I’m sitting high above the world today in one of my favourite places to retreat to, Montville near the Glasshouse Mountains. My son is having a Zookeeper experience at Australia Zoo and so I’ve got 5 hours all alone to wander these quaint streets and write with a spectacular view.
I’ve been ruminating on a final blog for the Embrace Yourself Tour, knowing there was a little more to get out yet. So I’m just going to pour all these thoughts on to the page and see what takes place. I’m not going to edit this one, to keep it real. 🙂
On our first night together, we crowded into Taryn’s hotel room in Melbourne and introduced ourselves to each other. Two spiels have stuck with me from that evening, Kate and Stacey’s.
Kate, from Love, Food & Gratitude, shared a very emotional story of a health issue that found her in hospital being wheeled towards surgery. Doctors had tried to give her some optimism but also told her that there was a very real possibility of an outcome they suggested was better not discussing. Kate talked of being wheeled down a hallway knowing that on one side she’d have a long recovery; on the other side she wouldn’t be waking up. In that moment the only question she asked herself was ‘Have I loved enough?’ She was struck hard with the realisation that while she’d given away an abundance of love, she’d never turned it towards herself. She told the story slowly and dramatically, never apologising for the time she took or emotive nature of her sharing. I found I was focusing more on how she spoke than what she was saying (She was our Q and A guest twice on tour – so I did hear it in detail again 😊). I recognised that when I tell a story I feel the need to make excuses to justify taking up time or sometimes even give credit for a thought to someone else in preparation for people dismissing it. That way I can pass the buck. I admire those who can stand firm in self-assurance that their words matter and will be well received. Maybe this is why I like to write, I can edit over and over until I feel better about the message.
The other introduction that impacted me was Stacey, the funniest model you’ll meet, who told us all that she would be a bonus for team morale. When questioned how, she grinned and said, ‘You just wait and see’. I was awe-struck at the confidence it took to say – I am going to make you all feel great each day with my shining personality. She wasn’t exaggerating – she most definitely had that effect on the tour. However, I just knew I could never say such a proud thing about myself. But oh how I wish I could.
On our last night together, Ellen Briggs hugged me and said I was the happiest woman she’d ever met. I laughed a little awkwardly and said that was maybe the nicest compliment anyone ever gave me. Ironically, the happiest woman she knew went to her cabin and cried herself to sleep.
Since then I’ve been trying to work out why I cried over that and why I was so enthralled by those who are self-assured. I spoke to so many women on this body positive tour who shared their insecurities with me. Some were at war with their bodies, some felt their face wasn’t pretty enough, some weren’t comfortable about anything at all. I’m at ease with these people. They are my kindred spirits! Yet, I always gravitate to the flamboyant, fabulously poised people, desperate for their approval.
Since the Embrace movement, I’ve learnt to love and appreciate my body. I’ve accepted my significantly average face will never look like a cover model. Yet, although I seem to present to the world as confident, I have not embraced my personality. When I was twelve, I said to my Mum that I didn’t think I was pretty. She told me that it was true, I’d never be a beauty queen, so girls who looked like me needed to ensure they had a great personality. That sounds so much harsher than she intended it to be. I know that in her own way she was just preparing me for society’s obsession with looks that I’d never obtain. I’m sure she didn’t know that she was planting an ugly seed in my head that 33 years later I can’t seem to kill.
So, I set an intention to always be the funny, kind, adventurous person and that’s how I’d win people over. My personality became an armour against judgement on my looks. And every time someone tells me they love how happy or kind or funny or warm I am, what I actually hear is “You aren’t much to look at – but at least you’ve got some good traits!”
I’ve always felt my husband, Mick, was ‘too good-looking’ for me. A thought reinforced years ago by a bitchy colleague who saw a photo of us together and commented ‘Ohhh – he’s a bit good looking for you isn’t he?’ No, I didn’t punch her. She was just speaking my inner thoughts. Around six years ago, Mick and I were having a deep conversation about attraction and I was fishing for compliments to stroke my fragile ego. In the bluntly honest manner I generally love about him, Mick said he was more attracted to my personality than my looks. He went on to explain why that was a good thing because ‘who cares about appearance, it comes and goes but a good heart is always beautiful.’ Again, he thought he was saying all the right things to me, but my doggedly determined brain only heard that he thought I was ugly. It sent me further down the spiral of self-loathing.
So, here I sit at 45 years old, realising that maybe the persona I’ve presented to the world isn’t truly me. Maybe I’ve been putting on a show because all those years ago I was told that it was the only way I’d be lovable. Now I don’t know if my kindness or happiness is genuine or a ploy to be admired. What I do know is that I want to live an authentic, honest, assured life. I know that I’m attracted to unpretentious people who share their flaws and love fiercely. I think I probably fit that description myself, but I plan to check my intentions regularly to ensure I am living honestly.
I have committed to writing a book along these lines. I want it to be a collaborative project of women sharing their stories to help us all recognise our unique vulnerabilities. As I learn to live a more daring, open, exceptional life, I want to encourage others to revel in their so-called flaws. These are the things that make us beautiful. In a phrase, borrowed from Stacey, You Do You Boo.
To read more blogs from the Embrace Yourself Tour – click here