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Learning to love the body I hated

Posted by Verity Johnston on

I've been ummming and ahhing about writing this blog for a while now, mainly because it doesn't relate to clothes. However, it does relate to how you feel about your body or more specifically, how I've felt about mine in the past and what I did to help turn the negative feelings into something a little more healthy.

I don't mean to bang on about myself, but it's all I know. I would never presume to truly know what another person is feeling but I can share my own experiences in the hope that someone may be able to relate and take something positive from it.

 If you've followed What's Not 2 Love for a while, you may be aware that I have had arthritis since the age of 6. So that's 32 years of joy! I've been through a lifetime of pain, operations, mental health problems and a whole load of self loathing. But I'm still here, I'm writing this to you wonderful people and I have so much to be thankful for.

Growing up looking and feeling different to everyone around me was certainly an experience. I was self conscious of the way I walked, the way I moved, the way I looked. I wanted to disappear. I dreaded speaking to new people and receiving the inevitable "What's wrong with you?" questioning. We seem to have developed a little more sensitivity nowadays but in the 90's, arthritis in a child wasn't as well known.

I can't remember exactly when my hands started to change, but based on my memories of some of the comments I received from unpleasant people, it was mid to late teens. I was approaching peak self loathing time! Anyway, this blog isn't about the negative, it's about how I learned to love again.

By my late 20's I'd had enough. Had enough of hating myself. It never made me feel any better and I was sick to death of feeling hideous, unattractive, a freak **insert the worst negative phrases**. I decided to try and do something about it. 

My hands had always been an issue for me. Arthritis had got hold of them and they were gnarly, deformed and weak. My fingers didn't straighten and I felt so ugly. I realised that they were doing their best! My poor hands were being attacked by my own body and I was adding insult to injury and hating them on top of that. They needed my love. So I decided to tart them up a bit and painted my nails...

I enjoyed the little positive buzz I felt, so I started taking better care of my hands and nails. Amazingly, I actually started to enjoy it. I became obsessed with nail polish! Loved the stuff! I would have bathed in it if I could. Eventually, I dipped my finger tips into the world of nail art and realised it interested me. Admittedly, my first attempts weren't the best.

 

I'm incredibly disappointed I don't have photographic evidence of the earliest days. It would have given you a giggle! So this picture will have to do. It's one of my earliest attempts after I created the social media accounts. I was so proud!

It became something that I could be completely immersed in. A distraction from my negative thoughts. There was a fabulous nail art community online and loads of youtube videos to teach me. Eventually, people started telling me that my nail art was quite good (totally unexpected!). It occurred  to me that I may be able to share what I was doing for other people to see, so I set up a Facebook and Instagram account under the name "Bionic Hips and Finger Tips"......clever right?

This was a huge deal for me. I was about to start taking very close up pictures of the parts of my body I'm most conscious of and post them on the internet for all to see. I was opening myself up to who knows what. I took the plunge and shared my story and started strategically photographing my nail art. And that there, is the key. I was in control of my own images and I only showed certain angles and parts of my hands that I was happy with.

You may argue that I didn't show complete images of my hands or am not sharing pictures of my entire hands in this blog, but that's not what it's about. It's not about forcing people to see what I don't like about myself, it's about sharing what makes me truly happy, so I can learn to love myself again. Not just something that makes me look like I fit in. When you start feeling like you need to fit in, you're on a downward spiral. A never ending journey with an end point that simply doesn't exist. Break it down, take baby steps. It's so important to feel comfortable with each step, otherwise you go in too deep and the anxiety and self loathing come flooding back.

I continued to do this for a few years and the feedback I received was amazing. I heard from people all over the world who suffered with arthritis and who felt like I did. My rheumatology consultant would spread the word to her patients because she felt it would inspire people.

The whole process helped me. Being immersed in something creative, learning something new, bettering myself, making new friends around the world and the possibility of helping anyone at all made every little bit worthwhile. 

It helped me re-learn how to love my hands. Because yes, they don't look how I want them to, but look what they can achieve! I started to feel less self conscious. I would get asked in the supermarket about my nails and felt comfortable showing people. Strangers! And that, there, is the end goal. Feeling comfortable.

I've learnt that the things you can't change, will never change. No matter how hard you resent or worry and the only person that suffers in that situation is you. You don't need to feel like that. It's not easy and it certainly isn't quick but it is doable. It's also important to remember that the self loathing you feel is not felt by anyone else. Other people actually, dare I say it......LOVE YOU! The things you don't like about yourself aren't important to anyone else (they're as focused on their own worries as you are on your own!).

 

What can I do to start changing how I think?

Think about the part of your body you dislike the most and think about ways you can show it a bit more love. Whether it's better skincare, a new item of clothing some jewellery or in my case, skincare, nail care and polish! Turn something negative into a positive (always baby steps. Make sure you're comfortable with the step you're on before you move further) and you'll feel so much better for it.


Social media often gives the impression that in order to truly be comfortable in your own skin, you must show everyone EVERYTHING! My feeds are full of wonderful ladies baring all and showing you their confidence. Whilst this is fantastic and a great way of showing that all bodies are different, it doesn't mean you have to do the same to be happy with yourself. You don't have to get your tummy out on Facebook to prove that you love your body. Work within your own boundaries, nobody else's! Loving your body is a lifelong commitment. There are ups and there are downs but once you start, you'll feel the benefits straight away. Things will happen that challenge you and you will slip back into old habits, but always remember....YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL. No arguments, please!

If you've managed to read the full length of this post, I salute you! And also thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for following this journey with me. I hope that you can take even a tiny something from my story and use it to help you feel a little happier with your wonderful self. Our bodies are so precious, we need to start loving them so.

As a thank you for your support, please use the code BIONICHIPS at the checkout at whatsnot2love.co.uk and enjoy 15% off your order. If you don't fancy shopping but would like to see more nail art, keep scrolling!

 

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