02 April 2012

Never apologise for they way you look. Accepting your lot in life part 3.

"Life as an overweight woman is an exercise in apology. You always feel like you have to say sorry for your presence. That's what those sad eyes on the awkward size-18 waitress are saying: Sorry you have to see me."
~ Chrissie Swan

 (via Pintrest)

I've never struggled with my weight. I've been the same shape and size (a slight size 8-10, standing at 5 foot 2) for the past 15 years. Since I was 15. Before that I was a little underweight, scrawny and sickly - my skin fighting infection after infection. As my skin improved a little, my weight came up to normal - around 50 kilos. I don't write about being 50 kilos with smugness. I write from a place of empathy. Chrissie Swan's article about being happy with your weight, and particularly those words about apologising for how you look, rang true to me. From a different perspective.

I feel this small series of accepting your lot in life (part one and part two) reveals my vulnerabilities more than I've ever done on this blog. And I quite like it. I especially like that it's been relevant for lots of people, without chronic illnesses and disabilities. Here goes. I'll open up my heart to the relative anonymity of the internet. I tell you the stuff I don't tell anyone else. Sort of.

I've apologised for the way I look and for my illness many, many times. This timid girl in me seems to forget everything my Mum ever told me (that I'm beautiful, that I don't have to answer to anyone, that I should be myself) and I try to confirm to what's expected.

Parents have shielded their children's faces when they've been frightened after catching a glimpse of me. "That lady's scary, Mummy", they say, nestling into their mother's body. I smile, sympathetically. Their mother smiles back, sympathetically. I am not sure what we are being sympathetic for. I shouldn't have to feel apologetic for scaring a child through my looks alone. 

I apologise for asking for a seat on the train. I look around for a businessman or a person who looks younger than me (difficult when sometimes I also look 17!) and in a small voice, ask "excuse me, can I please have a seat?". They oblige, generally politely - there have been exceptions, I thank them, and say sorry. I say sorry for being so sore my legs are throbbing from the inside out, bloody stockings stuck to my skin. I say sorry for the thought of being more comfortable sitting down, my body not being jolted by the inertia of the train's jolts and sways. I say sorry for having to go to work, even though I am feeling the level of pain which indicates I shouldn't. I say sorry for asking them to give up their morning comfort before work so that I can be more comfortable.

I apologise for not being able to sit outside in the heat or the cold, or amongst smokers. I shouldn't have to. I am just looking after my health. 

When I worked at the department store, a woman came up to me to tell me "it's so good someone like [me] is working and not locked up somewhere". Damn right it is. I felt like she was trying to make me feel guilty for interrupting her pleasant shopping experience.

I've been made to feel guilty about how much I can eat. Once a colleague made pig snort sounds because I was eating a spinach and ricotta pastry at 10 am, and she commented she was jealous that I am so slim considering how much I eat. I eat a lot because I have to eat a lot. Because I need to replenish my energy. Because my skin renews at a rate so fast, I am 28 days ahead of you already. 29 April is a fabulous day, you just wait ;)

When I am in the sun, people make me feel guilty for apparently trying to get more sunburnt than I look. "You should be wearing a hat", "How can you let yourself get so sunburnt?" they judge. And so sometimes, I avoid going out on incredibly hot days so I don't have to apologise for looking this way.

Lastly, and the hardest thing, is apologising to boys. When doing internet dating, there's usually a conversation had before we meet, when we are getting along just dandy, that goes a bit like this:
"There's something I've got to tell you."
"What?"
"I have a skin condition."
"Oh."
"Yeah,it'slikeeczemabutworseandI'vehaditallmylifeandIlooksunburntbutI'm stillnormalandstuff,anditwon'taffectyou." And I say that all in one big breath, trying to prove that I am just like every other girl.

And then they say they're ok with it. But I know they won't be when they see me. And so I ask "Are you sure you're ok with that?"

What person should have to ask someone else whether they're ok with how they look? Really?
And on other occasions, when sparks fly and we've moved beyond the first kiss, I find myself apologising in bed. For the way my skin feels and tastes. And this makes me sad. That I forget all of my self esteem and the things that make me feel good about myself, thus that make him feel good about me, even when that person may love me, to apologise. My self esteem was what got me there in the first place. Once, after apologising, in the midst of passion, he was fairly blunt. I can't explain the humiliation of it all. He didn't apologise straight away. There were tears. He didn't get it. I shouldn't have had to apologise to someone who loved me, when I've been apologising to those who don't all my life.

I shouldn't have to apologise for how I look. I should be (and am) proud of what I do in life, for the friendships I have and for my talents.

The reality is, my red face will always enter the room and make people stare. But it's up to me to make them think differently about the way I look, and I can do this by showing them that I'm not going to feel guilty for who I am. And nor should you. Never apologise for the way you look.

You can read Chrissie Swan's wonderful column here. 

36 comments:

  1. you're so right yet, we've had this attitude of apology so ingrained into our psyche that it comes more naturally than being or usual amazing selves. Sending you love!!

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    1. Thanks so much :) it's even surprising how much we apologise for other things. "Sorry to disturb you". "Sorry for saying".

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  2. You are so right Carly we should never apologise for the way we look but sometimes it is hard not to.We judge ourselves from what has been placed in our heads when we are young.It can be a voice that lingers in the back of our minds for a very long time and rears its ugly words whenever we look in the mirror.
    I can remember about 30 years ago I was feeling good about my self all dressed up and ready to go out when my mum,who was a very fit woman,said to me "you would look really beautiful if you lost a bit of weight" I am sad to say I have never felt the same about my self since.
    Because of this I have been extra careful of what I have said to my daughter as she has grown into a young woman as I never wanted her to feel she wasnt beautiful just the way she was.

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    1. Thanks MB. Your post gave me food for thought too.

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  4. So powerful. I admire you in so many ways Carly. You are an inspiring woman. x

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  5. Wow, what an awesome post from an awesome person. Brilliant work Carly, never apologise for being you - because you are exceptional.

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    1. Thank you so much. Not seen you here before, so thank you for stopping by xx

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  6. This is such a great series of posts Carly. Really fantastic advice for us all - never apologise for how we look!

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    1. Thank you Lisa - thank you for your continued support xx

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  7. Carly thank you for sharing and showing how honesty is bravery, you may not have intended but you just made so many others refelct and apologise to themselves, and for the pain they may have caused others. I truely think your beauty is powerful (and oh so strong) and i love that your spreading such a positive message to all.
    Thanks!

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  8. Great post Carly, you have every right to be proud of yourself, you have achieved so much. Unfortunately it only takes one negative comment for dozens of positive ones to be washed away and forgotten, whilst the one bad one is remembered for the rest of our lives!

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    1. Thanks Bec, you are absolutely right - the hard comments stick. So I've been saving all the good ones xx

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  9. Carly once again you write the perfect thing at the perfect time. This week someone messaged me to say that someone on twitter was making a whole load of comments about me. The comments were along the lines of:
    -I take selfies all day so everyone can see how big my pores are
    -I'm so short & old I wear boots from the 90's
    Now I felt very bad and looked at my pores and then instead of apologising for me or changing me I felt sorry for this person. I reflected here I was out on a Saturday night with people I adore and here is this person spending their night attacking me. The amazing thing once again to no surprise was that it was another woman in their thirties who I consider to be nice but obviously still not comfortable in themselves so have to project onto others.

    So instead of apologising for yourself we need to all apologise for others behaviour as it is a reflection on them never you.

    Once again adore your blog and thanks

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  10. you are beautiful...I wish you didnt have to constantly challenge peoples assumptions, I too loved Chrissie's piece. I cut it out for my girls to read, I dont want them to be defined or define others by this silly notion of what society thinks is beauty. Thanks for writing this Carly and thanks for being my newest friend x

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    1. Thanks Sarah. It is indeed frustrating - constantly being the "face". And thank you for sharing it with your girls. So glad we are in touch xx

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  11. I hear this. It taaaaalks to me, I can't even count the number of times that I have apologized for the space I take up. A great post Carly, all kinds of wonderful and a reminder for everyone who apologizes for themselves for whatever reason that we are all valid.

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    1. Thanks Melissa. I am so glad I am able to send messages to people from all walks of life.
      We are absolutely all valid.

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  12. never ever EVER apologise! because you are amazing!

    I find myself doing it all the time.. Im sorry for my depression.. you know what-- no more apologies! I not sorry for who i am! im proud of what Ive done and where I am and where Im going!

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    1. :) Good on you Sarah! Be proud and don't let others make you feel inferior. x

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  13. An amazing post. We do all need to stop apologising for being ourselves. Thank you for sharing. Rachel x

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  14. Fantastic post Carly...............xox mum

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    1. Thanks Mum - you should comment more often! xx

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  15. Hi Carly,
    I love reading your blog and do all the time, but I feel a need to correct your calculations. I weigh 110 lbs (50 kilos),am 5'1" and a size 1-3 (4 aus). I normally don't mention these things but I know you like to be correct in what you write and this was inaccurate, if you are 50 kilos you cannot be a size 8-10 you would be a 4, just thought you should know. :) take care

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    1. Thanks for sizing me up anon ;)
      Everyone's body shape is different and just because you are a certain size clothing and the same weight/height as me, doesn't mean I am.
      I'm quite big busted too.
      And I can assure you that my clothing labels are all size 8-10. I even have some vintage size 7.

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    2. Hope you didnt take my comment as rude as it wasn't meant to be. P.S. I wasn't questioning what the tag states, I meant the kilos

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  16. Carly this breaks my heart but makes me so proud to hear you say all of this at the same time. Can't count the number of times Ruby has been out with me and stared at by young and old alike. As she's getting older we now deal with her "scaring" the younger children of good friends of mine, some of whom refuse to come into our home because she's so "scary". (The fact she gets soo excited and overly social and totally in-your-face does NOT help though miss Ruby!!)What I love about her though is that she has no clue about how she looks, she feels as special as she is. Am learning so much by reading your words as ever, thoughtful and amazing to hear from your perspective. I'm trying hard to be a "reformed" sorry person too (and spent the last few hours of her labour with "I'm sorry" as my mantra as I couldn't push out her undiagnosed craniosynostosis head, so much so that the obstetrician made me promise after her birth never to say it again!) Anyway, a big essay here Carly, I'm sorry!Hope you're having a good week!

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  17. Wow, thanks for a fantastic post Carly! One, for being so brave and sharing some very personal battles and two for making me more aware of how much I do this myself. And why? For some reason I tend to be naturally geared toward apologising for everything, my fault or not. It's time to evaluate this behaviour!

    I think everyone should read your blog. Just sayin' X

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  18. What a powerful post. I think we all apologise too much at times just being who we are.

    Never change Carly, you are such an inspiring woman :)

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