I’m A Celeb – The body-bashing commences

So, even if you’re not watching ‘I’m a Celeb’ – I’m only watching the trials now and again – reality TV is so prevalent in today’s media that you can’t help but be exposed to what’s going on, whether you’re interested or not.

As usual, a somewhat confused mix of Z-listers entered the jungle once again the other week to face the scrutiny of the public. Following a long-trusted format, there’s the slightly mad ones, the older ones, the controversial ones, the pretty ones, and the ones you wonder why the hell they needed/wanted to go in there. The latter one of these, for me, is Rebecca Adlington.

2 times Olympic Gold Champion, record breaker and an inspirational role model for young women everywhere, when 2013’s line up was revealed I really did struggle to see why Rebecca feels she belongs amongst the failed, forgotten and frankly  talentless ‘stars’ down under. Ours is not to reason why.

Inevitably, there is eye-candy placed in the jungle and this series is no exception to the long standing yearly tradition of the ‘bikini in the shower’ ogling. The jungle’s current sex symbol for the lads is undeniably beautiful Amy Willerton, Miss Great Britain competitor, who is more than comfortable posing in a bikini. Some are blessed with good genes; others with lots of money to spend on looking good. Whatever their reason, I have nothing against them. What I have a problem with is the unfavourable comparisons now emerging between Amy and Rebecca in the media.

Of course, reality TV by nature is shallow, and Rebecca has after all chosen to be a part of this and in turn exposed herself to any sort of bad publicity that heads her way. That said, the ‘news’ coming out of the jungle really only serves to prove how shallow we as a society are.

Instead of taking into account Rebecca’s incredible achievements, her gentle personality, and extensive charity work, (when of course we aren’t too busy staring at Amy’s boobs or Joey Essex’s hair), some simply dismiss her as ‘fat’, ‘ugly’, or worse. Is this REALLY how shallow we have become?

I noticed the Daily Mail (usual suspects) were running an article directly comparing the two women in the shower. Callously, they point out that Rebecca chooses to cover up in a black swimsuit whilst Amy chooses to ‘stand out’ in a cobalt blue bikini. They then suggest the 3 best cobalt blue bikinis in the shops right now. Subliminally, this suggests that we should want to look like Amy, but not look like Rebecca. That then reinforces our idea of ‘beauty’ and how we ‘should’ look. It’s irresponsible, vile, shallow and absolutely it is a harmful image to project to young women.

To make matters worse, Rebecca broke down this week, revealing crippling insecurities after years of bullying about the way she looks.

This sort of criticism, for me, is one of the most toxic. I’ve posted about comparison before, and how incredibly unhelpful and harmful it can be. Even I, as an adult, knowing what I know and having been through what I have been through, feel uncomfortable and a little inadequate looking at Amy frolicking in the jungle with not a hair out of place and a perfect smile gleaming from flawless skin; for most of us feel we can’t hope to look that good with a shedload of make-up on. It’s the same looking at any model – comparisons immediately are drawn, and I know I’m not the only one here. Clearly, living with Amy on a day to day basis is taking it’s toll on Rebecca’s already fragile self esteem, as it would with any woman.

It’s not an ‘Amy-bashing’ exercise. She’s worked hard at looking good, and has undeniably good genes. She too claims to have experienced bullying when she was younger; and sometimes this can drive you into modelling and onto a quest for perfection, as it has done with me. 

The saddest thing about this, for me, is that Rebecca, despite her incredible achievements, will probably never be satisifed with herself. Because for us to be accepted, and to conform, we have to look good. That’s really all that matters. The most popular people in that jungle are the prettiest. And unfortunately, I don’t see a U-turn in society any day soon.

I personally, am inspired by Rebecca, but not for the reasons that other people might be. I’m inspired by her because of her bravery – because I would not have been able to cope with my own demons in that situation. I also admire her because she has unflinchingly put her career before anything else; and achieved so much because of it. She’s also beautiful on the inside; and that is worth ten times more than an ugly personality, however you look on the outside.

Let me know your thoughts on this – I’m sure it’s a controversial one.

 

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Christmas Anxiety

And by this, I don’t mean worrying that you won’t get what you asked for on Christmas Day!

For lots of people with GAD, Depression and EDs, (me included!) Christmas can be an incredibly stressful time. Most ‘normal’ people (as they would call themselves!!) don’t understand this anxiety or bad feeling surrounding Christmas because after all, it’s the time of year that most people enjoy and look forward to the most. Time off to spend with family, lots of yummy indulgent food, gifts; what’s not to love? Plenty, it seems, for those who are suffering from a variety of mental health issues. Below I’ve compiled a few reasons I believe Christmas is so difficult for some. In fact I genuinely believe that through a facade of mirth and excitement that a lot of people dread Christmas, for various personal reasons. Let me know if you agree/disagree, or have any of your own to add….

1. Winter Weather. This is  a HUGE one for me. My family always say that I ‘wasn’t built for the cold’ and I have to say, they’re completely right. I’m constantly cold, my skin is dry and often blue. The nights draw in to the mid-afternoon and quite frankly all I want to do at 4pm when the lights go out is go to bed. Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is very common in the UK and those who have other mental health issues are predisposed to suffering from it.

2. Food. This one really only applies specifically to those who have suffered from or are in the midst of an ED. That said, with most women and men under constant pressure to look perfect, and many dieting constantly, it’s going to apply to a lot more of the population this year. Christmas in this instance is hell. Food absolutely everywhere; on television, on the radio, and most worryingly, in the house; in abundance. To make matters worse, this isn’t just any food – it’s the most indulgent, fattening, scariest kind. An onslaught of invitations for parties and dinners arrive, filled with the prospect of copious amounts of sugary booze and frightening festive party food. I’m a guilty party here and I’ve been known to turn down party invitations simply because of the sheer anxiety I suffer knowing that the lure of a smoked salmon blini is stronger than my willpower. However I need to put this in perspective here, not only for myself but for everybody reading this who is similar to me. You really do only get one life, and so many Christmases. A few indulgent evenings won’t make you fat or unhappy. We know this, and are incapable of believing it, but please, try not to let food control your Christmas, as it controls the rest of your life. There will be more posts on this over the next couple of weeks, so keep your eyes peeled.

3. People. Staying with parties, what happens if you have an anxiety about going out and being around people? Acutely low self-esteem can leave you feeling so bad about yourself that you just can’t face presenting an ‘inadequate’ you to a room full of ‘perfect’ people. Sound familiar? Of course, we’re all expected to be sociable at Christmas and attend parties and events which usually involve dressing up and looking fabulous. But if you don’t feel fabulous, then these functions only serve to hammer your self esteem into the ground and normally end in drunken tears. Rejecting these invitations, I feel, isn’t the key to overcoming this. For me, the only things I have found to have helped is a) not giving myself too much to do/too many things to go to, and b) manning up and forcing myself to go to at least one thing a week. It’s really, really hard. But however overwhelming it is, however many panic attacks precede walking into that venue, it is ALWAYS worth it. I promise. If nothing else, just for the sheer pride in knowing that you took that huge step, stuck two fingers up to your anxieties and walked through that door with your head held high. Trust me.

4. Expectations of ‘Fun’. Lots of people say that ‘forced fun’ is the worst fun. And it’s true. When you’re expected to be happy and excited and having lots of fun (because it’s Christmas, why shouldn’t you be?), it’s so much worse because you really are not happy, excited, or having any fun at all. Those who are judgmental about those with mental health issues come out in force over the festive period, contributing their nuggets of unhelpful ‘wisdom’ from ‘Well it’s Christmas, what have you got to be unhappy about?’, to ‘You’re very lucky, some people have no Christmas and no food on their plate’. It’s excruciatingly frustrating to hear these things and unfortunately, nothing you say will pacify these people. The root of anxiety is trying to please others and worrying about what others think. In this case there really is no point. Christmas is your time of year, as well as anyone else’s, and you are free to enjoy it, or perhaps ‘not enjoy it’, however you choose.

5. Money. Lots of people feel anxious about money around Christmas. After all, it’s an expensive time. In an increasingly material world, presents a re equated to status, and how much you love someone else. When of course that’s ridiculous. Easily said, not easily felt when children are now demanding iPads and PS4s in their stockings. The Money Advice Service, or MA, is a government-run service which provides help for those struggling to make ends meet over Christmas. Money Saving Expert is another good one if you are looking for tips and tricks to make your money go further this year. Remember – it really doesn’t matter how much you spend.

6. Social Media. The root of much evil in society today, in my opinion. Over Christmas, the ‘life competition’ is extended. Cue Instagrams of people with their beautiful trees, their gorgeous children, their hot boyfriend, in the thick white snow. Enjoying mulled wine with friends, opening expensive presents, eating lots of fatty food and still pouting in an XS reindeer onesie. It’s all SUPERFICIAL and it’s the fuel for anxiety and a feeling of inadequacy and ugliness. Don’t forget that whilst these folks say they are enjoying themselves ‘so much’, if they were really having a good time they wouldn’t be spending time away from their families to choose what filter makes them look hot. This culture of vanity is difficult to get away from and easy to get sucked into because after all, you don’t want to be the one with no gorgeous pictures to display and we are conditioned to compete with our peers. My advice? Stop going on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook. I have. If it’s killing you, stop looking, however tempted you are. It won’t go away, so you have to be strong and make it. Delete those apps!!

My advice after all this? Remember the fundamentals. Respect and enjoy the simple things. Do you have some food? Are you warm? Have you got some time off work to spend on yourself and your family, friends or people you care about? That’s all you need. Even if it’s cold, if the sun is shining go for a walk. Clear your head and you’ll find beauty in the small things.

Before I end this post, let me say that I am NOT Scrooge. I do enjoy the feel and festivities surrounding Christmas, and I DO make a conscious effort to enjoy it. However I wrote this post because more people than I anticipated have shared their anxieties with me in the run up to the holidays, and I would like to ensure that nobody feels alone in their thoughts this season.

Let me know what you think!

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