I do like a challenge, especially when it’s inspired by another blogger. So, when I read Suzy Turner’s brilliant post about being perfectly imperfect, which invited her readers to write about the subject, I was up for it. We all have our hang ups and insecurities, many of them deep-rooted. As part of the amazing 40+ blogging community, I see the topic of body confidence come up frequently. The consensus seems to be that as we get older we loosen the shackles of those hang ups and become more content with our bodies.
I was terribly shy as a child, and in turn became a very self-conscious teenager. Wearing extremely untrendy glasses and having a bad perm certainly didn’t help! I didn’t feel good about my body until my early 20s when I started working out and doing martial arts. For the first time in my life I had defined muscles and even a six pack, but I still didn’t feel truly confident. I worried about what people thought of me: my clothes, my face, even my voice. I could have had the perfect body (I didn’t) but still would have lacked confidence. That came gradually over the years (confidence, not the perfect body!).
I think I know what suits me now in terms of style, although I’m always happy to experiment. If I try something on that doesn’t suit me I don’t blame myself for making the clothes look bad (like I used to). I simply accept that it’s not for me and I’ll find an alternative that makes me feel great. I have plenty of features that I wouldn’t have chosen if I’d had the option, but don’t we all? On a superficial level, I’d have preferred longer legs, a smaller nose and straight toes. Oh, and a smaller ribcage because it’d make getting dresses to fit so much easier. But there are other, more important things that I’d like to change.
In my mid 20s I had a bout of vertigo, which felt like I was trapped inside a washing machine on spin cycle. At the same time I experienced the onset of tinnitus. I fully expected this to be temporary, but it wasn’t. Almost two decades later the constant hissing sound is still there, and always will be. When it started my GP sent me for tests where I found out that my hearing had been damaged, and within a couple of years I went completely deaf in my right ear. For someone who loves music as much as I do it was a bitter blow. My consultant told me my brain would adjust to the tinnitus, and slowly but surely it did. I hardly ever notice it now.
Dealing with the deafness is a bit harder; I find it very difficult to tell where sounds are coming from. Social situations are hard too; I can’t hold a conversation in a noisy room. People who don’t know me try to talk in my deaf ear. And of course, sometimes I just don’t hear people and they think I’m ignoring them. I’ve deliberately avoided parties and big gatherings because I have to concentrate really hard and often lip read. But when I do push myself out of my comfort zone (like the 3040 Blogger meet) it’s enourmously satisfying.
You might not think there’s an upside to being deaf in one ear, but there is. If I need to sleep in a noisy environment I can simply lie on my good ear. A couple of weeks ago we had a terrible storm overnight and I had to get up really early. The wind whipping the tree against the window woke me up but I was able to turn over and get back to sleep easily. My husband has to wear earplugs but I have my own inbuilt one! Obviously the disadvantages of hearing loss far outweigh the advantages, but you’ve got to look for the positives, right?
After years of fixating on the physical aspects of myself that I didn’t like, I can now accept them because we are all perfectly imperfect. Now I’m in my 40s I’ve realised that self-loathing is utterly futile. It occupies precious time and space in our lives that could be better spent. You can care too much what other people think, to the point of self-limitation. I run because I like the challenge and the feeling of accomplishment, even though I’ll never be a fast runner. I’ve been heckled, told to run faster (only by men oddly enough), but that’s not going to stop me getting out for a run. Concentrating on how I feel rather than how I look when I’m running is a lesson for every aspect of life. Enjoy the scenery and breathe it all in. I’m happy being perfectly imperfect, and you should be too.
My good friend Jo recently wrote this wonderfully inspiring post about why you should be happy in your skin. I’ve known Jo since university and she’s certainly had her battles with body image. After losing around half her body weight she’s now a personal trainer and all-round badass wonder woman. If you don’t mind colourful language you should pop over for a read.