May 12, 2014
Two things I make no secret of. I have a history of low self-esteem and I am a Eurovision Song Contest fanatic (one of my dubious “claims to fame” is that in the late ‘nineties and early ‘noughties, my two-line ‘quips and quotes’ about each of the entrants were incorporated by Sir Terence of Wogan in his commentaries leading up to and during the show).
This weekend’s contest has caused a bit of a stir for various reasons... none of which I’m going to go into... but I am going to use it as a point of reference for my offering today.
Like it or loathe it, no-one can doubt that the winning singer is a great advertisement for self-belief and conviction, and for never giving up. The failed attempt to represent Austria a couple of years ago is well documented, as is the journey from anonymity to becoming something of an Icon in Austria.
I sort of understand that journey. I reinvented myself at the age of 16. I moved to a new town, to a new environment, where people had no idea of what had gone on my past. I stopped being “the ugly twin” and “the swot” and became comfortable in my own skin and personality. It was a revelation, but somewhere over the years, I “lost” myself again.
“Real life responsibilities” saw me lose sight of my dreams and aspirations; weight gain saw my self-confidence dwindle... and “how I looked” set the parameters for “who I thought I was”. I found myself trying to “hide”, partly because I wasn’t happy with my size and shape, but also because I really felt that people judged me on my appearance and dismissed me because of my size and shape.
It turned into a “catch-22” situation; the more my self-esteem plummeted, the more I sought comfort from eating. The by-product of “paranoia” also emerged. I was convinced that people were talking about me, people who didn’t know me were judging me on my physical appearance; people who knew me well were commenting on my increased waistline and my increasingly introvert nature, wondering “what was wrong with me”... (not realising that the more they showed the concern, the more I sought refuge in cheese pasties and chocolate).
It is a sad fact of life that we live in an age where appearance is one of the main criteria upon which we are judged as people. Rightly or wrongly our default setting seems to be base our ideas and opinions on what we see before us. This was never made more clear to me than when my brother-in-law was in the middle stages of the disease which eventually took him from our family at the age of 42.
He suffered from Huntingdon’s Disease. A “physical” disease which meant that whilst his brain and intellect remained unimpaired, his motor functions deteriorated, resulting in a stagger when he walked and slurring when he spoke. He fought the disease with amazing courage and dignity. Long after the experts had predicted he would be in a wheelchair he would take a daily walk to collect his newspaper. A routine five-minute stroll for me was a twenty minute marathon for him. But he made himself do it every day. And every day he would be subjected to stares, and sometimes thoughtless comments, from people who believed what their eyes told them, that the man in front of them was drunk at 9am. “Disgusting”. “Disgraceful”. “He should be ashamed”. But every day he never lost sight of who he was, and every day he led by example, proving that the “person that he truly was” meant that “the person that people thought they saw” didn’t exist... other than in the minds of people who really didn’t matter to him.
It made me remember the learning curve I had gone through at school and college. It made me sad that I had allowed myself to think less of myself and somehow become “not worth it” purely because of how others had seen me. It also made me appreciate all the things that are great about me.
“The things that are great about me”. I think that for some of us, that makes uncomfortable reading. It provokes a “get her” response, because we’re not used to blowing our own trumpets, of celebrating how wonderful we are, and just how fabulous we can be.
All too often we allow “public opinion” to form the basis of measurement. Being happy and healthy and content with the person that we are can be completely sideswiped by photo-shopped images of impossibly thin “role models”; commentary on people who “are different” becomes the template for views which are deemed to be “normal”, and if you disagree or don’t fit the template… well.....
But you know what?
Every single one of us has the capability to be FABULOUS. We are not all the same. We are all unique and special. We all have strengths and qualities that make us spectacular. We just don’t celebrate them enough – and we should. Celebrate them brightly, bravely and boldly.
Of course, I wish I were a few dress sizes smaller, but people who judge me don’t know the full story behind the increase in the label size. They assume I “ate all the pies” or “just don’t care” enough about myself. They have no idea of the battles I, and many others, have fought. They don’t know the difficulties I face for the first few hours of every morning or the effect that medication has had on my waistline. They don’t know the despair of feeling desperately unhappy with a real-life situation and seeking comfort in food and drink. They “know” what they “see”.
What I want everyone to know is that “Fabulous” is available to everyone. It isn’t an exclusive club for the wealthy, the beautiful or the slender. It is yours for the taking. You have the right, and you definitely have the qualifications. Everyone has something that makes them “fabulous”, and deep down each one of us know that that “something” is.
If you do nothing else today, take five minutes to remember a time in your life when you felt fabulous. When you were unstoppable, when you were at the top of your game, when you didn’t want to be anyone else but YOU. We all have that moment. We just allow it to become buried in real-life. We let “what we think we have become” get in the way of “who we really are”. Well not any more.
Whatever today has in store for you today, move through it with one thought in your head... “I’m Absolutely Fabulous”... Because you are.
With a Huge Hug
Feel Absolutely Fabulous
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