I'm almost 40 now and you'd think that by now, I would have learnt to not care about what people think or say about me. About 85% of the time, I actually don't care but there are still those days (I call them ugly days) when I don't feel great and I would prefer to hibernate away and not venture out in public, be it due to having bad skin, having a "fat" day or a crazy, wild hair day. Instead of hibernating and feeling sorry for myself, I tend to just get out there and crack on with life with my wild hair and wobbly bits and just try not to focus on the negatives.
I've tried to be a positive role model for my girls and encourage body confidence. If I need to shift a few pounds, I don't use the "diet" word and refer to healthy eating and exercising instead. Like everyone, I do have my own body insecurities but I honestly don't tend to worry about them. However, this weekend, I realised that some of my subconscious actions were in fact making a bad impression upon my kids. My own insecurities, which I thought were tucked away and hidden from the outside world, were in fact on full display through my own body language and actions.
I have learnt invaluable lessons from my two incredible children this weekend.
Firstly from my youngest, Eva. I was telling off my girls for fighting in the car. She turned around to me and simply said "You and daddy fight. You should set an example to us!" Cheeky? Extremely. Correct? Very much so. We should lead by example. Yes, me and my hubby do have the occasional row, nothing major (and usually about something petty, like who has had the least sleep - yes, we have argued over this) but this is not something we should do in front of the kids as they will simply see it as acceptable to argue.
Then secondly, from Mill. Mill is at an awkward age (13). I still see her as my baby but she is growing up into a gorgeous young lady now. Mill has a lovely curvy figure (but rather womanly for her age) and she can get pretty self conscious. Pressure from peers and from online vloggers and magazines about the perfect figure/body image etc is immense these days. It didn't cross my mind just how self conscious Mill had become.
Mill came back from a school trip away and on Saturday, Mill's first day back, it was a glorious, sunny day. We were walking along and I gave her a hug and she whispered to me "Mum, this is the first day I have worn shorts in England. I've become more confident on holiday and I wore shorts the whole week away." I initially felt completely heartbroken as I just didn't realise that she had been having such thoughts and insecurities and then I thought about my actions.
Actions clearly speak much louder than words. Ok, I may not talk about my own insecurities but I tend to cover up. I don't wear shorts and rarely wear vests and I definitely don't wear them when running. If I wear dresses or skirts, I tend to wear them with leggings or tights. I have always worn leggings when running, usually 3/4 length and a baggy t-shirt to cover my tum. I'd never previously considered what message this was sending to my kids.
There's a lass in America, Kelly Roberts (Run, Selfie, Repeat), who has started a campaign to stop women feeling self conscious and to get them to run wearing their sports bra (#sportsbrasquad). I'm not that confident and the thought of running in a sports bra and leggings fills me with terror. However, I took on board the comments of my daughters and in order to set a good example to my kids I purchased my first ever pair of running shorts.
Yes, it was extremely scary baring my pale, bruised legs (bruised and marked from my crazy dogs leaping up on me - I bruise very easily) and showing off my wobbly bits but it was also kind of empowering.
The worst part of my run home, is the first bit. I leave my office and my colleagues are all sat in their cars queuing in traffic for about half a mile. It's stop/start traffic so I often have to run by people several times just on this stretch of road. I tend to run this bit pretty quick - to get it over with and so I look faster!! As soon as I get off the main road, I slow it down a bit and catch my breath! Despite my fears, I ran tall and actually felt rather confident. It was rather refreshing wearing weather appropriate clothes for once rather than my usual black leggings!
I will continue to wear my shorts with confidence and show off my legs (rather than hiding them away) and eventually I may build up the courage to run in a vest. Perhaps, just perhaps, I may even be brave enough to run in my running bra/sports top. This is not only for me, but in the hope that I set a good example and be a better, more positive role model for my two, beautiful daughters.
Look out world, Joni, and her super, purple shorts are heading your way.