Saturday, 9 May 2015

What do you like about yourself?

Just because I don't like my body, doesn't mean I have to hate everything about myself.

At the moment, I don't enjoy going out - I mean, I love doing things with friends and family, but I don't like how I look, I don't give much thought to what I'll wear other than to ask myself 'Do I look fat?' - If I'm going to work, the obligatory fat pants will be worn under my clothes, if it's the weekend, I tend to wear baggy jumpers and stay away from anything tight or figure hugging.

OK, so that won't change over night - I really hope that by Christmas I am a size 14, wearing nicely fitted jumpers and feeling good about myself. 

However until then, I'm trying to think about what I do like about myself, focussing on that and trying to motivate myself to continue to eat healthy whilst the weight comes off and my size changes slowly.

The main thing I actually like about myself is my hair.

Which is really funny considering it was the one thing I HATED about myself when I was growing up, 

You see, I am white.. with 2 white parents, however had afro hair. I don't mean just frizzy, I don't mean 'curly' I mean afro... really, really afro - My Mother took me to a hair specialist who said I had twice as much hair as 'normal' white people - two hairs to each follicle apparently - not that I cared at the age of 7, I just cared that I was getting bullied every single day when I went to school. 

See what I mean? Really, really afro hair and I utterly hated it. It was hard to brush, I couldn't copy any celebrities or have my hair like any of my 3 sisters - Growing up in small village in Wiltshire, there were no other races, it was boringly 100% white people with a single hair salon and village shop - the local stylist had literally no idea what to do with me or how to treat my hair, so she used to cut it off, to within 2 inches of my head.

It was awful - every day I had to endure children my own age bullying me. I even remember one day, when my Mother asked me to post a letter, I went into the post office and as I went in, there was a very tall man with a moustache - he took one look at me, and my hair and said 'You're such a little freak, aren't you?' 

I've never forgotten that incident as that's how I felt - a freak, someone on the outside looking at all the 'normal people' with 'normal hair' who didn't get such abuse and vitrol. I hated my hair - how on earth could this get better? 

Secondary school was better - From the age of 9 I told my mother I didn't want my hair cut and by the time I went to secondary school, it was long enough to tie back tightly. 

And that's what I did for years and years, not letting anyone see what it was really like.. but not enduring any bullying.

When I was 17, I saw an advert in the local shop about hair braiding - phoned up, and went along to meet to lovely black women in Salisbury who took one look at my hair and said 'You won't need any hair extensions!' (apparently if you try and braid normal white hair, it can make you look bald) and from the ages of 17 to 22, I used to get my hair braided every 3 months - It was amazing, I loved it - OK, so it wasn't 'normal' and I still got comments, but they were mostly compliments 'Wow, your hair looks amazing'. Plus I could tie it back, put it in pig tails.. have some semblance of normality which was extremely welcome. 
When I did my PhD, I shared an office with a black woman who also had afro hair - She used to go to a local hair salon and one day, I went with her. I spoke to the woman in charge and casually mentioned that I also had afro hair and could they maybe do something about it?

That conversation 12 years ago was a turning point.

My eyes were opened to all these amazing straightening / relaxing products. I wasn't a 'freak' any more as the salon had seen it all before 100's of times, I was normal and it was amazing. I was treated with respect, rather than as a sideshow attraction by some of the more 'mainstream salon names' and I've never looked back.

Since I was 9 - I've never had my hair cut more than a trim and it's now down to my bottom - It's amazing and I love it - I have a 'Brazilian blow dry' once every 3 months and also get it treated which keeps it in good condition. The ladies in the salon are just fantastic and I'd never go anywhere else or trust anyone else. I'm trying to grow it as long as possible and when it's just been straightened I do tend to get a lot of really nice compliments. It makes me feel good about myself and motivates me to make sure it's kept in good condition.

So if I can feel that way about my hair - going from utterly hating it and wishing I was never born with it, maybe I can change how I feel about my body? Going from wishing I looked like some of the women on TV, to actually liking myself and how I look.

I think I'll have succeeded when I think 'I wouldn't want to change myself - I like how I am' :-)

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