Every Sunday, Arti Kashyap-Aynsley drops by to discuss all the many things we may be facing, feeling or going through in our day to day lives. Share your questions and / or requests for topics with Arti anonymously at firstname.lastname@example.org
This week is Mental Health Awareness week in the UK and the focus of this years’ campaign is on Body Image.
Mental Health is something I openly address and discuss, along with it being something I have experienced through bouts of anxiety and depression. But Body image is an interesting one. While it is one we are starting to talk about more through body positive campaigns, it continues to make me feel vulnerable in discussing since it has been a hugely contributing factor to the challenges I have faced with my Mental Health.
See I grew up as a minority in a small suburban neighbourhood in Toronto. And while, being a minority was one thing, adding the complexities of being overweight alongside that just made me so much more susceptible to things such as bullying, low self-esteem, feeling alienated, and the list goes on.
I really struggled with my weight. I hated gym class and was excited when I finally got my period so I had a monthly excuse to not participate. I always came last no matter how hard I tried on sports days and to even think a boy would like me was as realistic as figuring out the meaning of life.
I constantly felt uncomfortable in my own skin, which held me back from really showing and being myself. I mean I had my moments of utter happiness, but often those were in the comfort of my own home or with the few friends I kept.
Then when I was 17 years old I got in a car accident. It was a 4-car crash, which could have gone so many ways but luckily the only injuries I had were from the air bag hitting my face. While standing with the ambulance crew and being checked out, I heard the paramedic say how lucky we were to have walked away the way we did “A few inches in the other direction and well that would have been the absolute end”.
At 17 years old to hear such a statement was deafening, so much so that it stayed with me for weeks after the accident. The statement and that conversation just continued to run around in my head until finally I just looked at myself right in the mirror, dead straight in the eyes and asked “If I died that day would I have died happy?”
I don’t remember how long it took to answer the question, but when I finally did, the answer was no. And what followed shortly after was the realisation that I had the chance to rewrite the script and build the life I wanted.
That period following that revelation became the beginning of my weight loss journey and is one that I continue to be on 20 years later.
As women we are in this constant battle to fit the norm which is defined by social media, celebrities and often other people’s expectations and views of us.
We are perpetual dieters always struggling with whether to eat that chocolate or cake or doughnut, while working out how many hours we will have to exercise to earn it. We constantly look in the mirror poking at the parts we don’t like, thinking we will be happier when they disappear and think about all the compliments we will get when they do.
We struggle with accepting ourselves and in doing so we struggle with allowing ourselves to really go out in the world and be who and what we want. We let our body image dictate our worth and how valuable the world will perceive us.
But does what our bodies look like really matter?
I read a quote this week at my gym that said “You are absolutely gorgeous, and that is the least interesting thing about you”.
And the reality is, it is so true.
It isn’t just about being body positive; it is about realising that we are more than the sizes and shapes we are and the way we look. We are incredible human beings striving to build businesses, climb corporate ladders, foster communities and friendships, raise children and families, push ourselves to run marathons and complete triathlons, be advocates for change, and the list continues.
We need to come together on platforms like this to continue to empower each other to see ourselves for more than the lumps and bumps we may have and understand that if we want to work on them, we can, but that work shouldn’t be the driving force of our happiness and the value we think we can offer the world.
I know it isn’t easy, comparison culture is a killer and everything in the media can be overwhelming. I am right there with you on this. Growing up overweight means that the image I see in the mirror is full of distortions that I have so much trouble eliminating. I have such a hard time seeing me for what who and what I am at times.
But if we take one thing from this article and into our weeks to help us change the dial with how we perceive body image, let it be the conversations we have with ourselves.
Thank your body for supporting you in everything you have done in your life to date and what it has gotten you through and what is to come. And thank it for being there when you need it, for being the force behind the amazing things you have done and for the amazing things that surround you.
Our bodies are the machines behind our power and therefore deserve to be celebrated.
With love and gratitude for my body,
I know that topics like Mental Health and / or Body Image can be difficult to address, but if you ever need to chat and / or are looking for some support please email me directly @ email@example.com and / or message me direction on Instagram @the_wellness_chief.
Have a topic you want me to address in the weekly column and / or are looking to explore the idea of coaching or keen to know a bit more about how I could support you as a coach (both as a transformational coach and / or a PT)? I would love to discuss and hear from you, so please drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org and remember, all emails are treated as confidential.