Updated: Sep 17, 2022
I am very fortunate to have reached the ripe old age of 40 and while my body might be slowing down a bit, my brain feels more finely tuned than ever. The joy of maturity is that it brings a sense of self that can never be enjoyed by youth.
We spend our teenage years feeling constantly awkward. We don't know our body or our mind. Hardly surprising given both change almost daily. We constantly compare our changing bodies to those around us. This can be where our poor relationship with our body and food begins. It is during this time our bodies change shape, retain fat, grow hair and generally change in ways we are not prepared for or comfortable with. While my friends appeared to embrace their new bodies, I covered mine with oversized shirts, hoping that denying nature's course would somehow make it all go away. For what's it's worth I would never go back to this stage of my life.
By the time we reach our early 20's, we wear our skin like a sheep in wolf's clothing. Trying to appear confident, collected, attractive, but feeling the continuous pressure of judgement from other's. We are constantly told that these are the most attractive years of our life, but we don't have the benefit of hindsight. Every 1lb gained feels like the end of the world. During these years I worked hard on my appearance, I'd work out all the time and would constantly worry about what I ate. I did not appreciate good food, nor how bloody gorgeous my body was! I mean what is the point of looking amazing in your 20's because it's only in your 30's that you realise how good you looked!? What I also realise is that I had an abundance of energy and time to myself..... luxuries that, post kids, I can only dream of. Again, entirely under appreciated!
Late 20's and early 30's was my child bearing and rearing age. And while yes, women's ability to create and nurture life is mind blowing, it is also literally mind blowing! Any woman who has been blessed enough to carry children will also know that during this period your body is not your own. It has a more pressing purpose and my god does it consume every part of your life. So while our bodies surge with unfamiliar hormones, equally our brains physically change during this time. Our hippocampus shrinks...the part of the brain that brings logical thinking and stores memories....yes baby brain is an actual thing. Again we are thrown into thoughts and feelings of insecurity and comparison alongside the added disruption of "mum guilt."
Throughout this journey there are moments and interactions that score an impression in our minds. It informs future interactions and relationships with others and ourselves. All too often in our youth, when people treat us badly, we look internally for the cause of the problem. We automatically assume there must be something wrong with us. We are on a futile campaign to make people like us, to avoid being dumped by dick head boyfriends because we cannot bear the thought of rejection. We crave approval and will deny our conscience to remain in favour with others. The most valuable lesson growing older has taught me is that when I am true to myself and honour my own values I attract the people I want around me!
I look at my wonderful body which, despite its flaws, has been with me on this journey. Despite the abuse and neglect I may have inflicted upon myself, despite the scars of childhood mishaps, the irreversible changes caused by sustaining new life, and the effects of gravity, it shows up for me every day. Never before have I appreciated and admired my body as I do today. But it is not all about the aesthetics, my brain has been on this journey too and I finally understand that in order to be truly happy I must be my own champion. When I don't find that chemistry with another person, or I sense that they don't like me, I don't automatically look within, I reflect on what is missing. This reflection without judgement enables me to see the situation for what it actually is. Perhaps it's a mismatch of personalities or values. Perhaps they are having a bad day, perhaps I'm having a bad day. While I am not suggesting we go through life not giving a shit, I am merely suggesting we reflect on whether something is worth giving a shit about! If it is, then it's probably worth taking the time and effort to learn what you can about what went wrong, if it isn't then have the confidence and sense of self worth to let it go.
For anyone reading this in your 20's - You are beautiful, don't undervalue yourself.
For anyone reading this having and raising children - Your body will be yours again. You aren't losing your mind. Look after yourself.
For anyone reading this in your 30's - Seek out people who see your worth, if they cannot then the problem is certainly them. Don't waste your energy.
For anyone reading this is in your 40's - I finally understand. Thank you.