IN THIS IS­SUE

The Mail on Sunday - You - - Editor’s Letter - @jo_elvin @jo_elvin

Es­ther Rantzen’s joy­ous love let­ter to nu­dity on page 32 got me think­ing about my own re­la­tion­ship with my body and self-im­age. As a size 8 teenager I had the kind of fig­ure that a lot of peo­ple would say they want. Yet my con­fi­dence was in the gut­ter. I was re­minded all the time by my peers that I was ‘too skinny’. Add to that I was milk-bot­tle pale and grow­ing up in Syd­ney, Aus­tralia, at a time when the cul­tural ideal was our bronzed, ath­letic newly anointed god­dess, su­per­model Elle Macpher­son. I was so self-con­scious about my many ‘flaws’ that I wasted years of glo­ri­ous sum­mers hid­ing (and sweat­ing) in long sleeves and jeans! Such is the crazy self-im­posed prison of low self-es­teem.

It took be­com­ing a mother, at 35, to re­ally have a word with my­self. I needed to set a con­fi­dent ex­am­ple for my daugh­ter. If she clocked my em­bar­rass­ment about my pale­ness, bony knees or – these days – wob­bly bits, then she might take in the mes­sage that these are le­git­i­mate things to be ashamed of.

She was about three when she re­marked that I was al­ways telling ev­ery­one how ter­ri­ble I look, which was a star­tling in­sight into the mes­sages we con­vey with­out even re­al­is­ing. I have friends who re­mem­ber as chil­dren be­ing told to suck in their stom­achs, were put on di­ets or heard their moth­ers ob­sess­ing about what was ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ with their own bod­ies.

Watch­ing your own kids de­velop early signs of self-con­scious­ness is a lit­tle heart­break­ing. (Psy­chother­a­pist Louis We­in­stock has some ex­cel­lent in­sights into that on page 28.) Es­pe­cially when you know that when you were that age, no one could con­vince you that you looked per­fectly fine, ei­ther. Body im­age feels like a bat­tle we all wage to some de­gree in our lives. But there’s cause for op­ti­mism when there are move­ments such as my friend Jameela Jamil’s In­sta­gram ac­count @i_weigh, which is an ag­gres­sive chal­lenge to the sub­lim­i­nal body judg­ments women en­counter ev­ery day.

Es­ther says her lib­er­ated at­ti­tude to her body and nu­dity is a gen­er­a­tional thing. I won­der if, like me, she’s sim­ply reached an age where you’re lib­er­ated from car­ing about what other peo­ple think. If only we could bot­tle that and gift it to our chil­dren.

I WASTED SUM­MERS HID­ING IN LONG SLEEVES AND JEANS”

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