Primary school teacher Suzanne, 45, and mother to three grown-up children has struggled with her many ‘imperfections’ throughout her life. She’s a strong believer that false and unrealistic beauty ideals are damaging and that it’s important to show people, from all walks of life, what true beauty is.
Suzanne has signed up to become a Be Real Ambassador to break out of her comfort zone and to stop the negative feelings about her body she still sometimes struggles with. She wants to show her real self to help others realise that they too are beautiful just the way they are.
“I can’t really remember at exactly what age I began to struggle with my body image. I know that I went through phases of thinking that I was fat and that my friends were prettier, slimmer, more stylish than me, but I guess that most girls and women go through that to some degree. I had my three children very young – I was 22 when the youngest was born. Looking back, I guess I hid behind them, in big baggy clothes that hid my body. But I was happy doing so.
“In my mid-30s, I separated from my children’s father and that’s when my issues really began. I had more time on my hands than ever before, with the kids staying at their dad’s at weekends and with them being older in general, and suddenly I didn’t know who I was. I had no children to hide behind and I had no real idea of ‘how to be a woman’. That’s when the downward spiral began and I felt like I never meet the expectations of what women are ‘supposed’ to be. I felt inadequate when I didn’t fit into certain size clothing and my make-up never looked as good as the woman in the magazine.
“At some point I made the effort to begin following body positive women on social media, to help me feel better about my body. I love seeing the positive posts and liberating photos from The Body Image Movement and Bodyposipanda, amongst others.
“I also tried an exercise that had a profound impact on me. I imagined saying to my daughter or my best friend all the cruel things that I used to say to myself. Just imagining it made me upset, as I would never be so cruel. After that, I tried to say the same things to a photo of myself as a young child, and I just cried. That was the turning point for me.
“I’ve realised that it’s really important to be mindful of the language we use, particularly with young people, about body image. We should be teaching them about body acceptance and living a healthy life and loving themselves as they are, rather than having unrealistic expectations that people should be striving for.
“If I could say one thing to my younger self, I would tell her she is beautiful just the way she is and doesn’t have to compare herself to, or compete with, anybody. Life is too short to worry about the tummy rolls; instead, life is there to be lived fully.”
Do you feel inspired by Suzanne? Find out how you can become a Be Real Ambassador.