According to whom?

wow woman facial pic

I watch with my head in my hands when the adverts come on the television.  The cause of this despair is quite simple really, it’s the idea that women are failing if they don’t “match up” to the perfection that is personified in stick-thin, teen-age models with “perfect” lifestyles and the skin, hair and figure to match.  Apparently, it’s what we all want.

I’d like to know, According to whom?

I saw an ad for skin cream that claimed “80% of women said they’d consider delaying surgery after using it”

Delaying? As if, surgery was inevitable once we took a good look in the mirror and realised how wrinkled we were.

Another shows a husband, claiming “we’ve been through three pregnancies…. and she still looks like Kate”

Let’s get this straight – the model still looks 30 because she is 30 and has probably never borne a child, let alone three.  Your wife still looks like your wife because you love her and we see only what we want to in people we love. And by the way, despite the grey hair you seem to despair of, she finds that sexy and exciting.  Don’t knock it!

My point is, who is it that sets these expectations, these apparent standards we must strive to achieve with diets, creams, procedures and prodding?  And what is it that makes us buy into them?  Is it a crowd thing, that sense that “everyone else does it so if I don’t then I’ll stand out for the wrong reasons?”  Is it that we’ve been so convinced the message is true, we’ve started to believe it ourselves?

I looked at my husband this morning; really looked at him.  His lines around his eyes, from working out-doors and no doubt added to by stress over the years. His grey hairs, now a good 30% of his head is covered in greys and whites.  I love them, I think they show his experience and maturity and yes, if I’m totally honest, they just look incredible with his tan!  I looked at his hands, with scars that show a life-time of crafting, creating, working hard for a living. Oh yes, I looked at other bits too – but that’s between us 😉

I asked myself “Do I see these changes in him as imperfections?  Do they stand out and become the things I notice?”  The answer for me was no.  I see these as the signs that we are growing old – together.  That makes me emotional.  We did not anticipate this.  It’s exciting and new.    I love the lines that tell his story, the rugged look that highlights his features, the grey hair that makes his blue eyes even more intense.

And I wonder, does he notice my lines, my creases and wrinkles?  Does he see the grey mixing in with the blonde or notice the lines on my hips and arms which tell of my history?  Does he love me because of them or despite them?  I believe I know.  I believe he’s with me on this one.

According to him I’m beautiful.  According to him I can stop fixating over the ageing process and continue to celebrate my years and my lines.  According to him, I’m perfect just as I am.

Dinah x

WOW Women DO cry

letting yourself cry is good for you

 

“There’s nothing like a good cry!”   I’ve often said this; to friends, my fabulous daughter, to clients.  It’s true.  A good cry releases our body’s natural endorphins and actually lifts our mood.  How often though, have you stopped yourself from crying, or found yourself apologising for it?  The fact is that it’s not just okay to cry – it’s great to cry!

When we hold back the tears we are burying emotions that deserve to be released, shared, discussed.  Often we feel we don’t deserve to sit down and have a good cry, that if we do we’re being a burden or weak.  I would argue it takes strength to cry, to be the person saying “this is tough and I don’t have all the answers”.

If you are someone who is there for others, who others describe as strong, it can feel like you’re letting them down if you let them see how troubled you are by something.  I’ve found that when I’m brave enough to show that vulnerable side, to say “today it’s all proving a bit much” people around me find it easier to connect with me.  Someone said to me recently, after listening to me have a good cry and holding my hand (and  yes, providing chocolate cake and a hug) that she felt so lucky to be able to support me for a change; we went through her breast cancer together last year and I was there with the hug and the carrot cake for her.  It felt good to let her support me.

And so often, a good cry is followed by clarity.  By letting go of those emotions, long suppressed, we give ourselves permission to see things in a new way, to say “okay, I’m ready, let’s start that again!”

It takes very little to convince me to spend a day with Hannah watching “weepy movies”; it always leads to talking, letting go of things, sharing giggles and chocolate, of course.  Which reminds me, it’s been too long – where’s my diary….

Dinah x

Let’s talk about…our bodies

 

Really?  Talk about our bodies?  In a public space where other people might be listening?

It’s one of those topics that so many women find difficult.  My earliest memories of talking about my body feel embarrassing and uncomfortable.  Hushed tones, fast spoken questions like “is it meant to hurt when I touch my boobs?” and “can you use a tampon if you’re still a virgin?” usually accompanied by giggles and exaggerated suggestions of expertise from equally bewildered friends.  We certainly never spoke to a grown-up about the changes we were experiencing in our bodies and the way we perceived them.

I remember the one attempt I made to ask my grandmother about periods; the result was a trip to a book shop where she purchased “what’s happening to me?” and handed it to me, under the table, in a brown paper bag. I kid you not!  The very idea of speaking to my mother was, in my mind, ridiculous.  It took me four months to tell her I’d started my periods (aged just nine) and almost as long to agree with her that I had to start wearing a bra to my junior school.

Yet as we age, as we learn how often the questions and fears we had about our bodies growing up, are shared by other women, do we actively do something to change this for future generations?  I’m confident I had more conversations with my daughter than I experienced;  I’m also sure there were plenty of things I didn’t tell her that  could have helped her to leave those concerns to one side.

How do we start to have these difficult conversations?  We can choose to be the ones to tackle them with our daughters and our friends.  I recently suggested to a life-long friend that we go and treat ourselves to some gorgeous new undies.  I was met with a less than enthusiastic “Okay.”  When I asked if I’d made a bad suggestion, she admitted that she’d always hated buying underwear.  “What, even the gorgeous girlie variety that lifts them to where they used to be?” I asked.  That’s when she told me that she felt awful buying bras because her left breast was larger than her right one and she felt like “some kind of freak” (her words).  When I told her that it was my right one that was larger she replied “Seriously?  You’ve got one bigger than the other too?  But you’ve got fabulous boobs!”

It’s extremely common.  Most women have one breast larger than the other; I’m told it’s often on the side of your writing arm.  Makes sense.  My friend said it made sense too.  She also told me she’d felt like this since we were 17.  That’s almost 30 years.  30 years of feeling negative about her body because nobody had told her it was normal.

Seems to me, it’s time to start those difficult conversations and talk about our bodies.  How will you start yours?

Dinah x

 

Give the gift of saying “Thank You”

accepting a compliment with a simple Thank You can feel difficult,  Accept that it's not about you.

“Really? What this old thing?”
“You’re joking, this makes my bum look enormous!”
“That’s sweet of you to say; when did you last get your eyes tested?”……

Sound familiar?  What is it that makes it so hard to accept a compliment at face-value and respond with “Thank you”?  What is the force that prevents so many women enjoying something that was intended to lift their day, to acknowledge something about them that prompted another person to say “Wow!”?

For many years I was convinced that accepting a compliment with a “thank you” was somehow saying “I know.  Yes, I am fabulous, thanks for noticing”;  of course, in my head this was done in a highly dramatic arrogant tone that was, frankly, repulsive.  I visualised people walking away and whispering to each other “I only said it to make her feel better!”  And of course, I gained little from these encounters except an opportunity to emotionally beat myself up, to remind myself I felt less than pretty, less than perfect.

Then I learned an interesting lesson from a friend;  accepting a compliment is not about ME.  When I allow someone to tell me I look great and greet this with a smile and a “Thank you”,  I give them a gift.  When people pay us a compliment, they do so with the intention of lifting our mood, making us feel great, making us glow.  When we treat that compliment, that gift, with contempt, we are showing them we don’t trust them, don’t value them.

When we accept the praise and the compliment, we allow them to enjoy that moment when someone unwraps a gift and you know you found exactly the right thing; they smile, the smile travels to their eyes which start to shine, they want to hold the gift up and show the world and you know that they understand why you chose it, that you’ve been paying attention, that they matter to you.

Focus on the person paying you the compliment today and thank them for taking the trouble to choose the perfect gift by giving them one in return – you’ll be surprised the impact “Thank you” can have on you both.

Dinah x

Are you ready to receive?

ready to receive

In the spirit of giving, that so many women find themselves adopting naturally, it can be difficult to receive.  To accept that you deserve too.  Receiving does not have to be selfish or self-centred, although we often put our own desires and needs at the bottom of our agenda and focus on “more important things”.

I’ve always enjoyed giving; from a young age I was more excited about other people’s birthdays than my own and would get really upset if someone did not love a gift I game them.  Few things in life make me more content that knowing something I’ve done for someone else has made a difference.  It has taken me a long time to see that I can receive without somehow being a hypocrite.  And more importantly, that I deserve to receive too.

Getting comfortable with the idea of receiving requires the learning of a new habit.  Here are my top tips for getting ready to receive:

1. One small gift…  Start small, it will feel manageable and you’ll see results that encourage you to continue.  So, start with asking for one small gift, from someone close to you – a friend or family member.  Let them know you’d really love to have something from them; I started by letting my husband, John, know that I would love him to take me to a movie.

2. Get visual… At the top of this blog is a quote that inspires me to look at receiving in a new way.  Find a quote or image that motivates you to stay connected with the idea of receiving.

3. Repeat after me…  “I’m worth it” “I deserve  to receive” “I am ready to receive”  all these phrases are a great way to re-connect in moments of doubt.  Yes, you may feel slightly daft talking to yourself, but go on- you do deserve to receive.

Are you ready to receive?  How do you prepare to receive?  I’d love to hear your thoughts

Dinah x

Dinah’s wobble boosters

When I’m having one of those days where I feel sorry for myself, I have learned there are certain things that lift my spirit, restore my self-belief and fire-me-up to challenge where I am.  These include looking at photographs of my family – like these ones

Then I phone a friend…

I’ve learned a powerful thing about wobbles – a wobble shared is a wobble that feels less overwhelming, less all-consuming.  When you share your wobble with a friend, they may not have a solution for you, but they will have a shoulder to cry on, they will listen, let you wobble and love you all the same.

I also write my “Blog I will not publish”.  I get a blank sheet of paper – or a blank screen on my ipad notes, and I write without an agenda.  No plan, no topic, no rules or political correctness.  I just write.  And when I’ve finished I read it through.  I’m often surprised by what I read; surprised at the passion and the questions that appear on the page.  Most often I’m surprised by the way the tone changes as I write, letting out feelings I’ve been locking away, exposing challenges that have been troubling or puzzling me.  And as I read, I often feel the sensation of doubt and negativity leaving me.  Draining away to be replaced by confidence and determination.

I also love to watch inspirational videos, that share WOW stories.  There are many on my “Favourites” on YouTube *WARNING watch with tissues at the ready!  Here is my favourite, which never fails to inspire me – and reduce me to tears – from Caroline Casey, and TED Talks.

What do you do to lift your mood, to restore your sense of WOW when you’re having a wobble?  I’d love you to share them here.

Dinah