Sunday, 15 February 2015

Spiced Wholegrain Seeded Fruit Loaf

INGREDIENTS

125g extra strong wholemeal flour
200g malted wheat flour with wheat bran
50g oat bran
3/4 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground alspice
1 sachet fast action yeast
40g soft dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1tblsp olive oil
300ml hand-hot water
25g ground linseeds
25g mixed seeds
25g candied peel
25g chopped glace cherries
25g sultanas

METHOD

This is easy to do in a bread machine. Choose the 'dough' setting and add everything but the seeds and nuts, as your machine's instructions suggest. Once the machine has finished, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and follow the steps below from step 7.

1. In a large bowl, sieve together the flour, salt and spices. Any bran caught in the sieve can be thrown on top of the flour.

2. Add the oat bran, yeast and sugar, mix well

3. Make a well in the centre and gradually pour in the water, stirring the flour into it as you pour. Add the oil and bring together. You should have a sticky dough. Add more water or more flour if you need it.

4. Knead for about 10mins until the dough is smooth and elastic

5. Oil a large bowl, put the dough in the centre, cover loosely with oiled cling film and put in a warm place for an hour till doubled in size.

6. Turn out onto a floured surface

7. Mix the seeds and fruits in a bowl. Spread the dough out so it's a large rectangle, and pour the
seeds and fruit evenly over it. Then fold the edges of the dough over, roll is up, and knead until the fruits are evenly distributed.

8. Oil a loaf tin, pour some flour into it and tap it on each side until the flour coats the bottom and sides. Tip out any excess flour. Then press the dough into the tin and put it back into a warm place to rise. No need to cover it this time. Preheat the oven at 200 C.

9. After about 30mins, it should have doubled in size. Place it gently into the oven, being very careful not to knock it or it'll sink! I actually put the oven on at about 40 C and let the dough rise in the oven, then just turn the temperature up to 200 C and leave the loaf where it is so I don't risk loosing the air in the dough by moving it.

10. Bake for approx 20mins, till just turning brown on top. If you tip the loaf out and tap the bottom, it should sound hollow, and when you cut into it you should be able to press a finger softly into the dough and it should spring back rather than sticking together.

11. Great with lots of butter!

Sunday Evening Butternut Squash and Roasted Garlic Risotto

Serves 4, or 3 very hungry diners!

INGREDIENTS
For the risotto:

1 pint veg stock
1 tblsp olive oil
1 medium white onion, finely chopped
3 celery sticks, finely chopped
200g arborio risotto rice
1 large glass dry white wine
50g butter
small handful grated gruyere cheese
lots of salt and pepper

For the toppings:
1/2 medium butternut squash
1tblsp olive oil
1tblsp fresh thyme leaves
1tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
salt and pepper

small handful almonds, chopped
small handful pumpkin seeds
small handful wholemeal breadcrumbs
large knob of butter

crumbled feta cheese to taste

METHOD

1.      Preheat the oven at 200 C. Peel and de-seed the butternut squash and chop into 1cm cubes. Put on a baking tray with the olive oil, herbs, salt and pepper. Mix well then pop in the oven for 30mins, along with the un-touched whole garlic bulb. Put them both to one side once they’re cooked. The garlic bulbs will be squishy not crispy, the squash should be soft and slightly brown at the edges.

2.      In a medium saucepan, keep the stock on a low heat so it stays hot.

3.      In a second heavy based saucepan, heat the olive oil and add the onion and celery. Cook over a low heat for about 5 mins till it starts to go translucent.

4.      Add the glass of wine to the onion and turn up the heat so it cooks quickly, stirring constantly. 

5.      When the wine is absorbed, turn the heat back down, add a ladle full of stock and keep stirring until the liquid is absorbed.

6.      Add more stock, a ladle at a time, till it’s all been absorbed. Take your time over this. It should take about 30mins. You might need to add more hot water if the rice isn’t cooked after all the stock is gone.

7.      Take the risotto off the heat and stir in the butter and gruyere cheese. Add a decent amount of salt and pepper, tasting to make sure you’re putting the right amount in.

8.      Squeeze the soft garlic out of the roasted bulbs and stir into the risotto.

9.      Next heat a heavy-based frying pan on a medium heat (don’t use any oil) and add the chopped almonds. Keep tossing them so they turn brown evenly. Add the pumpkin seeds after a couple of minutes to toast these too. Then throw in a knob of butter, allow it to melt, then add the breadcrumbs. Mix well and take off the heat.

10.  Stir the squash into the risotto and scoop dollops out into large warmed bowls. Sprinkle with crumbled feta cheese and top with the nut/crumb mix.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Feeling Bad for Feeling Bad














I lost faith a little bit in my writings lately…

I realised I’ve been wrong about a lot of things and have written some blogs in the past making assumptions and giving advice that I don’t agree with myself any more.  I’ve talked to people who have changed my mind about things, straightened things out in my head and allowed me to see my own points of view from a different perspective. 

So I thought… who am I to preach ways of doing things if I haven’t learned the lessons properly myself? How embarrassing to write so confidently about life when I don’t know any more about it than anyone else and constantly get things wrong?

But you know what, screw it, I like writing. And musing. And getting it wrong. I suppose when it comes down to it, most advice is only stories told by people who are living their own lives as well as they can, just like everyone else. We take on board what we need to hear.

So here I go again. Who knows maybe in a year’s time I’ll re-write this with a year’s extra life experience under my belt.

Feeling Bad for Feeling Bad

 
 







This blog is for anyone who, from time to time, feels bad about feeling bad.

Ok, so this is what happens: 

* Your best friend has a baby. You’re so incredibly happy for her, she’s beaming with love and excitement… but you can’t shake the realisation that the days of hanging out, giggling at nothing, painting your nails with glitter and feeling like there was nothing in the world more important than your friendship are a thing of the past.

* Your little brother moves to Australia because he’s been offered his perfect job. You’ve never been so proud of him but you didn’t realise until it happened how much you were going to miss him, or how jealous you would feel.

* You’re going to a party where everyone is wearing elegant classy clothing, but you just don’t feel comfortable in any of the dresses you try on, so you wear a dress you already have. It isn’t so elegant or classy, but it’s YOU. Everyone at the party compliments you on your individual look and says they wish they had the confidence to do it. The party’s great, and you feel a sense of pride, but a little bit of you really just wishes you could be elegant and classy too, and all night you can’t shake that feeling of discontent in your own skin. 

I’d like to frame this from a context of positivity to start with. I very much believe that thoughts are at the root of almost everything that happens to us in our lives. I genuinely believe that if you nurture positive thoughts you will live a happier life. It’s not just flowery-pastel-coloured-unicorns-and-rainbows talk. This quote from an author called Katherine Woodward-Thomas illustrates what I mean quite well:

“Life is a creative process and our thoughts, beliefs, assumptions, choices, actions and words are the tools we use to invent our experiences and circumstances.”

But what do you end up with on combining these two elements of life; a tricky contradiction. You want to feel only good things because you want only good things to come to you and others you love, but the truth is, you don’t feel only good things. What do you DO with that?

Well, to be honest, I don’t know. But there is this: congratulations. You can feel. You’re really good at it. You’re so good at it in fact, you can be overwhelmed with feelings of joy and sadness at the same time. That is something quite special and something you can be proud of.

There is a level of sensitivity where we are able to appreciate every feeling and emotion our bodies provide us with. Where’s the fun in denying that ability? Just do it! Cry at a sunrise! Laugh out loud at a group of frolicking lambs! Dance because you’re so happy! Scream because you’re so angry (maybe not in someone’s face, though that might be tempting)! 

But of course, when your body knows how to feel these things, you WILL feel them, even when you don’t want to. It’s OK though- that’s the point I really want to make here. You don’t need to be angry at yourself that you feel bad when you should feel good. 

I’ve spent much of my life avoiding the word ‘sensitive’ and feeling embarrassment at the fact that I have emotional responses to pretty much everything. But then when I stop to think about it, it’s those very responses that have allowed me to have the most poignant moments in my life. Emotions, I suppose, are a physical response to the information going into your body. Do you know what, I’m glad I have them. Sadness and pain are as much a part of that experience as happiness and pleasure. And they are not in any way mutually exclusive! 

Ok, so you may not be able to control your body’s physical response to things. What you can do however is nourish the good thoughts and give less energy to the bad ones. In practical language:
don’t spend too much time contemplating the bad. Feelings you can’t do anything about, thoughts you can. If you’re caught in a loop of negative thinking then maybe you could try reminding yourself you feel bad because you’re sensitive to emotions and this is one of those experiences in life that makes you feel bad. Experience it. Think about how it makes you feel. And then let that be. Let yourself feel bad, then remind yourself of the good, and try to be grateful for it and to hold on to those thoughts of gratitude and happiness. I don’t think you need to do anything more than that.

And remember that everyone else on this planet who feels things as explicitly as you do….? We understand.

Massive love x

On a serious note, if anyone is reading this and thinking they only ever have bad thoughts, and can’t hold on to the good ones… firstly I’ve been there and I know how that feels, secondly, you can bring yourself out of it with work and with HELP. Seriously, find someone to talk to about it. It’ll change your life.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

The Black Dog

I haven't posted anything about depression in a long time, mostly because when you're recovering from it you don't feel the need to talk about it quite as much!

Isn't that a wonderful, beautiful thing though...

You can carry this darkness around you for years without even knowing, letting it grow and grow until it overshadows everything you do. You can't even escape it at night because of insomnia and nightmares. It's constantly there, tapping at the inside of your head. It's the thing you come back to every time you stop for a moment, every time you try to relax, every time you think a negative thought about anything.

And then, later, if you work with it and through it, you get to that point where you know that if it is there, it's so small and so quiet and so manageable that you don't need to think about it any more. There's room in your head, in you heart and in your life; for MORE. You don't just have the space in your head to contemplate these new things in your life, you magically have the energy and motivation to follow through with them!

Since I started this (long) process myself I have wished I could pass the magic on to other people, but I've never felt able or even believed I had the right to try, because it's presumptuous to assume what works for you will work for everyone, and I'd hate to sound like I was being self righteous or gloating when that's not my intention.

And then today someone posted this video on Facebook and it made me cry because it sums up in just a few seconds what I have been trying to blog about for two years! In fact, the answer is so simple, though doing it is far from easy. But it gets easier with every step forwards and I'm here to say that it's totally true. You can get rid of the darkness. You won't believe me now if you're in the middle of it- I didn't believe it, I just lost hope in everything, and getting help was a last resort. I suppose I just couldn't do it on my own any more so I chose to see a professional and give them the power to change me. That takes some trust in the person you choose to talk to, and also a strange mixture of self abandon and willpower!

But then, if you find the right person, you will discover that they don't want to change you. They will (they should... and if they don't then you're not talking to the right person) only ask you what you want, and keep on asking until you can see a way to get it. They'll never push you, only guide you. And what you want is to be happy, right?

And you can be.

Anyway, watch the video...

The Black Dog

Friday, 22 November 2013

It's OK to be ill (in reaction to being called a hypercondriac)


I’m a bit scared of this post. I imagine some people will read what I’m about to write and think ‘yes I know how that feels’. But I think others will say ‘we all get ill, get over it’. As always, I am writing an honest account of my experience. What is the point of everybody pretending everything is OK when sometimes it isn't? Maybe what we really need is someone just to tell us it’s fine and we’ve done nothing wrong.

So, I am not trying to compete with anyone. I am not trying to get sympathy. I am simply writing this to say to the world: this is what it’s like for me and if you feel the same then I for one don’t have a problem with that.

So far in my life, touching wood as I write, I have been very lucky: I’ve never had any serious health issues- nothing that could threaten my life. I’ve never broken a bone, never even had to go to A&E!

Having said this, like many people I suffer from hereditary back and skin problems, and have a hormonal imbalance that is managable but sometimes causes a wave of issues ranging from lethargy to severe cramps and migranes.

Like I said, no sympathy needed, this is just how it is and I deal with it as we all do. But the thing is, when your baseline level of health is not exactly tip top, and you fall ill, it can seem like your body is fighting you and you are loosing the battle! I imagine most people understand what this feels like. However, what’s not easy is explaining this to others when you’re in the middle of it.

I’ve written previously about my long-term illness recently. I’ve never experienced anything like that before- being so ill for so long. I’ve had colds and flu and stomach upsets, but nothing that’s lasted more than a week or two. Anyone else who has also been ill for a long time will understand how frustrating and frightening it can be, particularly when it’s not obvious what’s actually causing it.

The worst thing about it is that you start to doubt yourself. When I first got ill I spent a week trying to work and ending up in tears because I couldn’t understand why I didn’t have the energy to do
anything, being so angry at  myself for letting everybody down, and hating myself for letting people see me in that state. I frequently told myself I needed to sort myself out and just get on with it… I do wonder now that if I’d just accepted I was ill and rested right at the start, maybe I wouldn’t have been ill for as long as I was.

The tricky thing is, how do you approach this with others? Having to admit illness (to yourself as well as to others) can become demoralising, especially if it's long term, or on a regular basis, because it makes you feel weak.

Like anything in life, there is a spectrum here. There are people who are generally very healthy. Some of these people work hard to stay healthy and good on them! I’ll happily admit I could do more to stay healthy- get more exercise and drink less wine- but there are people in the world who just had the luck to have a family history of good health, who don’t have to try too hard to stay slim and fit. Then there are people further down the spectrum, people more like me who are sometimes ill and sometimes well. And then there are people who suffer from a list of illnesses as long as you arm. And further down- the really upsetting stories- the children who die so young of killer illnesses, people taken before their time, people who suffer- truly suffer not just like my chronic back pain- for years until it takes them. Like I said at the start- I am not competing. When I use the word ‘suffer’ to describe the pains in my back, the problems I have because of my hormonal issues, and the cracked skin on my hands, I using it in a different sense to how you would describe the suffering of someone with crippling arthritis or cancer. But at the end of the day, suffering is suffering and when I say I’m in pain it is because I am.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

The Case of the Vicious Cycle

Sometimes I read back through my blogs and I hate them. Honestly, it’s true: at the time I write what I feel in my heart, I write whatever’s on my mind and in doing it, I get it off my chest. There’s always the hope that I will reach out to somebody who needs help in some way, and they’ll read my words and relate to them and feel better, even just a little bit better… or at the very least- I won’t offend anyone!

But sometimes I read back and I think ‘oh god, how self righteous’ or ‘pure cheese’. Saying that, I’ve never, so far, deleted a post because of it, and this is why: it is important to be able to look back on your past with a mixture of pride and shame. If either of those are missing from memories of your life, something’s not quite right. This is how we learn; it’s what stops us from repeating the same hurtful processes over and over.

It’s OK to change your mind about things. It’s OK to think one thing all your life, and then suddenly one day decide that you don’t believe that any more. Personally, as much as I like to think I’m right, I also enjoy being proven wrong! I love to learn, and nobody ever learnt anything by thinking they knew everything already!

Anyway… with that in mind, today I am contemplating the connections between our pasts, presents and futures, focussing on what happens when we get things wrong.

I want to start out by saying this in an almost pleading way, to everyone but I suppose in particular people under the age of about twenty: please don’t let self destructive thoughts and behaviour take control; because it’s not just you NOW that suffers from it- these things have a seriously long-lasting effect and it will take you years to right the wrongs you are doing to yourself.

So, by self destructive I mean anything that focuses on ourselves in a negative way. So that could be, for example: believing we should look different to how we do, believing we should be able to just do things that we find difficult, feeling humiliation because we aren’t socially confident, letting others boss us around and control us in a way that makes us feel worthless, feeling that the world is against us and we are just unlucky, giving up or overreacting when things go wrong, or constantly comparing ourselves to others.


 One thing I love about going back over memories is that you can view your life as a journey with a number of interesting stop-offs. It’s almost like you could draw it out on a map, as if you were marking out a route using string, putting pins in at certain points: here’s where I broke up with my boyfriend, here’s where I moved house, here’s where I met someone who changed my life… Starting where you are now, you can trace your journey back and think about how it relates to who you are in the present.

I always believed that only BIG things would have a lasting affect on our psychological health: that mental scars came from dramatic things like beatings, conflict, terrible fear, terrible sadness and loss… but it’s not the case. I used to feel guilty that I got upset about small things, thinking I had no right to be affected by them when other people went through so much more than me. But the truth is, if something affects you, it affects you. The deeper I’ve looked into my past, the more I have realised there was no big hidden event that caused my troubles, there was no trauma or loss that sparked it all off. It was, instead, a snowballing of small things: behaviours taken on when I was young, that led to sadness, that led to more of the same behaviour, that led to more sadness. Somewhere down the line you have to put a stop to that cycle, or you just keep repeating it forever.


So, to take one example from my own life: as I very young child I was taught an important lesson: you don't always get what you want from life, and you're not allowed to be upset about that. Life's just not fair.

Because of this, I began to feel pride and guilt based on this lesson: when I was able to quietly accepted less than what I actually wanted I felt proud of myself. When I was able to act in a gracious and undemanding way, I felt proud. If I felt jealous when other friends did get what they wanted I felt guilty. If I felt a sense of loss because I wanted something and didn't get it, I felt guilty and most acutely- if I betrayed myself by showing I was upset and crying when things didn’t go my way, I felt self-hatred.

When I was young, this behaviour related to simple things like presents, but as I got older and started taking responsibility for my own life, this lesson, these learnt behaviours, started creeping into more and more of it. And this is what I mean by self destructive behaviour. In my childhood I may have been praised for being such a mature, accepting, lenient person, but as and adult I was bottling up my actual feelings of sadness, frustration, lust and loss. It wasn’t that they weren’t there, I had just learnt to hold them inside rather than react to them.

The trouble is, even things that are done with selfless grace and goodness can turn around and bite you on the bum! ‘You don’t get what you want’ can relate to a shit load of social situations and life-choices. I stayed quiet while people took what they wanted, leaving me with less. I accepted situations where I was unhappy, not believing I could do anything to change them because I had got so used to thinking that way: accepting the sadness and frustration. I have very vivid memories of having to smile through tears and act happy even though inside I was feeling nothing but hurt.

This is where what I said at the start of the blog comes into play. Self destructive behaviour only leads to MORE self destructive behaviour. It was horrible at the time, but it didn’t stop there. Now I had horrible memories of horrible feelings to add to the conflict I was already in.

If you have ever overreacted to something you will know what this is like. It can be the tiniest issue: a broken possession, or perhaps an innocent comment that you hear as something completely different. Before you can do anything about it, emotions flood to the surface and you find yourself shouting or throwing something in a rage, or crying uncontrollably. Have you ever stopped to wonder where this comes from?

I believe it’s probably something from your past, or a number of things from your past that have snowballed as I was saying earlier. This is how patterns of behaviour seem to work: you learn a lesson, you use it, it makes you feel a certain way, so the next time the situation comes up you instantly relate how you felt last time, before anything has even happened. Then the next time something similar comes up you now have two memories mashed together, the third it’s three… and so on, until they’re all jumbled together in one big ball of thoughts, memories and emotions. And if you’ve lived your whole life repeating a self destructive behaviour where you are left feeling crappy about yourself, this is how you will instantly react to anything that seems similar.

The tricky part is the blame. We all want to do it- to find the route of our troubles: the one thing we can take up triumphantly and say ‘YOU! IT WAS YOU ALL ALONG!’ and then we can smash it to pieces and feel better. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to work like this in practice. For one thing, the lifetime of learnt behaviours and every subsequent memory is still there. As far as I can see, the only thing left to do is forgive ourselves for it and try to do something different next time. This can be tough. It’s like going against every instinct you have ever had! But if the only other option is to carry on living the same mistakes and feeling the same crap every time, it’s not much of a choice really.

It’s much easier to look back into our past with hindsight than it is to imagine a future. But I would suggest you try it. Try taking one issue- like myself and the reluctance to believe I’m allowed to get the things I want- and trace it back, contemplate where in your life this might have left you in a worse situation than you could have been if you had reacted differently. And then follow it forwards- imagine new situations where similar things could occur. What would you like to do? Maybe you could try doing something different next time? Where could that lead you?

See this is what I’m getting at: it’s easy, at the time, to believe we are doing the right thing by being self effacing, putting ourselves down, putting others first, thinking we’re not good enough; or perhaps by doing the opposite- acting purely on selfish thoughts… but if we could trace our lives forwards rather than backwards, and see that we are setting ourselves off on a path to more and more negative behaviour, would we act differently?

I would.
 

Saturday, 17 August 2013

I Want What She's Got

If you get onto the subject of body-confidence, it's inevitable you're going to end up talking about the media and it's projection of the 'perfect' body somewhere down the line.

As I've said in a previous blog, I instinctually rebel against 'rules' set down by anyone else when it comes to things like this. Not one person on this earth has the right to label anything as right, wrong, perfect, imperfect, beautiful or ugly. We are all capable of having our own perceptions and opinions and we should have the confidence to believe in them, and the dignity to respect everyone else's.

But I cannot, hand on heart, say that I fully love my body. I can't look at myself in the mirror without hearing a little negative voice in my mind pointing out faults. I can't look at a photograph of a so-called 'perfect' body without feeling, somewhere inside, a mixture of jealousy and inadequacy.

Now, I'm not saying I don't have body confidence! I mean, what can I say, I'm a 5ft10 leggy blonde with long hair and blue eyes. I am well aware that there are probably other women who look at me with the same envy I feel.

And I have put work into getting to this place! I would be letting myself down hugely if I allowed the negative voice to take control again. Go back fifteen years and I had a two page spread listing, in detail, every part of my body and what I hated about it. I cut out photographs of women I saw as 'perfect' and stuck them in my diary just so I could hate myself that little bit more. I didn't, in fact, look much different then to how I do now. I've lost a stone or two in weight maybe, but you know what...I lost a stone and a half recently and nobody could tell the difference! I'm a firm believer that a little bit of extra weight means much more to ourselves than it does to anyone else!

I had to learn to listen to and believe in the other voice- the positive one. I had to learn to trust people when they told me I looked nice; to realise that guys were hitting on me because they found me attractive, not simply because I was female and they thought only with their pants- as I truly believed when I was a teenager. They actually just thought I was hot! Now how about that!

Now, to my point.

Everyone has their own opinion of what a perfect body is, but most of us would probably pick the same ones from a line-up: the slim yet curvy women and the toned and athletically muscled men. And this may well have something to do with the media's projection of these images. I could probably write an essay discussing fashions and debating the amount of control the media has over our opinions, but I'm not going to do that because you know
what: I think it's irrelevant. It is what it is. We have the media, we all see the photographs, we all watch the movies. It's there so why bellyache over it. Maybe the media gives us the image and we believe it. Or maybe the media just takes hold of the most popular image in people's minds, and projects it back to us... I couldn't say.

What I am interested in, though, is the psycology behind our reactions to those images.

Ok, so to look at it from a different angle: an interesting thing happened to me recently. I moved away from the city to the quiet seclusion of a tiny village in the countryside. I was convinced I was going to miss my city lifestyle: the nightlife, the drinking, the partying, the shopping... and was quite shocked to find that I didn't miss it at all! Apart from the first month or so while I was adjusting to the change, I didn't even think about it! I was so far away from it that I wasn't reminded of what I was missing.

Similarly, in the city I had lived with a friend who, about a year ago, found a guy who made her happy- really happy. I was so glad for her, but at the same time, so envious. It made me want it even more, seeing her there. Now, living in the countryside, my current housemate and I are both single. And just a few days ago I realised that I haven't been feeling sorry for myself about it any more. And that got me wondering... was it just on my mind so much before because I was seeing it in front of me every day? Being reminded of what I could have but didn't?

Now, I have agreed to take part in a project a friend-of-a-friend is doing. She's a burlesque performer and photographer who is putting together a book provisionally titled 'my friends in their pants'... so you get the idea what my involvement is going to entail.

In the hope of gaining some confidence in myself to take with me to the photoshoot, I made the stupid decision to google 'small boobs' thinking I might find some nice photographs of women posing sexily, who didn't have the usual large but perky breasts shown in nude photographs. What I discovered instead was a hive of before-and-after (and even during) breast augmentation surgery photographs, and a number of websites quoting surgeons and doctors describing 'breast types' and even 'deformities'. One of these is named tubular breasts. As far as I can tell, this 'deformity' has various stages- at it's worst, these poor women have very oddly shaped boobs, usually totally different sizes to each other. But for the most part, THEY ARE JUST SMALL BREASTS. This is the only thing I can see that you might say was 'wrong' with them, and they're being labelled a deformity and being treated by surgery?! And these photographs are put side by side with a collection of silicone-enhanced 'perfect' breasts. Just to show you what you could have!

But the worst thing for me was that- looking through these photographs, despite being horrified that the simple differences in natural body shapes were being attacked in this way, I still looked at the women who did have large, perky boobs with envy! Iwas taken right back to the school PE changing rooms: memories of desperately trying to keep my own small boobs covered, while I sneeked stolen glances at the other girls- the ones with the really pretty boobs- wishing mine were like theirs.

You see, I will never... NEVER have breasts that look better than the breasts I have right now. I am NOT putting myself through surgery (the photographs and videos I found on google made me feel sick!) And yet I still have that same feeling I had as a teenager in the changing rooms: like I've missed out on something other women have. I will never know what it feels like to be proud of a pair of seriously beautiful boobs!

But here's the deal. I am not alone! I wonder what percentage of women do have the body-type we tend to label as 'perfect'? 20%? 30% maybe? Perhaps even less... Women do not come in two shapes- perfect and imperfect. We are small and delicate. We are round and soft. We are long and elegant. We are small on top and curvy down below. We are voluptuous on top and thin down below. We are big all over. And small all over. We are wobbly. We are solid. We are tall. We are short... But where do we see the beautiful photographs of the other 70-80%?

We tend to finger-wag at the media: blaming them for our own lack of self worth. We say that they are giving us an image we can never achieve; that they are instructing us to have the perfect body and this is why so many people hate their own bodies. But the idea that is currently forming in my mind is that what we are all experiencing here is pure and simple jealousy. It's like me in the changing rooms: I wasn't happy with my own- I wanted what she had. It's the same psycology as not missing the city lifestyle because I'm not there, or not wishing I had a boyfriend because I couldn't see how happy my friend was with hers. When we are presented with a comparison, we look at what we have, and what we could have, and we judge ourselves on it.

Now, I'm not making any judgements or conclusions on this subject, it's merely an observation. It clearly isn't healthy to be constantly subjeted to a body image very few of us will ever experience. But with such intrusive media in our culture, it is impossible to escape. And I can't tell anyone not to get jealous! There's nothing wrong with a bit of jealousy- we all get it!

But what I do strongly believe is that, while we may feel jealous of what other people have- we all need to accept what we have. It is ours after all.