I see my body changing. There are wrinkles, dimples and folds. Lines and darkness where smoothness and light used to be.
My aging isn’t just skin deep. I can feel it too. It’s in my bones. There are twinges as I rise up and moans as I sit down. I can’t throw my children into the air like I used to or carry their warm sleeping bodies to bed without stopping for a breath halfway down the hall.
I can see time passing just by looking down at the top of my hands as I write. The skin has changed. It’s not fresh. It’s furrowed. Mature.
Aware of getting older.
If I think about ageing, I worry. I contemplate my demise. I consider becoming ill and wonder what it would be like to die young and leave my children behind without a mother.
My mind wonders down murky avenues to unknown futures. The ever-changing creases on my hands are reminders that all this comes to an end.
It frightens me.
So, I try to hold back the tide with anti-aging creams. I pluck out the greys and tweezer out the strays. I pick up the thick flap of skin that hangs over my knickers and squeeze it between my thumb and fingers. I stand staring at it in the full-length mirror on my wardrobe and ponder how much it would cost to have it removed. Maybe they could do a boob lift at the same time? Two for one?
When I look at my body the only thoughts that come to my mind are negative. Too saggy. Too fat. Not perky enough. Not tight enough...
Not good enough...
Never good enough...
I know I shouldn't do this to myself. I know I should love my body and feel privileged that I get to grow old, but negative thoughts elbow positive ones out of the way. They barge their wat to the front like a knicker throwing, Tom Jones groupie. Even when my husband tells me I’m beautiful, I don’t believe him.
It's sad really.
So, why does negativity win? Why does the bad thought always triumph?
When I have an overall good day, small things can instantly ruin my mood. The shock of my phone camera facing me, forcing me to observe numerous chins from a terrible angle; makes me grumpy. I feel confident one minute, then pissed off the next. Sure I have control over my own thoughts but my filing system is stacked with crap. It takes a few minutes to get what I'm searching for. I have to rummage in the crumpled thoughts before I get to the nice ones.
My ugly chins get me wondering... is negativity more powerful than positivity?
To find out why I always jump in bed with self-hatred first like a grubby one night stand, I had a bit of a scour online and I discovered something called Negative Bias.
'Negative bias is our tendency not only to register negative stimuli more readily but also to dwell on these events. Also known as positive-negative asymmetry, this negativity bias means that we feel the sting of a rebuke more powerfully than we feel the joy of praise.
This psychological phenomenon explains why bad first impressions can be so difficult to overcome and why past traumas can have such long lingering effects. In almost any interaction, we are more likely to notice negative things and later remember them more vividly
As humans, we tend to:
Remember traumatic experiences better than positive ones
Recall insults better than praise
React more strongly to negative stimuli
Think about negative things more frequently than positive ones
Respond more strongly to negative events than to equally positive ones
For example, you might be having a great day at work when a co-worker makes an offhand comment that you find irritating. You then find yourself stewing over his words for the rest of the workday. When you get home from work and someone asks you how your day was, you reply that it was terrible—even though it was overall quite good despite that one negative incident.
This bias toward the negative leads you to pay much more attention to the bad things that happen, making them seem much more important than they really are'
So, yes – we naturally lean towards the bad. My emotions as I stand staring at my droopy tits in the mirror are negative because it's my go to emotion. The easiest one to feel.
I read on...
‘While we may no longer need to be on constant high alert as our early ancestors needed to be in order to survive, the negativity bias still has a starring role in how our brains operate. Research has shown that negative bias can have a wide variety of effects on how people think, respond, and feel.
Some of the everyday areas where you might feel the results of this bias include in your relationships, decision-making, and the way you perceive people.
'When forming impressions of others, people also tend to focus more on negative information. For example, studies have shown that when given both “good” and “bad” adjectives to describe another person’s character, participants give greater weight to the bad descriptors when forming a first impression.'
Wow, negative bias explains a lot of my behaviour. Negativity about myself, my body and my opinions of others are affected by that natural default. Bitching about a person is easier than complimenting them.It's actually scientifically proven that being nasty is less intellectual than being nice. (There you go Mr Trump).
It got me wondering, can we change our natural default settings? Can we stop, think and just be nice? kinder to our selves and each other?
Over the years society has got in the way of nature. Women are taught from birth to be pretty, to look better, be our best, better than our natural selves. So, we try to look younger, we get lips pumped, butts lifted and fillers in funny places. Our culture pushes us towards cosmetics and plastic surgery. We want to stop the inevitable. We want to avoid the aging process and live forever!
We're subliminally given information as to why we need to change ourselves. It was the same with alcohol for me. I was taught that drinking was what I needed to do, what I needed to fit in this modern society, but I changed. I stopped. I quit doing the one thing I had been doing all my life.
I evolved a little bit.
Could I do this with body image too? become body image sober? Could I train myself to like my body?
Just before I sat down to write this blog I gave to a go. I stood at my mirror. I let my bath towel drop to the floor and I scanned the lumps and bumps; I followed the contours and curves and I reconsidered.
‘Well, don’t you look beautiful today Victoria!’ I said in a strange posh accent.
I sounded like an actress playing the part of someone that actually likes themselves.
My kind words didn't sink in.
I looked down at my stomach. As the ‘that is disgusting’ thought popped into my brain, I reconsidered again.
That loose skin is there for a reason. It’s the place where my stomach was cut open, the same line followed three times to pull a life from within me.
I lean in and squint. The lines around my eyes are deep from smiling.
I scan my shape. It’s round and well, not thin. I like eating. I love food. This is the body of someone that is healthy that likes food.
‘It’s ok not to be thin’ I say aloud to no one.
It sunk in a little bit. It's a start.
I pick up my towel and wrap it around my cold skin and I sit down at my computer.
'My body shows me a life that has been lived' I think as I start to write.
Like I did with booze, I’m going to try and change. I’m going to try to like those bumps and blemishes. I’m going to try and evolve a tincy wincy bit more.
I going to try and kick negative bias in its big beautiful hairy unshaved ball bag and....
(if I can reach my arms around it) embrace this lovely body.
Embrace it and feed it chocolate covered pretzals.
Ps – Sorry my post didn’t work last night. I did a blog entry and decided after ten minutes that it was shit - so I deleted it. Happens sometimes!