Olivia’s Story – How body image shaped the course of her life!
For years I self-loathed, from the age of four to be exact. It was a long haul journey and became very dark at some points in my life, until I reached over 30 years of age, where I decided to take a hold of this dysfunctional thought process, which was, that I am too ugly and not worthy enough for people.
The opposite is true of course, and yes, I can say that now. I am so worthy and my looks, well, who cares, I love and accept my body and face.
It has taken me a lot of hard work, discipline, years of learning, changing my core beliefs, habits and self-talk.
And here I am now on the map, over a decade later, In a completely different place in mind, body and spirit.
I wasn’t diagnosed with BDD (body dysmorphic disorder) until I was in my 30’s, a point in life where I was having a panic attack each time I looked at my hands, and other body parts. My way of thinking was to obsessively and repeatedly check body parts and destroy myself with self-loathing. It became so dark that I would only sit in certain positions at work, and avoid the sunlight in fear that people would see the real me, the real face that I wore. I thought that I was protecting myself by wearing makeup around the clock, by putting my hair in the tightest ponytail, to make my face tighter, to wear several layers of clothing so that my boobs were well hidden. All my mind knew, was to hate the way that I looked.
I did a great job at hiding my hatred and what I perceived as flaws, on myself, until my diagnosis, which was the first insight into BDD, after feeling suicidal and hopeless about my looks. All I could see was a hideous and ugly person staring at me in the mirror.
I really did think I was the only person in the world that self-loathed to this extent, until I realised other people do exactly the same.
I made a big pact with myself after diagnosis, I vowed to that I would dedicate the rest of my life, healing.
The first thing that I did, was bought a journal. I wrote how my day went every day. Sometimes I thought I couldn’t cope with the healing process as I had to learn to be nice to myself, but I kept going and I am so glad that I did. I also read heaps of self-help books, studied mental health and holistic therapies, went to long Vipasana meditation retreats and worked in the field of mental health, which really opened my eyes about what others are going through too.
I had two rounds of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) within the UK National Health Scheme (NHS) and focused on a good diet and sleep. Throughout the healing process, it became clear to me that my core beliefs and habits were all wrong. I would spend hours reapplying makeup before work, taking it off time and time again before I left the house, making my eyes very sore and sometimes not being able to leave the house at all. All this is fuelled with core beliefs and habits, the belief that I was too ugly to be accepted and the habit of reapplying makeup to try and mask my belief.
After one whole year of going the opposite way to self-loathing, I arrived at a place called ‘possible acceptance’ and that’s when I had my first taste of freedom. Freedom form misery. I spent another year healing until I came to a place of self love, something I didn’t even know existed.
From there, I went on to set up a social enterprise, to deliver workshops for people that self-loathe. I then put the workshop’s program into a book called ‘I hate the way I look’ which is available on Amazon or through girlnextdoorbooks.com
My journey doesn’t end here. I will always have BDD, It doesn’t go away fully, rather, the cry baby in your head becomes smaller and smaller as you feed it with self love.