A part of Metro.co.uk’s Mental Health Awareness Week Takeover, psychotherapist and body image specialist Holli Rubin shares her own story of self-acceptance as well as her top tips:
When I was five-and-a-half, an accident left me with a scar on the corner of my mouth. I was confined to a burn unit for three weeks and fitted for a splint to wear in my mouth to prevent my lip from sealing shut.
I hated it. I can still remember looking at my face in the mirror after the accident and saying out loud: ‘Nobody will ever want to kiss me’.
It took many years to see myself differently despite others’ reassurance. However, my physical scar represented the shame and embarrassment I felt for not looking the way I was supposed to.
While this experience framed my perspective, it also helped me to empathise with other people’s struggle around their physical appearance and how they felt about themselves at their core.
I’ve always gravitated towards helping people with their body image. My best friend’s beautiful and elegant mother battled with cancer and her self-esteem, a student with anorexia when I was camp counsellor, transgender people during their reassignment surgery journey, men struggling with the effects of hair loss and my friends perception of their bodies during and after pregnancy.
Before I got into psychotherapy I worked in fashion and was always interested in how clothes could make someone feel. The relationship between external appearance and internal emotion was an important element when it came to body image.
Over the years in my psychology practice the theme of body image has run through them all.
Some of the biggest challenges women face when it comes to body image are because of the societal demands that we always look perfect – no changes are allowed.
Not during puberty, pregnancy and certainly not as we age. Dare we even mention the biggest change of all, the menopause?
We go through so many changes during our lives. At adolescence we get thrust into new bodies and no longer recognise ourselves – and that’s just physically.
Then the rapid and extreme changes pregnancy brings. If you were figure conscious before pregnancy, this time can be particularly challenging.
As we age, we are bombarded with anti-ageing products, treatments and anything to push back the years.
There are days when I still struggle with my changing body and noticing how different it now looks compared to when I was younger, but the way I feel in and about my body is so much more balanced and peaceful.
I look back at how much time I wasted on ‘skinny’ in the earlier years and know that I am much more comfortable I am in my skin now. It’s worth every pound and inch gained.
But is this struggle just a woman thing? The female form is often represented across all forms of media as slim, svelte and toned. We haven’t really been given permission from society to change, so we beat ourselves up for the physical changes that are naturally meant to occur in life.
It seems unfair that when men go grey they are admired as ‘silver foxes’, but women dash to the hair salon to cover their grey.
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