• Mair Elliott

Body hatred to body positive

As you may be aware. This week is mental health awareness week with the topic of ‘body image’. Body image is how we think and feel about our bodies based on how we’ve been taught to view bodies. Often, how we’ve been taught to view our bodies is through a negative lens, so many of us see our bodies as less worthy or less attractive comparable to the truth.

When I was growing up, I was a tall and lanky child. I grew upwards very early and was naturally thin, so I would get comments about having a ‘lovely figure’ and that I ‘should be a model’. This was even before I hit teenage years. I’ve only recently realised that I absorbed these comments; these comments made it clear to me that how we look matters somehow. When I started to grow outwards rather than upwards, it shook me. I wasn’t the lanky one anymore, I had hips and breasts, my waist wasn’t as small as it was before. I started to get cellulite on my legs, and my arms started to flesh out. I was losing the part of me that people would always compliment me on. I was in no way large, I was still very lean, but I felt huge and heavy in this changing body. Because I felt ‘huge’, I saw ‘huge’.

By 14, this and a whole host of other risk factors triggered the development of my mental illness, including my eating difficulties. I wanted my lanky, tall body back – the one thing people told me was important. I felt like I was wearing a suit that didn’t fit properly, turning to controlling food and over-exercising to fix it.

My relationship with my body became one of abuse and hatred. My body became the thing I attacked when I wasn’t reaching the unrealistic standards I was setting myself in all areas of my life. Through my eyes I could only see the things I wished to change, and nothing else. I detached myself from my body because I didn’t want to own it. The longer it went on the harder it became to make peace with my body.

In my last serious bout of illness, I reached a level I didn’t think I could reach. I didn’t realise it at the time either, it is only now that I can look back and be shocked over how far I wondered blindly down the road of anorexia. I lost who I was. It was replaced by numbers, how much I weighed, how many calories I’d eaten, how many hours of exercise I’d done, how many litres of water had I drunk. My body was beaten and bruised by each number.

When I started to recover the one thing, I wanted was to get to a point of not caring about numbers anymore. I had spent 7 years of my life judging my body by numbers, almost as if I could mark and grade my body like an exam paper. I wanted to not care what size clothes I wore, not care how much I weighed, not care how much I ate.

I can quite happily announce that I have now reached a point in which my want has become a truth. I don’t know how much I weigh - I don’t care, I don’t know how many calories I eat- I don’t care, I buy clothes that fit me comfortably and don’t care about the size. I just don’t value my worth by numbers anymore.

It hasn’t been easy. Even my care and treatment team couldn’t let go of he numbers, they’d weigh me, they’d ask me what size clothes I was wearing, how many calories I was eating, and so on. But my stubborn nature has meant that I have been able to eventually get to this point. The main reason I no longer care about the numbers is because I replaced my numerical valuing system with an existence valuing system; meaning I value my body because it exists. It exists to allow me to do the things I love doing. I love my body because it lets me be me. Who f*cking cares if I have cellulite, or acne, or scars, or wobbly bits?! I love my cellulite, acne, scars and wobbly bits, they are part of me; a perfectly imperfect human being.

Here’s my perfectly imperfect body letting me do the things I love doing;

I realise that this short blog post makes it sound simple moving from a place of body hatred to body positivity; it’s not. I went through cycles, peaks and troughs, and random detours in my body image journey. But, heck, I’m glad to not be trapped by the notion that how my body looks is a measure of my worth. Each person is different so I won’t lecture on how to be body positive, but I will shout from the rooftops that your worth isn’t dependent on how you look.

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About Me

I am a young patient  activist, speaking openly about life with mental illness and autism. My activism includes public speaking, trying to affect change in mental health and/or autism services by contributing to relevant organisations, panels, committees and executive boards. I hope to break down misconceptions, stereotypes and stigma relating to mental illness and autism, and to create a future where mental health services are fit for purpose.

Want to hear me speak? Curious about my story? Think I could help you or your organisation to understand mental health and/or Autism?

Get in touch; Mair.elliott97@gmail.com


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