Each and every time I see a picture of me going over a hurdle I cringe and have to physically stop my brain from going into absolute overdrive. I see photos of other athletes and I’m like wow they look muscular and lean and insane, then I see my own and see cellulite and rolls and a lack of a tan. Don’t get me wrong, when I stand and look in the mirror in the morning I do feel good about myself – I like the shape of my body, everything is fine. But when I am unable to control the lighting or the angle that I’m standing or that a photo is taken I can feel anything but great.
I have always had insecurities about that section at the bottom of my stomach, and as someone whose hips didn’t widen and who developed fairly late it’s an insecurity which has only given me anxiety over the last few years. I am the first to try and campaign for loving ourselves and our bodies but I also want to raise awareness of the brutality of being involved in a high level sport dressed in a crop and knickers surrounded by incredible looking people and the effect that can have on your body image.
I’m not entirely sure when I became so self-conscious about how I look compared to other people. I also fully appreciate that my diet could be better (I just love chocolate too much and I’m not even sorry) but I also feel that society impresses this image on us that we should all look like Kendall Jenner or Gigi Hadid. How many times do you see these tiny tiny models with their new campaigns for Nike or Adidas, with their images being blown up and plastered in the windows of shops?!
I haven’t got an answer for how I could feel better because I reckon even if I was super toned and tiny I would still compare myself to others and still want to ‘improve’ myself in some way. The picture that I’ve included below is potentially one of the worst pictures I’ve seen of myself – when I look at it I want to make it disappear forever along with the rolls on my stomach and the bozz-eyed thing I’ve got going on. Instead, I’m going to embrace it and try and look at it thinking more about how I can improve my technique rather than my body, because at the end of the day that’s what my sport is all about. Not only does that picture make me cringe, but sitting on my sofa looking through all of the pictures from last weekend, it makes me feel like a big blob who regrets eating the bowl of pasta I just ate (tasted great though).
Writing this blog post, I feel as though I’ve complained and been quite negative about my body, and I hope that in months to come I can begin to write about how my mindset and opinions have changed as I’ve learned to love how I look and feel confident. I may come across as being confident, and I’m sure people will say that I post photos to Instagram in a bikini or race kit so surely I’m going on about nothing here – but that isn’t the point. The point is that regardless of what you see on social media, what is happening inside my brain (and I’m sure the brains of so many other people) can be completely different.
A big part of moving forward has to be learning to love myself and how I look. Each and every one of us has a different body type and shape. Each one of us has a different metabolism and diet and each and every one of us is active in different ways. I’m an individual and there are a lot of things I would say I do like about myself, not entirely related to the way I look. Like a lot of things, it’s all about restructuring my thoughts and ensuring that I don’t dwell on the negative thoughts and anxiety triggered thoughts. Hopefully when I go to Spain in a couple of weeks I’ll put on my bikini and embrace my curves, my cellulite and that little pouch at the bottom of my stomach. Put it this way – my holiday will be a lot more enjoyable if I do.
The first step is that instead of looking at these photos and seeing negative things about my body, I am going to look at them and think about how I finished my hurdles despite being exhausted from my first full year as a Newly Qualified Teacher, how I ran the first leg in the 4×100 after ringing my Dad in tears because of how bad I felt after said hurdles race AND how I ran the final leg in the 4×400 despite never having run more than 200m in training/never having run a competitive 400m in my life. I need to look at the photos and be proud of my strength, of the fact that I’m still here and still competing despite everything I’ve been through this year and proud that I’m part of the team which makes up Edinburgh AC because they’re supportive, lovely and strong themselves.