We’ve all heard the term “sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.” But how true is that? Last year, I worked with an insurance brand on a fantastic campaign. But all I could focus on was one idiot commenting on my stomach on Facebook. Those were words and those words hurt.
The thing is, I don’t think we stop to think about the implications that words have on people. They can hurt. They can cause unhealthy relationships with food, exercise, all sorts. We live in a world where we’re taught that airbrushing is the norm, that if you’re overweight, you cannot possibly be attractive, that what are unachievable beauty standards are the norm.
Beauty is the eye of the beholder…or is it?
It’s no secret that I HATE my teeth. I don’t smile because I’m self conscious of them and I desperately want them fixed. I’m slightly overweight. I have a c-section pouch and pockets of fat on my inner thighs, which I’m so self conscious about. My skin is hit and miss. I don’t know have a clue on how to pose for photos. My eyeliner has never graduated much beyond the racoon look, although once in a blue moon, I manage wings.
I also have awesome mermaid hair, a cracking pair of boobs, toned calves and I like my eyes. They’re green and it’s pretty cool, having green eyes.
A friend once pointed out, that when I post things like this, people rush to tell me that I am attractive and make me feel better. That is NOT the point of this post. In fact, it misses the point.
Like many people, I have good days and I have bad days. Sometimes I get dressed, do my hair, add some eyeliner, look in the mirror and I feel fabulous. Other days, I discard a million outfits then start crying that I’m hideous and start punching my thighs and lamenting my pouch, totally disregarding the fact that my body carried a baby for 9 months. That’s strength, that is. Unfortunately, it’s something we choose to ignore all too often.
Then I see a glossy photo of someone looking stunning and feel crappy that my skin will never be that smooth, my teeth are so awful, I have to go up a dress size to cater for my thighs, and how the hell does one even contour with make up anyway?
I do a pretty good job of faking being groomed sometimes, but the insecurities are still there. So someone commenting on my stomach, when I am self-conscious of that pouch, totally ruined my day. 3 years on, I’m still not back at my pre-Rose size. Perhaps you are judging me for this, but the truth is that I’m not eating as much as I did pre-Rose and I’m still exercising. My body is different and I’m still 5 kilos up on what I was pre-Rose. I shouldn’t beat myself up about it, but when comments are made, it’s hard not to. When you see magazines about the latest Z-lister popping back to shape within 6 weeks, it’s hard not to.
And this is where I urge you to think about the impact your words can have on people, especially on social media where context cannot always be understood. I like chocolate. I make no secret of that. I don’t tend to eat bars. I tend to have a square or a chocolate most days and I really enjoy it. That doesn’t mean that occasionally I don’t splurge – of course I do, but in general, I enjoy quality over quantity. Another pleasure of mine is smoothie bowls. Smoothies are great and serving them in a bowl means room to add toppings like granola and nuts. I went through a spell of Instagramming my smoothie bowls and sometimes, they featured cocoa, as a dessert version.
Do you even eat solid food anymore?
Oh look, more chocolate?
No chocolate? I don’t believe you.
All innocent and I don’t believe for a moment that the individual meant to upset me. But it did. I sat there questioning everything I put into my mouth and eventually stopped sharing them on Instagram. I started telling myself that maybe I ate badly. That the teaspoon of cocoa powder in one of the smoothies was a disaster.
I managed to catch myself on pretty quickly, but someone with disordered eating could potentially have really been upset by that.
More recently, I’ve been angered by the current trend for various different MLM companies. You know my feelings on the ethics surrounding this companies; one of the issues I have is unqualified individuals dictating to others about what they should eat and how their magic product can cure everything. Last week the comment “This is far too healthy for Helen” was made, because I declined to try a product.
What’s healthy about eating your fruit and veg in a capsule as opposed to actual fruit and veg?
Who is to say that my diet isn’t healthy? I know it isn’t perfect, but I drink plenty of water, I get my 5 a day. I don’t eat processed foods generally. Okay, I drink too much wine sometimes and like cake, but who doesn’t? I’ve run 4 marathons. I go to yoga. I don’t drive, so I walk everywhere.
My blood was boiling and I had to leave the room. It sounds like a throwaway comment, but I have had self-esteem issues since Rose. I felt criticised. I started feeling like utter crap because earlier that day, we had been out for tea and cake and I’m not exercising at the moment due to my rib fracture. Maybe I am rubbish.
I know I’m not, but that’s how it made me feel. It made me question myself and my choices.
What could it have done to someone else?
Here’s the thing. Think about what you’re saying.
How would you feel if it was said to you? Could it make someone else doubt themselves? Could it promote body negativity?
Don’t say it. Challenge your thinking.