If You’re Happy And You Know It

Sometimes I’ve been suspicious of happiness. For awhile now I’ve felt like I was finally at ease with my body, but part of me wouldn’t trust that it was real. Anxiety was my default state for so long that it was hard to believe I wasn’t deluding myself.

The Mothership and I had one of those honest, difficult conversations on the weekend that start with tears and honking into tissues, but end with hanging up all light and peaceful. We talked about The Past which is something I’ve been avoiding. When I moved away from Australia I just convinced myself I was moving away from all sorts of things.

She asked about my earliest memories and I told her about one time when I was five years old and starting a new school. She held my hand as we walked up the front path that was flanked by bottlebrush shrubs. My stomach was in knots and my only thought was, "Everybody is going to hate me because I’m fat."

And that’s how I’ve always thought. It didn’t stop until two years ago when I did that cracking 5K race, when I finally realised I respected my body for what it could do, instead of being consumed by what it looked like. Since then I’ve been moving the ol’ bod around with ever-shrinking amounts of self-consciousness, without feeling like there were neon signs floating above my head screaming, HEY EVERYBODY, LOOK AT THIS LARD ARSE.

But like I said, sometimes I was suspicious. I wondered if I was only happy in certain contexts. Like the safety of a marriage. Or the security of an oft-shitty Scottish climate, where I can hide my wobbly bits.

So I’ve been running through a list of places and situations that used to petrify me, and testing my resolve. How would I feel if I faced them again? Here’s a few –

  • THE BEACH – Swimsuits, ghostly skin, etc etc. I’m cool. I will never don a bikini but as long as I’ve got a big hat and SPF 457 I’d be happy. I don’t feel the urge to compare myself to more slender chicks anymore. That could be inner peace or just surrendering to old age πŸ˜›
  • BAKERIES – I’d now feel free to buy whatever the hell I wanted and not fret that folk in the queue were thinking, "She doesn’t need that scone". If I wanted ten donuts I’d buy ten donuts, instead of buying four here and three at the place down the street and another three in the next town to disguise my gluttony.
  • PUBLIC SPEAKING – If I had to yap in front of a group of people, I would be shitscared about saying something stupid, as opposed to worrying that my gesticulations were making my belly wobble. I think doing that Sky News thing last year sort of kicked the last of that self-consciousness out of me.
  • POSH SHOPS – Actually I have tested this one. There are still about 10 kazillion boutiques with clothes I couldn’t fit a toe into, but I no longer skulk past their windows feeling inferior. I go inside and poke through the racks, just to see what it feels like. I’m also lost my irrational fear of department stores. Sometimes I swan about in Harvey Nicks in Edinburgh. I usually end up in the food hall, buying a can of tuna or something.
  • SPONTANEOUS PHOTOGRAPHY – the lovely Mary posted a photo on Health Nuts of her doing some indoor rockclimbing. She looks totally foxy and dead sporty. I thought, "How would I feel if someone took a snap of me climbing up a wall?". I’d no doubt be red-faced and sweaty and my flab would be dangling at some unflattering angle. But when I see shit pictures of myself these days I groan or LAUGH, instead of destroying the camera with a sledgehammer. I think I look alright. Sometimes the camera catches that, sometimes it suggests the opposite; and that’s okay.
  • AUSTRALIA – If we moved back, how would I handle scorching summers, barbeques, swimming pools? Now that my thighs don’t bleed if I wear a skirt, I think I’d quite enjoy it. I’d be a helluva lot more worried about getting sunburned than the state of my flab, to be honest πŸ™‚

I’m in a reflective mood lately so sorry if this entry is rather random and incoherent. But I am happy to conclude that I am genuinely happy with my body. I would pass all my tests. I spent about 22 years in a constant state of paranoia and anxiety which made all those little everyday scenarios so exhausting. Now I think I could put myself in any situation and I’d still be comfortable being me. Even if I was thundering down a catwalk with size zero supermodels. That’s their look, and I’ve got mine. I just wish I could go back to that five-year-old me and say, "Chin up, ginger! 24 years from now you’ll think you’re great!"

30 thoughts on “If You’re Happy And You Know It

  1. Hey DG

    Another thought-provoking post, which makes perfect sense to me.

    There’s so much to say (and think about) from the post – it’s very poignant.

    So, I’ll keep my comment short and say, wow! What an amazing way to express yourself and your emotions (that many of us can relate to). I felt quite tearful with your final comment, maybe because I’m going through something similar right now.

    So, sending you a big, virtual hug. Thanks for writing that piece.

    Mrs L xxxxxxxxxx

  2. DG, I love your blog and this is a wonderful post. I love how much you value your body and its abilities, and all your health-related accomplishments. I wish everybody was able to get to the place you’re at now… but then again it took many years of hard work pursuing fitness goals and vast amounts of soul-searching for you to get there. So, well done and thanks for posting this. I think it will help a lot of people assess where they are and where they want to be in terms of body image. Or maybe I just mean it helped me.

  3. Its amazing, I havent read your blog in a while and I was thinking today about how much out of all the bad habits I have I want to change just one NOW. The habit of stoping my life because of being fat. You know, afraid of the comments, the whispers, the stares, whatever! Its not worth it, and it is, after all MY LIFE! What right do others have to steal the enjoyment out of it just because I wear bigger pants than they do? I still want to be thin, but I also am tired of watching my life zoom past me while I cringe inside in fear of living.

  4. Wow!!! What an achievement. Isn’t it amazing, to think how far you’ve come?

    I still struggle with the comparing myself to skinny chicks thing from time to time, but thanks to posts like yours, its easy to remind myself that I’m quite powerful and fit, and to cut myself a little slack.

  5. Hiya DG, i luvvvvved this post of yours’, i found it so honest and really touching… and of course it’s great that you finally feel so at ease with your body, i bet it must make you feel all lighthearted and kinda relieved maybe. I can only guess as i’m still fat and momentarily have huge issues with how i look and how i think of myself, but just cant find the will to stick to one bloody diet, it’s frustrating. Anyways, you’re still my very personal Hero so thumbs up gal, you rock!!!

  6. thanks guys πŸ™‚ xx

    nathalie – i can’t stick to a diet either. i found it much much easier just to steal all the bits i like from other diets and figure out something that i was actually willing to stick to. of course took me a long time to realise that was actually an option πŸ™‚

  7. Someone once asked me if I could go back in time and give myself some advice, what I’d say. It took me a long time to think of something but the main thing I’d say is to stop worrying so much about what other people think. It’s amazing how much we restrict ourselves because of what some imaginary person would think. Well done on getting over it.

  8. DG, i guess over the years (geez that sounds like i’m 60 already) i must have collected tons of evidence that a classic will NOT work for me, cause either i’m too sloppy or lazy to weigh every freakin’ thing i put in my mouth or i will crave an apple so badly that i will have daydreams about fruit during the day…. So here’s a new idea; what about an Atkins/WW/Southbeach/GI/WLR-Diet?! But yes you’re right, some people just can’t stick to ONE plan or diet, i might just have to learn how to make it work best for me (and maybe one day i’ll write a diet-book about it like Dr Atkins harharharhar) oh dear, i better get to bed, i’m writing non-sense…….. hugs xxxx

  9. Nice one Shauna – you’ve achieved something that many people never do, being at ease with your body. Go, you!

  10. Ahhh, Shauna, you write a wonderful post, you know that, don’t you? Absolutely beautiful, girl.

  11. Oh, you say this so well.

    I’ve just been having similar thoughts about my childhood, brought on by old photos… Why did I think I was fat back then? And even if I had been, why did I think anyone else would give a moment’s thought to it?

    I’m sure this is all very familiar.

    These days I like myself OK, but I still wouldn’t go to get my legs waxed.

  12. Fabulous to read that you have reached this point in your thinking and that is what counts, more then numbers on a scale. A great read:)

  13. What an awesome post and not just because you mentioned me LOL. I’ve definitely worked hard to get where I am today, as have you. It’s great to be able to look back and see poignant moments like the 5k race you did! πŸ™‚

    I really do appreciate the way you write which is so articulate, fresh, sensitive and humourous. “Suspicious of happiness” is a corker and I can really identify with that. I still catch myself out from time to time. Happiness really is simple and in the moment.

    It’s quite sad how most of us have been plagued by the idea of what other people thought of us as well. It really doesn’t matter does it and to have that freedom to just be in today’s society can be a little tough, but it is achievable. We do care less as we grow older but sometimes I do wish we had that instinct earlier. It’d save a lot of tears.

    Aww, and you are fabulous Shauna, you always have been!

    Oh…and summer is FANTASTIC when your thighs don’t rub and you can run around in the skimpiest of clothes. It took me 26 years to get this. I thought I hated summer but I just hated the “fat”.

  14. Dearest

    A beautiful read…..the tears were out and only a little honking….loved you then as you walked up the bottlebrush path and love you even more today as you walk your own unique pathway in this world (good things always grow!)


  15. DG,

    Truly wonderful post. Congratulations on having reached such a high plane of self-knowledge and, more importantly, self-acceptance. You may feel it took you a long time to get there, but believe me you’re light years ahead of most of us, including me. Bravo! Bravo! Bravo!

  16. You’re such a fantastic writer – I loooove your blog.

    This was a wonderful post – it made me realize that just like dieting/getting healthy are habits that take a long time to form, so is making peace with one’s body. And it sounds like you’re finally at peace, which is amazing!

    As I am re-starting my journey, thanks for helping me to remember that I should pat myself on the back for all milestones along the way….

  17. Great post Shauna! It made me think that I need to appreciate what I have and just go with it. I love the part – “That’s their look, and I’ve got mine.” YEAH I love it and I know I needed to hear that. We each have our own thing and need to be proud of whatever it is. If we were all the same what fun would that be. I am glad you have random thoughts and write about them!!!!

  18. I am so over feeling bad about my body, and I absolutely adore this sentiment as a way of getting there:

    “I finally realised I respected my body for what it could do, instead of being consumed by what it looked like.”

  19. Great post. I think this hits home for a lot of people. But I’m not sure anyone ever gets used to public speaking and almost everyone feels self-conscious at the beach. No matter how much you weigh. I’m glad you’re so accepting of yourself now.

  20. cheers Debbie πŸ™‚

    I don’t think I’ll ever be a confident public speaker, but I am kind of glad to have reached the point where I’d be freaking about what I’d SAY, as opposed to how I LOOKED. The brain has become more important than the body πŸ™‚

    Thanks everyone for all your lovely comments. GROUP HUMP! Always feel kinda raw after these posts so it’s always a relief to hear from you all…

    Big hugs to the M’ship! xxox

  21. It drives me mad that whilst the average size in the UK is a 14, posh shops seem to think that a 14 is large. And you’d be lucky to even find them stocking a large/14.

    And, as one boutique owner told me today about a designer, ‘we do have that in a large but her designs tend to come up quite small’ – well really….!!

    I think we should start a campaign for normal sized (ie 14-16) and larger girls to go into all the designer boutiques and say:

    ‘hey, look at me, I’m rich, I want to be fashionable, I’d happily spend lots and lots of money in here but I can’t because you don’t have anything in my size’

    If enough of us do it consistently, then they’ll have to stock decent sizes. That’s the way the capitalist market works baby.

    How about it. Anyone gonna join me?

  22. Should have added, we don’t actually have to be rich or to be planning on spending loadsa money there – just let them think we might. After all, all those rich fat women who do exist will thank us for it!

  23. What a sweet comment from your mum!!

    It’s amazing these small things that people who’ve never had body issues take for granted and wouldn’t think twice about, but to US they are like winning gold at the Olympics!!!

    Go you, you ROCK.


  24. Shauna, you’re latest post was (as usual), a fantastic read as were all the comments from your merry band of followers.
    To the wonderful Mothership, your comments made my eyes go just a little damp, your daughter is a truly amazing person πŸ™‚

  25. Shauna, thanks so much for your post. It’s great to read that it will eventually happen. One day I will feel the same as you do.

    One day…

    Yesterday I wore one of those long a-line tops that are ‘fashionable’ with trousers underneath. Got hot a bit later in the day and tied my coat around my waist and guess what happened?

    The woman in the chemist asked if I was expecting.

    Since I’ve lost the 25 kilos I get asked pretty regularly, like maybe once a week and my heart completely sinks.

    Hopefully one day I’ll be able to not fear the ‘are you pregnant?’ question!

  26. The problem (or maybe not) is that people get into habits and they think the habit is them (smoking too much, eating too much, bonking too much(!), etc).

    When you change your ways, you realise that you’re not something you do but what you can be (sounding either very vague here or very hippie).

    The trouble can be that either your mind or your body remembers the old ways. You just need to get them to remember the new ways (a new habit) which are better for you.

    Just shoot me while I write a book for Oprah!

    Scott F πŸ˜‰

  27. You know what? You are a beautiful, funny person.

    I wish I knew you in the real life, for rools πŸ™‚

  28. I too am a larger size, and while I’ve read lots of diet books, none has appealed to me, so I’ve gone back to eating exactly what I please, only in much smaller portions. The weight still comes off,and I still enjoy eating. Only 15kgs to go………..

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