggling with body image issues in silence, feeling alone and isolated and like we are the problem.
So like I said, I find this so hard. Why? Because, as a collective, we can and should speak our truth. Showing up for each other from a place of empathy and compassion. If most of us are in the same boat, why aren't we talking about this? Why haven't I spoken up about this before more openly instead of living under a cloud of shame for so long? I can tell you why and I can only speak to my truth not that of others, it's because I feel that if I speak out about this that I will be seen as weak. The ironic thing is, I'm a very self assured person. I'm firm on my morals and values and I live my life according to those each and every day. This is absolutely something I pride myself on. I have a huge amount of willpower and am firm in the way I want to live my life and who I surround myself with. Being seen to have a weakness about my own body confidence seems to defy the way I see myself in all other areas of my life. That, if I'm still working on something within, all my other breakthroughs with regard to my self-development journey would've been for nothing. It's complex and confusing and no doubt my biggest opportunity for growth within.
So what next?
As I continue to battle with my body I turn back to my practice, my safe haven from that internal voice. Retreating from the war just long enough to feel a sense of peace and love within that is slowly getting stronger day by day. I'm learning that my body is not something to be punished, but something to be admired. I make sure that before I do any training I'm doing it for the right reasons, to help me feel strong and maintain great internal health instead of it being about me giving in to that toxic inner voice. I'm learning that glass of wine at the end of the week is ok, and should absolutely be enjoyed guilt free. Most of all, I'm learning that besides all of this I'm a human being with a soul and my soul is craving love and acceptance. Beyond the physical shell of my body, my energy is bright and full of possibility. I need only return home within over and over again to find peace and deep compassion for myself.
Beyond myself, I want my voice to inspire others to share their stories in the hope that we no longer have to live with shame. That we can stand tall in our true essence, owning our stories, our bodies and absolutely owning the continual work we're doing on ourselves throughout life's journey. Owning our ongoing evolution of self, the challenges, the wins, the paths we're taking to do and be better every day, however that looks for each of us! Shouting loud and proud that we don't have to have it all together to be heard, worthy and loved.
After all, scars, whether they are internal or external, are beautiful and are a powerful reminder of the adversity we've already so bravely overcome.
If you've enjoyed peeking inside my journal I would love to hear from you. Please feel welcomed and encouraged to comment below or on my Instagram feed @stillwithsammy and share your story as we rise up as one collective voice.
I'd also be very grateful if you shared this post with anyone you feel would love to read it.
If you'd like more help or information around body image and support, I highly recommend Butterfly, who have a whole section on their website dedicated to body image.
Until next time, I wish you well. May you shine bright, always.
Love, Sammy xoxo