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  • Writer's pictureMedha Murtagh

Looking in the mirror and seeing only the faults...

When I was a teenager, I really cared about my appearance. I'd stand in my underwear in front of a full-length mirror and minutely examine my body, seeing only faults and problems.

I'd lie in bed at night and pray, literally begging God to make me pretty. I clearly remember bargaining with God, saying that it didn’t matter if I couldn’t see my own beauty - as long as other people could.

I didn't realise at the time that I was already living exactly what I was praying for. I was told I was beautiful fairly regularly, but because I couldn’t see it, I simply couldn’t believe it.

You may know that for the last 2 years, I’ve been dealing with some debilitating health issues that medical doctors seem baffled by. And although my attitude and emotions have been coping oh-so-impressively well with it all, it’s still been a lot.

I’ll spare you the details of all the various symptoms, but I will tell you I’ve been experiencing profound physical fatigue. I have a HEAP of emotional energy, mental energy, passion, enthusiasm etc. But physically, I’ve been running really low, and no amount of rest or self-care has filled my battery much (and my self-care game is strong AF!).

I knew I was looking different. My face is constantly swollen, and although the swelling is mostly pretty even (making it less noticeable), it varies quite a bit around my eyes - making my eyes look like they're different sizes.

I also knew that I’d put on significant amounts of weight. Like maybe 10 kilos? We’ve been slack with installing a full-length mirror in the wardrobe, so I don’t see my full body very often. And I don't really weigh myself, so the weight gain was something I'd been aware of abstractly, and not something I thought much about.

It wasn’t until I saw a photo of me getting my photo taken by a professional photographer, that I saw how different I was looking, and how much weight I’d put on.

And I gotta tell you - I was shocked.

Before I continue, I wanna be clear that I understand that I’m not severely overweight. And this is not a statement of negativity regarding being overweight. (And for the love of all things holy, please don’t use the fact that you might be heavier than I am right now as a stick to beat yourself with. That’s literally the opposite of where I’m going with this. Stay with me.)

Years ago, seeing myself 10 kilos heavier would have prompted an avalanche of self-hatred. I would’ve told myself to get my shit together, to use my goddamned gym membership for more than just the salt room, and to lose that excess weight ASAfuckingP.

But that’s not what happened.

I didn’t hate my thighs.

I didn’t hate the swelling of my calves (that bit is from lymphedema).

I didn’t hate anything (not even the illness responsible for the changes).

What I felt when I looked at that photo was compassion for my struggling but brave body. And a firm commitment to taking care of it, loving it and accepting it no matter what it’s going through.

No matter what it looks like.

No matter what it can, and can’t do.

I spoke to my dear friend Jess about all of this, and she casually told me that our chat helped her to see that she could love her body even more than she already did.

Which inspired me to share it with you.

If you’ve listened to the podcast episodes where I’ve talked about the inner work I’ve been doing around my health issues, you’ll know that I haven’t always been all kumbaya, acceptance and flow about them.

But loving, supporting and nurturing all aspects, levels and layers of me IS my intention.

And this next bit is important.

I haven’t just randomly stumbled from hatefully scrutinising my body in front of a mirror to seeing myself significantly above my ideal weight and naturally responding with self-compassion and self-love.

It’s taken a lot of intention, attention and effort to shift myself from the automatically self-critical position I used to hold about most aspects of me, to one where I don’t even have to remind myself to be kind to me.

I’ve consciously cultivated my self-love and self-acceptance for years now - and the tree is bearing beautiful fruit.

So please don’t think me lucky.

Or do. Because I am.

But I’m no luckier than you.

We’re all infinitely powerful, and we can influence our own attitudes. It’s just that we can’t force them.

This first photo is the one that inspired this email. The second is from the professional photoshoot and shows my eyes looking pretty different from each other.

Don’t you just wanna embrace Photo Medha in a tight bear hug and tell her and her body that they're coping so well with something super challenging?

I know! Me too!!



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