My entire life has been spent on the stage. I grew up performing – dancing, singing and acting, and at the age of 11 I started theatre school in London, where my exhibitionist streak continued!
When I was growing up, I never once considered how my body looked or stressed over my size. I don’t think I ever had what is seen as the ‘perfect body,’ but I was just not concerned with how I should look or what size I should be (a really fortunate and rare position to be in, I now realise!). In my teenage years, my friends and I were more worried about learning the dances for our latest show, or watching the latest Disney movie (we were, well are, HUGE Disney fans!)
Then, after three years of uni, I graduated and became a mother for the first time all in the matter of weeks! I think early motherhood was exactly as it should be – a whirlwind of nappies, leaky boobs and lack of sleep! I think it’s fair to say that my body never bounced back completely, but I was a happy size 10-12 and a couple of stretch marks/saggy skin weren’t going to stop me. This was evident when I agreed to go nude on stage in a really serious play, called Equus. It was definitely a challenge, but I went for it and wasn’t that fussed if I’m honest.
Fast forward a few years, and here I am, a 32 year old mother of three with a penchant for forgiving clothes that cover as much of my squidgy body and expanded waistline as possible. I’m not sure when it happened; but somewhere between a few bad photos and the ongoing media message that as a woman I should be shrinking, not growing; I began to lose my confidence and hate my body.
In the past 18 months since having my daughter, I have stared at my changed body in the mirror with disgust and despair. I have squeezed myself into too-tight clothes to try to encourage me to eat less, and I have repeatedly promised myself that I must NEVER EVER show my body again.
For all of this I am so so sorry. The thing is, I never realised it at the time (and still struggle a bit), but my body is actually amazing. Completely, totally and utterly incredible. It has survived over 27 years of performing arts (which has involved things like contorting it for acrobatic tricks and pushing my feet to their limits in pointe shoes). It survived three years of cheap alcohol, late night dancing and bad food at uni. It has grown, birthed and fed three healthy children (despite having a pesky blood condition). It has been through two weddings (and one divorce, obvs!) It has ran the Great North Run and it continues to run around daily from task to task, rarely faltering. It has expanded and stretched, it has been buffed, waxed and tanned to excess and it has managed to carry me to some amazing places.
Last week, when I first looked at myself ahead of the photoshoot, I felt disappointed. I’m not sure what I was expecting to see, or how I thought it would make me feel, but after a lot of soul searching and acceptance, I am proud to say that I love my body. I am also so thankful for all it has done and continues to do.
I also learnt that body confidence doesn’t come from having toned abs or perfect boobs, it comes from within yourself. If you are accepting of what you have, you will be happy. With happiness comes confidence that will shine through and you will be beautiful no matter what your appearance is like. (I know, I know, such a cliché, but so true).
So from here on in, I promise not to call myself a fat, horrendous mess or such like, and will instead focus on what makes me amazing. It is so much harder to be kind to ourselves, but the difference it can make is astounding.
I’m actually glad that I have broken my promise and decided to show my body again (in all of its size 12-14 glory) because this is me, but it’s not all that I am. Yes, I eat chips and chocolate, and whilst I think that physical health is super important, if I fancy a glass of wine or a G&T I’ll have one. Life is too brief to deprive ourselves. I intend to relish every moment and have no intention of putting myself through a gruelling routine (not that I have the time!) just to be thin. Instead, I will marvel at all my body has achieved and take care of it with love and acceptance.
Photos by the amazing Lisa Scott Photography