Ten years ago, I was a 16-year-old bundle of low self-esteem, low self-confidence and absolutely zero self-love. Sometimes I feel so far removed from 16-year-old Fran, that she feels like a perfect stranger to me. From 16 to 26 years old, my life has changed beyond belief. This post, more than anything, is an aid for me to remember the lessons that I’ve learned and recognise how valuable they are to me before throwing myself into the next 10 years of my life… who knows what could happen!1) Things are changeable & nothing is forever
As much as this sounds like a somewhat existential thing to have learned, I don’t think that this is necessarily a bad thing. In the last 10 years, I’ve come to understand that nothing is permanent, and you honestly have no idea what can happen in the future. This has given me the drive to live within the moment a bit more. To breath. To enjoy what’s happening in my life at any particular time. To recognise that time moves swiftly. To acknowledge the joy in life currently, rather than pondering on the inevitability of things coming to an end.
2) The relationship I have with my body will change, daily
Some days, I wake up and I feel okay about my body. Other days, I wake up and I feel mildly annoyed with my body. Sometimes I wake up and find that I really don’t like the skin I’m in, whilst other days I wake up and find that I absolutely adore myself. My point is this, I’ve discovered that the relationship I have with my body will change, and it will change daily. I’ve learned that this will inevitably happen, and therefore, I’ve taught myself to remember how I feel about myself overall. Any negative impact that this may have on my mental health or how I see my body in the long-run has no time to come to fruition.
3) Life will make you frustrated, pissed off, upset & annoyed – ride those emotions, but don’t dwell on them
It goes without saying that life throws us curveballs – but these are meant to test us. To test our ability to withstand the shit-storms that come our way; to test our ability to learn and grow; to test our resilience in the face of an ill-fate and to test our dedication to ploughing through our lives. I’ve learned in the past 10 years, that it is perfectly justified to react to any unfavourable circumstances that come my way, however I see fit. But it’s important not to dwell on the situation or hold a grudge, I’ve learned that the best way to get over something shitty happening in my life, is to put a cap on it and move on.
4) People come and go, but it’s not the end of the world if they do
I’ve had innumerable friendships whereby I’ve thought that the relationship would sustain – unfortunately due to life-experiences, these friendships don’t always make the grade and don’t always continue on as they could have done. I’ve come to realise that people come and go, there will be those in my life now, who I might not know in years to come, old friendships might resurface, frenemies might become friends, – my point is this, people inevitably will come and go in my life. In the past 10 years I’ve learned that you can have a friend so close, they may as well be family – to a year later, barely even speaking to that person. But it’s not the end of the world.
5) Sometimes, I will surprise myself with the things I can achieve
When I was 16 I had little to no self-belief, in the last 10 years I have become much more alert to the idea that actually, I can achieve the things that I set my mind to – but every now and again I will surprise myself with the things I achieve. Here are just some of the things I’ve achieved in the past 10 years, proving that even when you don’t believe in yourself, you can do amazing things:
- I’ve curated and nurtured my blog.
- My writing has been featured in The Independent, The Huffington Post, Vintage Life Magazine, Men’s Health Magazine, DIVA Magazine.
- I attended, and completed University.
- I’ve been interviewed by The Daily Mail about my body image experiences.
- I’ve been featured in Pick Me Up Magazine speaking about body image.
- I have achieved a dream of becoming a burlesque performer.
- I’ve been to New Zealand twice.
- I’ve been featured on the BBC Victoria Derbyshire show discussing body image.
- I’ve secured a career of which I’m extremely proud.
- I am responsible for three cats and my own home.
- I have a wonderful and loving relationship.
6) My body should never define my ability to do something
I remember being in New Zealand and I joined a tour to the ’90 Mile Beach’. One of the experiences on offer for this trip, was to body board down the biggest sand-dune I’ve ever seen in my life and you know what? I didn’t do it. I was around a size 24 at this time in my life and I couldn’t bear the thought of my body failing me. In my head I played out the scenario – I’d get on the body board and my body would be too big to fit, I’d be too heavy for the body board to zoom seamlessly across the sand, I’d fall off and embarrass myself, everyone would mock me… you get the picture. Ever since this experience, I’ve wished and wished that I’d just grabbed life by the lapels and jumped on that body board without a care in the world. I feel so sad that 16-year-old me missed out on this experience. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and it’s taught me a powerful lesson – my body should never have, and should never define my ability to do something.
7) It’s okay to feel shitty sometimes
If the past 10 years have taught me anything, it’s that it is perfectly okay to feel shitty. More so, it’s perfectly okay to wallow in feeling shitty. We are encouraged to ‘think positively’ and to always ‘look on the bright side’ – but sometimes, you want to tell the world to f-off, close the curtains and be miserable. Ultimately, I’ve learned that it’s important to let myself feel my emotions – closing them off or ignoring them is unhealthy for me and negatively impacts my mental health in the long run. So sometimes, I let myself be grumpy, or I allow myself to cry – I allow myself to feel, even when it’s not always a good thing.
8) Being sociable is not a bad thing
I think that this one took a long time for me to come to terms with, not because I’m an unsociable hermit who hates people, but because of self-esteem issues. When I was 16, I was (more often than not), the third wheel, the awkward friend, the fat girl in a group of slim friends and, inevitably, I felt that the differences between myself and my friends far out-weighed the similarities. Living inside a fat body as a 16-year-old young woman impacts your life beyond belief, and even now I sometimes associate social interactions and events with a feeling of anxiety. It’s nowhere near as bad as it used to be, but there’s still a part of me that harks back to young me and feels the anxiety at going out and socialising. But, socialising is not a bad thing and actually, when I’m out of my comfort zone and doing the thing, I actually quite enjoy it.
9) Love is…
Over the past 10 years I’ve learned that love is powerful, consuming, painful, tactless, astounding, breathtaking, confusing, surprising, exciting, toxic, empowering, blind, fruitful, respectful, a friendship, heartless, changeable, important, worthwhile, taxing, time-consuming, a challenge, an experience, joyous, a partnership… For me, love is all of these things, plus so many more things that I can’t think of right now. I think that I will always, always be learning what love is (and isn’t) through many different avenues – be those relationships, friendships, familial bonds or simply the love we have for our pets. All love-relationships can teach us something.
10) Time can heal a world of pain
I’ve had my fair share of crap in my life, but I’m lucky enough to have never gone through anything too life-shattering and I fully-acknowledge that there are individuals out there who have been through things that have changed their lives in the most finite way possible. For me, I’ve discovered that time can heal a world of pain which at the time felt impossible to survive. As humans, we are resilient, and I’ve come to realise that I’m a lot stronger than I thought I was – I’m 100 times stronger than 16-year-old me, that’s for sure. Time can and does heal, trust me.