Lifestyle and home education blogger at Wildling Wishes, main contributor and editor for She Might Be, draws pictures for money at Rymermade on Etsy.
Lifestyle and home education blogger at Wildling Wishes, main contributor and editor for She Might Be, draws pictures for money at Rymermade on Etsy.
You need to stop bullying yourself right now.
Have you ever heard the phrase “you’re your own worst enemy”? Then you are in good company. Life is hard, and in the day to day struggle to keep everybody around you happy, it is so easy to forget the most special person in your life: you. Worse still, we actually begin to engage in behaviours which we would never accept from anybody else. You need to be your own ally before you can cheerlead for anybody else, so it is time to cut yourself some slack. Here are some classic bullying behaviours that you might be doing to yourself, and how you can eventually stop being your own bully and become president of your own fanclub instead.
Physical harm doesn’t necessarily have to have been an intentional act. We hurt other people all of the time accidentally – a stray elbow when you’re crossing paths prompts an immediate apology and (if you’re polite!) an apologetic smile. But when we do things that we realise are harmful to ourselves, we never seem to take the time to say sorry. I have never apologised to myself for getting so stressed out that I give myself headaches and stomach pains. I never say “I’m so sorry – know that you are appreciated” to my aching muscles at the end of a tough day, let alone forgive myself for the pain. I’m not saying you need to declare your feelings for your body parts out loud, but just take a moment to acknowledge your own sacrifices and the toll they are taking on you.
I don’t mean to be presumptuous but I am willing to assert that 100% of readers are guilty of this one. “I’m being stupid” and “I look terrible today” are two things that I know I have said before, and there are definitely heaps more on a regular basis. Let’s play a game: there is a lady who sits one desk over from you at work. You see each other every day. One day, you lose an entire afternoon of work because you didn’t click save. “Oh you absolute moron”, she berates you. “Try learning to do things properly”… That sting you would feel might stick with you all day, and could even be the beginning of an argument. That is 100% bullying. And yet when we say these things to ourselves we barely bat an eyelid, allowing those words to cut us to the core. Do not accept verbal abuse – not from a co-worker, a family member, a friend, a stranger, and absolutely not from yourself. If you catch yourself engaging in this harmful behaviour, take a moment to tell yourself off and then offer up your defense. “Hey, brain, quit bullying me! I’m not a moron. I’m actually a really intelligent person, but I am a human too and it’s easy for anybody to make a mistake”
Surrounding yourself with negativity
Bullies are notorious for putting their victims in uncomfortable situations, and it is something we do to ourselves over and over again for absolutely no good reason. If you are feeling anxiety about a situation and there is definitely no benefit to you going (such as the potential that you will actually have a nice time) then allow yourself not to do it. If you have that one friend whose social media feed makes you roll your eyes so far back you’re choking on eyeballs then allow yourself to mute them. If your family Christmas is full of not-so-subtle digs and dry turkey (nobody needs dry turkey), allow yourself not to go. Nobody has any right to make you feel pressured and obligated, and that most certainly includes you.
This is such a sneaky way to bully somebody, but it has happened to me again and again throughout my life. That feeling when you’ve worked on something for so long and then the rug is pulled from under you. When you are passed up for an opportunity because of things that somebody else has said behind your back. If somebody is doing anything hoping the end result is to your detriment, they are bullying you. The only thing worse is when you’ve set yourself up for that fall. Learning not to self-sabotage can be a real struggle for a lot of people, and it is something that can require work on a daily basis. It’s about catching yourself in those moments where you’re acting like a diva. It’s about doing extra work in advance so you don’t feel overwhelmed and lose your grip later on. Ultimately, it’s about being your own team mate and using today to set up an awesome tomorrow.
In a way, non-verbal bullying can be worse than verbal. To be alienated and paranoid can be so damaging, and with a verbal attack at least you can respond; how do you prove that a non-verbal action was intended with malice? And yet we seem to punish ourselves in this very same way. We hide when we are suffering. Hold our tongues in moments of anxiety, because we are convinced that nobody would care to listen. Put up our barriers when we’re feeling vulnerable. It seems so alien to actually pick up your phone to call or text somebody and just say “Hey, I need some help” and yet when we receive no help we tell ourselves it’s because we aren’t worth the time. Here’s the thing: our friends aren’t psychic. If you hide yourself away you are only reinforcing your own paranoia. We all need to get much more accustomed with asking for help, because nobody can (or should) handle the pressure of an entire life on their own.
It seems so obvious, right? Of course we feel down when inside ourselves we are being abusive, and being abused. You can’t live a positive life with a negative mindset, and its time we all stand up to our biggest bullies and demand peace. Will you join me in raising a middle finger?!
10 to 15 women out of every 100 who have a baby will be affected by Postnatal Depression. One in every 25 soldiers report symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder following service. Approximately 741,504 men, women and children in the UK are living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder at any one time. Just under 10% of the British population are dealing with depression right now; one in four in the entire world. Between 1 million and 11 million people in the UK have some form of dissociative disorder. A quarter of all of the population of Britain will experience a mental health problem every single year.
The World Health Organisation recognises World Mental Health Day on 10 October every year. This year’s theme set by the World Federation for Mental Health is psychological first aid and the support people can provide to those in distress. Please use this list of resources, collected by the writers at She Might Be, if you or anybody you know are struggling. And please – if you can’t talk to anybody else, talk to us! The stigma surrounding mental health problems will not end until we stand up and talk.
Support and advice for people living with mental illness.
Phone: 0300 5000 927 (Mon-Fri, 10am-2pm)
Charity for sufferers of depression. Has a network of self-help groups.
CALM is the Campaign Against Living Miserably, for men aged 15-35.
A charity helping people living with manic depression or bipolar disorder.
LIVING LIFE TO THE FULL
Helping you to help yourself.
Confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair.
Phone: 08457 90 90 90 (24-hour helpline)
Promotes the views and needs of people with mental health problems.
Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Mon-Fri, 9am-6pm)
Provides information and support for anyone with mental health problems or learning disabilities.
Information on child and adolescent mental health. Services for parents and professionals.
Phone: Parents’ helpline 0808 802 5544 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-4pm)
Young suicide prevention society.
Phone: HOPElineUK 0800 068 4141 (Mon-Fri,10am-5pm & 7pm-10pm. Weekends 2pm-5pm)
An active way to track and potentially improve your mental health.
Children’s charity dedicated to ending child abuse and child cruelty.
Phone: 0800 1111 for Childline for children (24-hour helpline)
0808 800 5000 for adults concerned about a child (24-hour helpline)
Advice on dealing with domestic violence.
Phone: 0808 2000 247 (24-hour helpline)
Confidential support for women who are looking for guidance when facing abuse.
Phone: 0845 769 7555 (24-hour helpline)
Phone: 0300 999 1212 (daily until midnight)
Provides information on dementia, including factsheets and helplines.
Phone: 0300 222 1122 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm. Weekends, 10am-4pm)
Phone: 0844 477 9400 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm)
Find your local helpline at:
Phone: 0808 802 9999 (daily, 12pm-2.30pm, 7pm-9.30pm)
Phone: 0845 30 30 900 (Mon-Fri, 9am-8pm. Weekends, 9am-7pm)
Phone: 0845 634 1414 (Mon-Thurs, 1.30pm-4.30pm)
Charity working with people with a learning disability, their families and carers.
Phone: 0808 808 1111 (for information on their services)
Support for people with obsessive compulsive disorder. Includes information on treatment and online resources.
Phone: 0845 390 6232 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5pm)
A charity run by people with OCD, for people with OCD. Includes facts, news and treatments.
Phone: 0845 120 3778 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm)
Voluntary charity offering support for sufferers of panic attacks and OCD. Offers a course to help overcome your phobia/OCD. Includes a helpline.
Phone: 0800 138 8889 (daily, 10am-10pm)
Provides valuable information for sufferers and carers of people with Panic, Anxiety, Phobias and Obsessive Compulsive Disorders (OCD). You should use the website information, Message Forum and Chat room alongside any care you are currently receiving from your physician.Website:http://www.nomorepanic.co.uk/
Phone: 0808 800 2222 (daily, 7am-midnight)
Practical support for families who are coping with a seriously ill child.
Charity providing support if you’ve been diagnosed with an anxiety condition.
Phone: 08444 775 774 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5.30pm)
Phone: 0300 100 1234 (for information on their services)
I was 24 when I started my degree, so I was officially considered to be a mature student – though I’m not sure I felt particularly mature! After years of working in the same job, I realised something: I was only ever going to be qualified to keep doing the same job, just in different uniforms. It was such a disheartening feeling. I was angry at myself; why didn’t I go to uni when I was younger? I had so many dreams, but they felt just that little bit more out of reach. And so I made one of the best decisions I have ever made, and I applied to study BA History at the University of Northampton. Of course I expected to learn about history, but what I didn’t expect was how much I would learn about myself in the process.
I’m actually pretty good at learning
I had just kind of resigned myself to not being a good learner. My confidence was probably knocked in secondary education, as it is for many people, and it became one of my own learned rules that ‘Education’ and ‘Sophie’ do not mix. I know now that my 18-year-old self was not ready for University, but with a good few years of life experience behind me I’ve learned lots of valuable life lessons that have supported me in my education. Honestly, I feel like it’s unfair asking teenagers to choose their life paths so early and to commit to such an intense workload. If I hadn’t been a mature student I’m not sure I’d have achieved the results I have so far.
It is okay not to be the best
Oh man, my first B. I actually cried, can you believe that? It’s only now I enter third year that I realise that a B on your very first University-level assignment is actually a pretty big achievement. I’ve had to really learn to be realistic with my expectations, and accept that being ‘good enough’ isn’t settling for less.
I need more pushing than I thought
I have worked in supervisory positions for years, and despite my social anxiety have always worked on putting myself into the character of somebody who could take charge. I’ve always known my job roles inside out, and I’ve been firm and confident as a supervisor – to the extent that many people were shocked when I shared that I was undergoing treatment for anxiety. University was such a different kettle of fish. I wasn’t the oldest there, but I wasn’t like the majority of the students. Sometimes I knew the answers to questions but I would sit awkwardly waiting for somebody else to answer because I was scared of speaking out or getting things wrong. At times it has taken lecturers outright asking me for an answer before I’ve been able to give one. I’ve really worked on pushing myself into speaking when I have something to say.
Being wrong is part of learning
It sounds crazy, right? In first year I was terrified of giving the wrong answer, to the extent that part of my CBT became pushing myself into deliberately offering up wrong answers just to test the reactions. Nobody laughs at you. Nobody actually cares if you’re wrong. Sometimes it’s better to speak up with a wrong answer to promote discussion within your seminar. Trust me, there’s nothing more awkward than a silent seminar.
It’s not like high school
I knew that being a mature student meant that there would be few, if any, other students on my course in my age group. Being at University is different than school, though. There aren’t necessarily the same cliques, and the prettiest people are not automatically the most popular. I feel able to chat to almost anybody on my course. Of course there are close groups of friends, because that is the nature of life. But unlike in secondary school, you don’t feel intimidated by people or placed on a social hierarchy.
I would recommend University to anybody and everybody
I was never that big on University before. It felt like a waste of time for many people, and I’d always joke about people getting a degree and using it to ask ‘would you like fries with that’? But I honestly feel like even if you never get a job in the same field as your degree, it is an experience you can’t measure. It’s an opportunity to learn so much about yourself and grow in so many ways that I honestly feel like if you’re in two minds about it I would always say just go for it.
University is a personal choice, and we’re so lucky to live in a country where it is literally a realistic life choice for every single person. The workload is damn hard. I’ve got two kids, two jobs and a full-time degree, so believe me when I say there is a hell of a lot of pressure for me during term time. But I’m honestly so sad that I graduate next year and it will all be over. University can be like home to so many people who love to learn, so I would encourage anybody to just go ahead and give it a try – who knows what you might learn about yourself?!
I feel like there has been a breakdown in mutual communication between fat people and thin people in the body positive community. Let me start this up by stating very clearly: body positivity is for everybody. Every single body should be the home of a person who is happy, comfortable and confident. Unfortunately, these rules seem to shift slightly when we begin to pass judgement on other bodies. While it is absolutely disgusting to see women make assumptions about the body of a thin person – another person’s body is never, under any circumstances, any of your business – it is very common, and sometimes it feels like it is more acceptable, to be openly judged on your body when you are fat. I do not think that anybody should have to accept judgements or body shaming. However, I feel like we can handle the judgement in a healthier way if we understand why it is happening.
They don’t like how it looks
Here’s the thing: we all have an ideal body type. When you sign up to a dating website, you describe your ideal partner. Sometimes you’re just not going to be somebody’s cup of tea. It’s that old Dita Von Teese saying that goes along the lines of “you could be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world,” (and boy am I juicy!), “but there will always be somebody who doesn’t like peaches”. That’s totally cool. But when you’re a decent human being existing in a civilised society, you learn tact – and that there is nothing to gain in telling somebody that you just don’t like the way they look. If somebody tells you they dislike your appearance, I would recommend smiling your widest smile and simply replying “that’s totally okay, you don’t have to!”. Take the power away from people who think that because your body type isn’t a societal ideal, they have the right to tell you how to present yourself.
At its very basic level, I almost feel sorry for people who fat shame. We have grown up in a society who tells us who to be and what to look like. Diet industries pay magazines to bombard you with threats to your mental and physical health. Who can blame somebody who has spent their entire lives trying to diminish themselves in order to find health and happiness, for being threatened by somebody who has decided to ignore those messages and just live life in his or her own way? Although I maintain that it is not our responsibility to accept abuse, it is within us to accept that somebody hasn’t had the same journey as you. You are just further along in yours.
Please remember this one rule: a concern troll never truly believes they are helping, even when they are trying to convince themselves otherwise. The fact is that when somebody says “you are slowly killing yourself”, or presents the old “organs surrounded in a layer of fat” myth, they are only trying to punish you for not sharing their insecurities. Think about it: this person has been terrified of those media messages for decades. How dare you defy them and live life unscathed?! It is 100% impossible to determine somebody’s health by looking at their outside appearance. Sometimes fat people are unhealthy. Sometimes thin people are unhealthy. The only universal truth is that it is never your responsibility to offer unsolicited health advice. I will believe you care about my health when you remind me to go for a smear test, or you ask if I have been taking my meds properly. Until then, you are nothing but offended that I dared to be fat within your universe. And I’m sorry, but I’m not going to alter myself to make you more comfortable.
They think we are critiquing their bodies
Sometimes I think it’s hard for people to grasp that liking one thing doesn’t necessarily mean disliking something else. I like chocolate; that does not mean I dislike steak. In fact, I love steak! And just because I love my fat body does not mean that I dislike your thin one. Just because I comment on a cute outfit with an obvious VBO, doesn’t mean I have any ill-feeling towards your flat stomach. It is absolutely okay to like everybody! When I tweet that I am comfortable with myself and loving my chunky little butt, I’m not telling my followers that I dislike anybody who DOESN’T have a chunky little butt. One person’s happiness should never be a threat to you. There is enough positivity to go around, even if I am over here taking up more space than you.
It is so important to always remember that there is more to be said about the person verbalising a negative opinion than there is about the person receiving it. When you are fat shamed, make a judgement call. Take the opportunity to educate and spread positivity or, if that person isn’t ready to hear it, simply smile and tell them it’s okay to be different. You’ll be there waiting when they reach the stage in their journey towards body positivity where they need a little boost, and you’ll be ready to support them with that very same self-confident smile.
As a size 26+ body, I have grown accustomed to not seeing myself represented in media campaigns. Of course there has been increasing use of plus size models to showcase plus size clothing, but they are still on the small end of the scale. Their thighs might be touching and if we’re lucky they might not even photoshop the double chin to be smaller, but let’s face it: there is an acceptable standard of fat and I am not it.
You can imagine my excitement, then, when I heard about the #IAmAllWoman campaign. Teen Vogue described it as the “body positivity movement the internet desperately needs”. I heard words such as “fresh”, “untouched”, “raw” and “diverse”, and I was so excited that finally somebody in mainstream media was acknowledging that there really IS a “desperate need” for a body positive moment. And then I saw the pictures.
#IAmAllWoman was started by a group of ladies who pre-existed in the mainstream modelling industry. Some have wider hips than others, and you can even see a hint of cellulite on the backs of their legs. But would I call it diverse? Well, the skin tones were slightly darker on some of the models but that was about as diverse as the photoshoot really got. There were no flabby edges. No apron stomachs. No wonky boobs. No stretch marks. No scars. No dark circles. And these are just the basic aesthetics, never mind looking at representation of women with visible disabilities or trans women. Essentially, by photographing that particular collection of models as a representation of diversity which intended to end body shaming, it body shamed every woman who fell largely outside of that category.
Unfortunately, what surprised me most was my absolute lack of surprise. It feels like more companies than ever have jumped on the BoPo bandwagon in 2016, but none of them have done it with the movement in their heart. Instead, we have companies recognising the huge leap in the popularity of fat bloggers and trying to worm themselves in on that action. They want the plus-size community to fall at their feet, thanking them gratuitously, and maybe there was a time that we would have – but now we are sick of crumbs and we have the confidence to stand up and demand the whole cake.
The common response of companies who repeatedly get body positive campaigns so wrong is that they have plans to include a more diverse range (superfats, disabilities, variety of ethnicities) later, following the success of their current campaign. What that tells me is that brands are using ‘acceptable fats’ as a way to piggy-back on our movement, so that when we are successful they can claim that they were there from the beginning. They appear charitable to women who are uncomfortable with their size, reaffirming that fat women (and I mention women only in this post in response to the hashtag) are undeserving of equal treatment, but this one kind charitable company will break free from that mould just to treat them like a basic human being.
So, how do we combat this issue? First, we define what the issue is: we, the fat people of the world, in all of our shapes, colours and abilities, want to be treated as equal human beings. We are NOT invisible (as the fantastic hashtag started by Ready To Stare said in response to this campaign, #iamnotinvisible), but there is little to no visibility of us in mainstream media. We have to fight for good clothing. Clothing that fits us. Clothing that is fashionable, not flattering. We do not want to fight for something that would come easily to us if we were smaller. And the only way to do that, right now, is to make ourselves as visible as possible. Wear gorgeous clothing in your blog posts. Buy from retailers who don’t exclude your fatter friends in their sizing. Organise photoshoots with fellow bloggers. Stop wearing things to make yourself look more acceptable – ‘flattering’ means nothing more than ‘easier to swallow’ – and stop standing in certain positions to hide parts of yourself. We have been conditioned to find certain body types appealing, and it is our jobs to help people unlearn their fatphobia. If we all work hard and we have true body positivity and fat acceptance in our hearts, there will be a time when the “body positivity movement the internet desperately needs” will actually be what it says on the tin.