Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me…
Remember the ditty from school?
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. What bollocks that is...on my Facebook feed recently an article came up from Twitter July 2017 with the hashtag #TheySaid.
The article is basically women relaying stories about comments made by parents or other people during childhood or teenage years that stuck well into adult life. Quite often offhand, throw away comments from our nearest and dearest that weren’t necessarily said with malice but have an enormous impact for a very long time.
These words have cut deep.
There are scars. Some are still open wounds, twenty, thirty or forty years on...comments made about our bodies, our physical appearance, our weight, perceived inadequacies related to our appearance.
Tree trunk legs
There are women in their 40's and 50's in my client group who have avoided showing their legs because of a comment a parent made when they were young. Legs like tree trunks. Legs like two pieces of string with knots in. Look at the size of your arse. You’d be pretty if you weren’t so fat and all kinds of other hurtful remarks.
Self- Image Demons
On top of these memories we also have our SIDs Self image demons who are busy chatting shit in our heads telling us stuff and playing on our insecurities as our body shapes have changed and bits are no longer as firm or as perky as they once were.
So many of are battling these demons daily. The stress starts for many us when we are thinking about getting dressed. So much to think about – does that top go with these trousers? This waistband is digging in my fat and giving me a muffin top, my bra is exaggerating my back fat, my bum looks big in this skirt, my legs are too short for these trousers unless I wear heels, this top isn’t long enough to cover my belly, this jacket accentuates the size of my hips and on it goes…It’s a wonder we even leave the house some days.
In my role as a self-image consultant I hear this kind of stuff daily. Women may choose to work with me for a wide range of reasons, usually though, the common thread it that they would like to have more confidence and feel comfortable in their personal style choices.
It might just be as simple as wanting to know which colours and/or styles suit them best; it could be that they want to learn how to dress outfits up or down while still feeling like themselves, it might be that they’ve lost a lot of weight or put weight on and aren’t sure how to make the most of their figure any more. They might have spent so many years being mum that they’ve lost their identity or feel stuck in rut, they might worry about looking like mutton dressed as lamb or old before their time. Perhaps they’ve come out of a relationship and feel like they want a fresh look or a new job and want to look the part.
As you can imagine, with all this baggage we have it can feel quite scary opening up to someone to scrutinise your body and sense of style - I must approach my work sensitively. On the other hand, they are paying me for an honest opinion and the benefit of my expertise, so I can’t just blow smoke up their backsides and tell them they look lovely if they don’t. I must be authoritative and honest but also non-judgemental about their choices.
I try to be supportive and compassionate when I’m providing my advice – it’s a tricky balance which I hope I get right 99.9% of the time. (Nobody’s perfect right? And I know my northern bluntness gets the better of me sometimes.) I figure I must be doing ok as I rely on word of mouth for my work and I have so many lovely 5* reviews and comments.
Anyway, my reason for putting pen to paper (or typing with one finger) today is to make a request to you if you are a parent and your son or daughter asks you for your opinion on something they are wearing. It’s ok to be honest if something isn’t quite right but be honest kindly, choose your words very carefully. Those words might be remembered for a very long time. If they don’t ask for your opinion try and bite your tongue, (yes, it might be a stupid fashion in your opinion) – presumably they are feeling good in what they are wearing?
When my son was in primary school, they had a poster on the wall that said “before you speak- think ...is it true, helpful, inspiring, necessary, kind” … it’s something we should all bear in mind long after primary school.
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