Appreciating the skin you are currently in

Body Image

This month I am focussing on regaining intimacy. It can be hard to even go there when you are feeling a bit crap about your body. My body has changed a great deal since having kids. Some parts I don’t mind – a new kind of softness. Other parts – generous hips and bottom – are harder to embrace. But I wonder what purpose being critical serves. Whether in years to come I will look back on that criticism and wonder what on earth I was worried about.

I look back on photos of myself as a much younger woman. All cropped blonde hair and long tanned limbs. I don’t remember thinking myself beautiful. 

I thought myself awkward and I hid behind a purposefully ditzy persona. My skin wasn’t perfect and, at size 10, I thought myself larger than I should be. When I look at those photos now I see a gorgeous young woman, naive as to what life will deliver her. I see what society deems as the ideal and a girl who had no idea she embodied it. I see it in those photos and I saw it the other week on a very rare night out. The 10:30PM tide was turning in the bar and those over thirty were filing out as the young pretty things started their evenings. There was a group of young women, each of them breathtakingly beautiful, but it was clear they were unaware of that beauty. Nervously looking around, wondering their place, seeking validation. In time, those women will look back on photos taken that evening and wonder why they didn’t realise how beautiful they were.

I look at photos taken recently. More often than not, with one or both of my kids in arms.  I see hair hastily scraped back into a ponytail because life doesn’t offer time for anything else. I see sallow skin and hollow eyes, the tell-tale signs of months without proper sleep.  I see a little too much baby weight still hanging around the edges. Why don’t I see the huge smile on my face mirrored in the faces of my children? Why don’t I see the joy we are sharing? Why don’t I see the wonder of making these little people? Why don’t I appreciate a healthy and fit body that allows me to play with my children? Are these the things that will grab me first when I look at these photos in the years to come? Will I be looking at them and wondering why I wasn’t appreciating the best days of my life rather than worrying that my hair looked awful?

I wonder, does it always need to be this way? Do we, as women, only ever appreciate our beauty in retrospect? Is it acceptable to look at a photo taken years ago and wistfully comment on how pretty we were then but unacceptable to give that compliment to yourself in the now? I am going to try harder at being positive about my body in the now. It has given me so much, I should probably be a littler kinder in return.

Arrow 3

Do you appreciate yourself and your beauty?
Do you see it?

18 thoughts on “Appreciating the skin you are currently in

  1. Beth at AlmostPosh.com says:

    Interestingly, I feel a lot more confident and better looking in my 30s than I did in my 20s – I think I’ve just taken more of an interest (and have the cash to do so) to afford a decent hair cut and colour, learning how to use make-up of a reasonable quality and am more aware of the clothes that work for me. Sure, I still spent the year after having my baby in trackies and ponytails but doesn’t everyone??

    • Robyna says:

      I definitely agree that finding you style (and the funds to do so!) makes a huge difference. Although teenagers and twenty-somethings these days seem to put a lot more effort into makeup and hair than I ever remember doing. Trackies and pony tails are de rigueur for new mums I think 🙂 So nice to have you here Beth – thanks for popping by.

  2. birdandfox says:

    I definitely think society has programmed (the majority of) women to rarely, if ever, appreciate and recognise their own beauty. Studying body image has meant I’ve read some pretty shocking statistics and heartbreaking individual anecdotes, starting in females as young as 3 years old. It makes me wish women (myself included) could break out of the cycle involving thin ideal images, comparing their appearances with others, and ultimately considering their self-worth to be tied to their appearance. The more people talk about their body image experiences, the better, so thank you for sharing your story Robyna!

    • Robyna says:

      Thanks – It seems like something women need to take back (against all odds). We need to talk positively about ourselves – because, let’s face it, unless you fit into a very narrow ideal, it’s unlikely you are going to get that validation from the media. I am all for building each other up.

  3. dani @ sand has no home says:

    MY body has changed immensely since having my secnd baby a year ago. In that time 1 bed sleeper turned into 2, and an autism diagnosis in my tiny boy. After a lifetime of fluctuating between size 6 and 10, I am more like a 16 now, and still I comfort eat to get through the sleep deprivation and the stress. Despite all of this, you are dead right, being self critical solves nothing. Thanks for your thoughtful and considered post.
    Dani @ sand has no home

    • Robyna says:

      Your are right – self criticism does nothing but compound the problem. It sounds like your life is pretty stressful right now (I hear you on the sleep deprivation aarrrrghh) and I think sometimes we just have to do what we need to do to get through it. Hopefully the time will come when you can turn attention back to yourself soon.

  4. Cat from thatbettiething says:

    I’ll be honest. It’s something I’m struggling with at the moment. But not from an outside in perspective, if that makes sense. However, I am currently putting myself further up the priority list, which is already makes me feel better. I find if I feel good on the inside I tend to shine on the outside. X

    • Robyna says:

      I am so glad to read that you are able to make more time for you. I agree – when I spend time on good food, good company, creative pursuits and exercise I feel so much better and that reflects out, definitely.

  5. I'm Sarah says:

    I’m close to 50 and sadly, I still succumb. I am obese according to the charts and every day, no matter where I look I am told overtly and covertly that people who are fat are lazy, have no control, should do better, should be better. I find as I get older, it is relentless and to rise above that tide is like trying to swim against a tsunami.

    Even the current front page of Vanity Fair with the transformation of Bruce Jenner into Caitlyn Jenner showed a woman who was stunning. It saddened me in a way because they weren’t really applauding his transformation from a man into a woman, they were applauding the transformation from a man into a stunning woman. Had he turned out any different to the “ideal” beauty, he would never had made it onto that cover. Women are so critical of themselves because it works its way into our psyche through the onslaught of unrealistic images we are exposed to daily.

    Studies have shown that woman who aren’t exposed to our kind of media have a much better self image, are revered as they get older for their experience and wisdom and have a lot more confidence.

    Hang in there Robyna, you are not alone. Life is tough for us western women but you are doing a great job of trying to make it better. xx

    • Robyna says:

      Thanks Sarah – there is a very narrow definition of beauty isn’t there? And you are right about Caitlyn – she is stunning but if she had been larger or not as beautiful, then it’s unlikely she would have been on the cover. We encounter 400 to 600 advertisements per day containing an idealised version of beauty. That’s a lot of imagery to contend with when we fall outside that ideal (which is pretty much all of us). It would be great to shut it all off wouldn’t it? But I guess as that’s not possible, we need to try and promote a wide variety of beauty and all the other wonderful things about women, outside their looks. So much to think about it – thanks for continuing the conversation.

  6. Tamzen Temple says:

    We never appreciate the NOW of how we look… We always look back but instead but really in ten years we’ll look back and wish we knew how gorgeous we are today…. I worry now more about the healthy because at 44 I’m happy with the skin I’m in. Great post.

  7. Maxabella says:

    Is maiming for body neutrality, but I’m not quite there yet. I can still be critical but I do try to not to attach my self-worth to how I feel about my body on any given day. It’s just not how I want to live. We deserve so much more than that because we are so much more than our appearance. x

    • Robyna says:

      We really are. I am happy to appreciate my body for all the wonderful things it can do and has done. And try to pay little mind to what I am supposed to look like. (Although to be perfectly honest, I would like a haircut).

  8. Flat Bum Mum says:

    Robyna, Thank you! That was a beautiful read. I love how you express yourself. I feel very similar and worry that the way I feel about myself will filter down to my girls. Hard to love the curves, sags and bags when all we see on TV is skinny, tanned perfection. Work in progress over here. Bron x Ps- I’m going to share this on my FB page. I think its fabulous xo

    • Robyna says:

      Oh thank you Bron – you are too sweet. Yes, we are constantly being pressured to look a certain way – I really love fashion IG feeds like yours because they offer an important and realistic alternative to the air-brushed media barrage. Not that I can see any curves, sag or bags!

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