Category Archives: Beautiful You

Good Enough For Now

I started this blog with the intention of going through the Beautiful You book, working through each exercise daily to help improve my relationship with my body.

Well, it hasn’t quite turned out like that. Most days I don’t feel in control of my Logical Mind enough to contemplate and reflect in the ways required for the exercises. Most days I wake up each morning and I want to die- but I keep going despite that feeling.

And I guess that’s what this space has become. It’s a recording of getting through each day. Some days are wonderful and I write about those to make sure I remember them. Most days are not wonderful- they are really hard, a battle against the constantly  invading Negative Voice. But if I make it through, and sit and think about it, I can usually find at least one thing that was worth being alive for. One thing that made me glad to have fought through that initial waking thought, got up, kept going. It is these things, built up day after day, that help me resist turning suicidal thoughts into suicidal actions. It’s still a really tough place to be living in, but it keeps me in the world. It’s not exactly good but it’s good enough.

So I’m sorry if you found this blog thinking it would be about Beautiful You. I think I jumped in a bit quickly on that one. I hope one day I will be in a place where I have the mental space to do something as structured as that. For the moment though, life is not about cultivating body positivity so much as working incredibly hard just to survive in my body each day. Which is good enough for now.

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Beautiful You #10: Positive Memories

That’s a photo of me, when I was 9. I was happy. This means: I was happy and peaceful in my body in the past. Logical continuation: I can feel that way in the future. YAY

Whoops, I fell off the blogging and Beautiful You track for a bit there. Back again! This practice asks tricky questions: What do you appreciate most about yourself? What are you most confident about? What is the first positive memory you have of yourself? Was anyone there to witness it? If so, who was there and how did they react? So, maybe that’s why I’ve been avoiding blogging for a while!

What do you appreciate most about yourself? 

Urgh. Initial thought: NOTHING. I find it really hard to think of positives about me. Negatives? How long have ya got? I could go on all day. BUT that wasn’t the question, was it? Luckily I have some good external appraisals to draw on, and if I can let myself believe them, even just for a second, it’s a good start.

In November 2010, I did a week-long training course about facilitating ‘social circus’ workshops  (click the link for info). It was a great week of learning- not just skills/ activities, but learning about how I work alone and with others. At the end, we each got a sheet of paper where all the other participants had written a line or two about us, what they thought we did well etc. The most common words on mine were ‘I appreciate your openness, honesty and willingness to share’ and ‘You communicate really well’ and ‘You have great ideas’. As somebody who spent most of childhood/ adolescence scared and very ‘closed’, and is now finally coming into my true (open) self in my 20s, it was really great to have external validation that it’s OK to be honest and ‘out there’.

What are you most confident about? 

Note to ED/ Negative Voice, currently raging in my head: there is a difference between feeling confident and being ‘up yourself’. Even for me. Yes, really. We clear? Good.

I write and speak well- I’m a good communicator. Again, it often takes external validation for me to believe this, but the evidence is there: published work, awards, scholarships, jobs. When I speak, people generally listen and engage. When I write grant or scholarship applications, I’m usually successful. When I facilitate anti-homophobia workshops in schools, young people speak openly and appreciate having a space to do it in.

Side note: once you’ve spent time openly talking about sex and gender with 15 year olds- who can spot bullshit a mile away, and will let you know it- every other public speaking engagement is dead easy.

I’m passionate, I’ll speak up and I’ll fight for change. This causes my Negative Voice the most grief and it’s true that there’s still an undercurrent of ‘shut up, don’t make a fuss, be a good girl’ running through my head. Well, too bad. Spent way too long giving  into that shit and guess where it got me? Into bulimia and constant thoughts of suicide. It’s much healthier- and usually more fun/ productive/ satisfying- to let those natural leadership and advocacy tendencies run free.   

I’m confident in my academic abilities. I’m a nerd. Out and proud. Sometimes it can be difficult to see where ‘academic enjoyment’ ends and ‘obsessive, perfectionistic personality’ kicks in but that’s just something to live with. I was pretty bored at high school, but too shy to be public about it. Now I’m in a uni course that I absolutely LOVE, there’s no pressure to be ‘cool’ and I can pursue High Distinctions (mostly) without worrying what everyone else thinks of me. Sometimes I even get paid for it (in scholarships and grants)! It’s blissful.

What is the first positive memory you have of yourself? Was anyone there to witness it?

My positive childhood memories are mostly physical ones- swimming, running, circus tricks. Having a mastery of my body, doing skills over and over until I nailed them, feeling like I was flying, free. I don’t remember how it felt beyond ‘good’ but I remember vividly when it stopped feeling natural and easy- when I was about 10 or 11. Puberty beginning, my body changing, getting heavier. People commenting on my shape. Sexual comments way before I was ready for them. It was a massive kick in the guts: you’re not good enough anymore. You take up too much space. Too big, too much. And so I fell back onto things that others praised me for: being quiet, being ‘good’, putting up with abuse and not telling anybody the secrets of home, doing well academically. Trying as hard as possible to fade into the background.

It’s taken me much longer than usual to write this post, but I’m glad to have done it. Sometimes I have to write things out before I realise them, or believe them. Yes, there are positive things about me. Yes, I am confident. Yes, there was a time when my body felt good, and I’m slowly rediscovering that. Suck it up, Negative Voice. This is my truth and I like it.

I highly recommend other people having a go at these questions. I know you are reading, lurkers- I see you in the stats! So write it out. Draw it. Dance it. Own it. It’s hard, but it’s worth it. YOU ARE WORTH IT!

In 2012, I am doing a daily practice in self acceptance, guided by Rosie Molinary’s book ‘Beautiful You: A Daily Guide To Radical Self Acceptance’  Click through to her website to learn more about the book and join in yourself.  

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Beautiful You #9: The Things We Say About Ourselves

Today’s practice is about recognising what words we use to describe ourselves to ourself and to others- why do we use these? How do they make us feel? It seems to be a continuation on from examining the Negative Voice and, because I’ve been diligently  ‘comment moderating’ for a few days now, I’ve noticed a few repeat offenders in how I talk about me.

There’s something wrong with me

I use this one A LOT, and now trying to reprogram myself from thinking/saying this is really hard work. This is my ‘default setting’ if I’m not actively trying to challenge it. A lot of it stems from living with long-term illness (epilepsy) and being told, often, that there is something physically wrong with me, carrying that around for years and it morphing into meaning ‘defective’, ‘unworthy’, ‘useless’. I look at these words and don’t like the fact that they are my common descriptors, but I’ve also been prompted to think- via my current counsellor The Wise Woman*- how do I benefit from labelling myself in these ways? As a kid, for example, family life was chaotic and oftentimes I only ever saw my parents unite if they were dealing with something related to my epilepsy- the rest of the time they were fighting/ absent. So me having something physically ‘wrong’ was a way to ensure I’d at least get some parenting. Note use of parenting, not nurturing. The problem is that, as an adult, I’m now looking for connection/ nurturing and framing myself in these ways- wrong, sick, unworthy- doesn’t bring in great results. Whoop! That’s the kinda thing you learn in therapy, kids.

I hate my body.

Why do I say this? Because it’s true, duh. Moving right along!

Hmmm. Thinking about when this phrase lodged itself into my vocab is like trying to remember learning to talk- it’s just always been there! I say these words out loud with ease- not to shock, not for attention, not to get somebody to try and convince me otherwise. They are a simple way of articulating all the more complex Negative Voice thoughts in one neat, socially acceptable way- because all women hate their bodies, right?  It’s like, if I said what was really going on- ‘I’m suicidal and depressed, it’s really hard to face the world most days, and it’s because my body feels shameful and wrong’- I’d be ostracised. Whereas ‘I’m so fat’ isn’t mental illness, it’s bonding.

Urgh. I don’t want to buy into that shit, but it’s like Facebook- once you’re signed up, it’s pretty hard to get off. I’ve always talked negatively about my body and my weight in a self-depricating, jokey way- in Australia we call this ‘taking the piss’- as if that makes it OK and not as harmful. I remember how shocked I was when somebody picked me up on this- a housemate, who said ‘You’re so sensitive to and protective of everybody else’s feelings, but who protects you from all the horrible things you say about yourself?’.

And the answer, I guess, is nobody except me. ‘Joking’ and attacking myself first (so nobody else gets a chance) is self-harm, not self-protection. If I’m not protecting myself, then I’m really exposed and vulnerable, not only to others but to my own internal shit as well. If I talk about myself in a negative way, I will project negativity and attract it into my life. Simple as that.

Wonderful, so that’s sorted then! It will be interesting to see if I can make the transition from keyboard to reality. I hope I can…

* The Wise Woman is my current ‘therapeutic person’, after a number of false starts with psychiatrists/ psychologists. The Victorian public mental health service system is a complex beast (a whole other post!) but basically it didn’t meet my needs and so I now get my support and help outside of it.

In 2012, I am doing a daily practice in self acceptance, guided by Rosie Molinary’s book ‘Beautiful You: A Daily Guide To Radical Self Acceptance’  Click through to her website to learn more about the book and join in yourself.  

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Beautiful You #8: Self Appreciation Jar

So, today’s practice is all about taking notice of the things you say to yourself. It follows on very nicely from yesterday’s discussion on the Negative Voice and my renewed efforts to try and practice ‘comment moderation’ on all the Negative Voice thoughts that swirl around my brain most days. Rosie’s suggestion is to put coins in a jar every time you catch yourself entertaining these self-deprecating thoughts.

My immediate reaction to this was, ‘But I’m really poor right now! I can’t waste money every time I bag myself- I’ll be on the street by the end of the week!’. Which reminded me of the image above (which is reminiscent of famous UK artist Banksy, but is actually credited to the Australian street artist Meek). Which, in turn, reminded me that there is a lot of bigger shit going on in the world- homelessness, poverty, structural inequality- that is more pressing than my own ‘stuff’, but if I don’t deal with my own demons, I’ll never have the headspace to work on the world’s bigger problems either.

Deep thinking, non? It was the kind of day that lent itself to such thoughts. A typical Melbourne summer stinker which I spent mostly waiting- for doctors, for blood tests, for trams. Lotsa thinking time. And then this HUGE fucking storm, complete with lightening and power cuts, swept over the city and drenched everything with some much-appriciated rain. I lay on my bed in the dark and watched and listened and only noticed afterwards that it was the most peaceful I’d felt all day.

So! With that in mind, I will continue using my non-cash-requiring techniques from yesterday’s post to try and deal with the Negative Voice. I’m also going to start noting (or trying to note- might be more scribbling on arms going on) anything nice/ good/ less-awful that I think about myself. Today, for example, it took 35 minutes and several needles for the pathology nurse to get enough blood out of my veins for testing. I hate blood tests, not for a fear of needles but because I hate having to expose my arms, which the Negative Voice informs me are flabby and fat and gross. Today I closed my eyes, chatted with the nurse and silently told Neg to fuck off. It worked. Huzzah.

In 2012, I am doing a daily practice in self acceptance, guided by Rosie Molinary’s book ‘Beautiful You: A Daily Guide To Radical Self Acceptance’  Click through to her website to learn more about the book and join in yourself.  

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Beautiful You #7: Moderating The Negative Voices

Whoops. I’ve been avoiding Beautiful You for the past week or so, and have fallen out of the pattern. I’m prone to doing that with ‘hard stuff’ in life but there’s usually a persistent little voice inside me, saying ‘you’ll feel better if you JUST FREAKING DO IT’. So, speaking of voices, this practice is about naming the ones in our heads that are mean/ bitchy/ otherwise unsettling, and attempting to interupt them.

I have quite a few different voices hanging out in my head most of the time. I’m a bit special like that. Some are mainly helpful- like the Just Do It Fairy- and some are very unhelpful. For convenience I cluster all the unhelpful ones into what I call ‘Negative Head’ or ‘Negative Voice’. The Negative Voice is most definitely female, a mix of my mum/ older sister/ schoolyard bullies/ so called diet and fitness ‘experts’ in the popular media/ random sneering woman on the train etc. I’ve never given a second thought to what most guys/ men think about me but I am hyper-super-dooper-aware of how other women might be looking at me and judging me. That’s the amazing thing about the Negative Voice- she can actually read every other woman’s mind, and see what they are thinking about me. She then helpfully broadcasts this into my brain, at varying volumes, 24/7. You gotta admire her commitment and work ethic.

Well, no, actually. She sucks. Makes my life very hard. Hence why I’m doing these practices and trying to get a grip on this shit.

When I am feeling ‘baseline’ about myself (e.g. not suicidal or in crisis), the Negative Voice sort of just whirs away in the background and becomes part of the soundscape. A bit like the centralised communist radio system piped into every North Korean kitchen- it can be turned down, but never off, and you’re absorbing the messages even if you’re not aware of it.

When I first realised this- a few years ago when I first started trying to kick bulimia- I was rather shocked and pissed off. I had a creepy, abusive voice in my head that I couldn’t control? That was SO not part of the plan, dude! When I first started binging and purging, it was was supposed to be an oasis from the actual abuse occurring in my world. Now that shit was multiplying and getting into my head, stopping me from ever feeling any good?

Here’s the thing: I don’t like dictators or oppressive regiemes. I don’t like ’em running countries, I don’t like them in family homes, and I don’t like them in my head. Sure, I engage in bulimic behaviours, but I don’t identify as bulimic. I identify as Catherine, as an activist, as a feminist, as a queer woman and a person who believes in ‘humanity, diversity, compassion and the empowerment of women’ (as I noted in Beautiful You #1, thanks for the reminder, Past Self!). So, I decided it was time to Moderate the Negative Voice.

You know how, if you make a comment on a blog, it usually says, ‘your comment is awaiting moderation’ before it appears in the thread? Well, that’s what I’m trying to do with my head. I’m looking at each statement it throws at me, and trying to assess whether I approve of it, whether it fits my beliefs and values. It’s a bit of a spin on the old ‘would you talk about your best friend the way you talk about yourself?’ counselling chestnut.

I’m pretty good with defending and supporting others- that’s why I work well as an activist and social worker- but I’m still learning how to moderate for myself. Lots of days I forget, leave the gate wide open and the Negative Voice storms right on in before I’ve even realised. It’s really easy to get flooded by that, and harder to wade back up to breathing level again. So in honour of today’s practice and after being reminded just how destructive letting myself be ruled by the Negative Voice can be, I’m going to put up some reinforcements for a few weeks and see if they help.

*Set the alarm on my phone every hour during the day with the reminder: ‘MODERATE YOUR SELF TALK. Things affirming humanity, diversity, compassion and the empowerment of women can stay. Ditch the rest.’

*Remind myself: It’s my mind. I’m in control. Not the Negative Voice. (Possibly written in Sharpie on my palm so I can see it frequently).

*Remind myself that nobody can mind-read. Not even Negative Voice. Other women may be judging me, or they may not. Their call, not mine. (That might need be written on my other palm.)

Right then, I’m off to source some permanent markers. See y’all tomorrow for #8.

In 2012, I am doing a daily practice in self acceptance, guided by Rosie Molinary’s book ‘Beautiful You: A Daily Guide To Radical Self Acceptance’  Click through to her website to learn more about the book and join in yourself.  

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Beautiful You #6: Ditching the Diet & Fat Talk

First things first: see that awesome badge up top there? It is a unique design from radical fancy lady artist extraordinaire Natalie Perkins, aka Definatalie. If you click on it it’ll take you to her site, which hosts her blog and leads you to more of her amazing art. You could even buy a badge or ten.

Ok. Diet and fat talk. Argh. I hate it, it makes me extremely uncomfortable, I wish it wasn’t such a big part of our lives. Here’s some reasons why:

*When women (and men too, I guess) bitch about their bodies, they are seeking validation that their bodies are ‘acceptable’, and they usually get it- i.e, ‘You’re not fat! Look at me!’- which reinforces that the only valuable thing about us is our physical appearance, and perpetuates the whole fucked up cycle of oppressive beauty standards and comparing ourselves to others.

*We (women, humans, whatevs) use putting our bodies down as a way to bond with each other. THIS IS FUCKED UP. Keeping people obsessed about their size/ weight/ shape and that of others? Great way to take their mind off bigger picture issues, keep them competing against each other and being perpetually unhappy/ dissatisfied. As for constant dieting? Malnutrition/ fasting/ nutrient deficiencies make you boring as batshit, as you’re fixated on food (or lack of it) and constantly talking about it. And, oh yeah, all those practices can eventually kill you.

*As well as for ‘bonding’, it’s used to guilt and shame people. I don’t know about you, but I don’t need anymore of that shit in my life thanks, I generate more than enough on my own. My mum is great at this- she hides her diet talk and fat shaming behind a veil of concern and ‘doom warnings’, as in, ‘If you keep going like that you’ll end up with Type 2 Diabetes by 25’. Cheers Mumsie, but I’m personally more concerned that my mental health issues (with terrible body image being a contributing factor) might have me in the ground before that. I still feel awful whenever she talks about my body in this way though.

AND YET (there it is again, the sneaky ‘and yet’, always hijacking my thoughts!)…and yet, while I abhor fat & diet talk and try really hard not to engage with it in public, it runs wild and unchecked in my head. I spend far too much time wondering what people are thinking when they look at me/ my body, and imagining all the horrible things they must be thinking. I use calorie counting and limits as a way to both calm myself – it’s a controllable variable in an uncontrollable life- and to freak myself out, obsessing over numbers that really mean very little in the broad scheme of things. And I can’t look in a mirror without a) wanting to kill myself and b) listing all the things that are wrong with my body. I’m trying to change my thinking about myself, to match it up with my beliefs and the values I hold as rights for every other person in the world- body autonomy, freedom from discrimination and harassment, free choice of foods- but it’s bloody hard.

One thing I am proud of changing is that I no longer voluntarily hang out with people who make me feel shit about my body. I am my harshest critic by far, but why make things any harder than they need to be? So I have ditched ‘friends’ who only want to talk about bodies and weight, avoid family gatherings where food is prominent if I can, and am very careful about who I do physical activity with and for what reasons. The netball team I am in, for example, is a safe space for me because I have never heard anybody criticise themselves or anyone else over their bodies. This is extremely rare in a group dynamic and I absolutely treasure it.

My biggest challenge to overcome is how I think and (inwardly) talk about myself. I’m not quite sure how I’m going to change it, but I know that I want to, and that’s going to have to suffice for now.

In 2012, I am doing a daily practice in self acceptance, guided by Rosie Molinary’s book ‘Beautiful You: A Daily Guide To Radical Self Acceptance’  Click through to her website to learn more about the book and join in yourself.  

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Beautiful You 5: a vision of the future

I haven’t written in a few days. I’ve been binging and listening to my negative head-voice, instead. Surprise! It’s made me feel pretty awful. When the binging takes hold I tend to get stuck in my head, not want to go out, not want to talk to anyone, not be seen in public. It takes a lot of energy to resist the voice that’s going, ‘Just kill yourself, you useless piece of shit.’ So doing a practice like this one- imaging my future and how I’d like it to look- had to be put on hold for a bit, until I was able to look out the window, take a deep breath and gather up enough stregnth to give it a go.

These are the things I want for my future:

I want to contribute to positive change in our world. It sounds a bit wanky and ‘privileged white do-gooder’ ish, but it’s true. By utter chance, I belong to the tiny minority of people on this earth who have access to education, housing, healthcare, social support and a neutral justice system- I want to make the most of these privileges. It’s part of why I am studying social work, why I volunteer time and other resources to activism, why I stay engaged with local and international politics- because I see it as my ‘rent for living on this planet’. (That’s part of a quote from Alice Walker, by the way).

I want to spend less time obsessing about food, eating and weight. All of the time I spend up there in my negative headspace is time that could be spent doing something else- something for me or something for others. Food has become the main way that I nurture myself, but also a huge source of tension, isolation and punishment. I don’t want to look back in old age and think, ‘Well, I didn’t achieve much, but heck, I know the calorific value of every food on the planet, and I’m ace at throwing stuff up without making a sound!’. What a huge waste that would be.

I want to nurture and support people. This is connected to the previous two points. Once people get past how I present physically, they usually come to describe me as warm, generous, compassionate, empathetic, strong-willed, protective. On my good days, I can see past my body and recognise these traits in myself, too. I want to use these attributes in my personal and professional life. I really want to be a parent/ carer at some stage in my life- through birth, fostering, adoption or a mix of these. I’m very aware though that in order for any of the above to happen, I’ve got to get a handle on my own shit first- including learning how to nurture and support myself in non-harmful ways.

Those are the big things that come up when I think ‘future’. I feel more on track than I used to about achieving these goals, and I know this because my responses to ‘hiccups’ along the recovery/ acceptance journey have changed. For example, I used to binge and sink into a thought process of ‘I’m doomed. This is always going to happen. I’m never going to get better, don’t deserve help, may as well keep doing it, all the quicker to harm/kill myself.’ These days- like the recent past few days I mentioned up top- it’s m,ore along the lines of ‘OK, you slipped up and it feels awful. But it will NOT always feel this way. There are other things in your life and the world besides the eating disorder. You’re gonna get through this.’ To which my inevitable grumpy reply is, ‘But wheeeeeen? Why can’t everything be wonderful NOW?’

Patience, grasshopper. One day at a time.

In 2012, I am doing a daily practice in self acceptance, guided by Rosie Molinary’s book ‘Beautiful You: A Daily Guide To Radical Self Acceptance’  Click through to her website to learn more about the book and join in yourself.  


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