In my twenties, I was determined that before I turned 30 I would lose weight
Losing weight became something that would transform my life, because if I was only a size 10 I would surely also be beautiful. All clothes would look amazing on me. I could wear blouses! Tucked in! (Where I thought my chest was going to go is anyone's guess).
The important thing was that if I was thinner, I would also be more confident. And if I was more confident, I would achieve more things.
These are the things that confidence would surely bring me.
And the only way to get it, was to look 'right'. And right equalled thinner.
Needless to say, when I turned 30, I was the heaviest I'd ever been.
Not to worry though, because turning 40 is a much bigger milestone than turning 30 - I'd do it by then.
I carried on with the mythical version of what I could achieve, if I simply looked better.
I didn't, of course, join a gym, exercise a lot or eat healthily, except sporadically and with a faint feeling of disgust at myself, every time I fell off the wagon and ate a packet of crisps - thus ruining my life. Because each little failure made me understand that I could and would never be the confident person who would achieve more in life.
I did lose weight - I crash dieted down to a size 12 for my wedding. We know what follows crash diets, right?
Now, I looked fabulous at a size 12. Did I feel confident? Like I could do all the things I felt I'd be able to, if I looked better? No. I felt the exact same insecurities that I had when I was bigger.
So, I turned 40 and, amazingly, I was pretty much the same as at 30. Maybe a little greyer. OK, Probably a lot greyer (I haven't seen my real hair colour since I was 18, how would I know?).
By now I was spending my days talking with women with all of the same insecurities I had.
There is something really liberating about finding out that everyone has the same insecurities, and this is my entire working life!
What I learned was, looking great does not equal confidence. Women who are a size 8 have all the same body hang-ups and insecurities as women who are a size 18. And a size 28.
So if the beautiful women who I sit and chat to all day long aren't confident... would changing myself physically really make me any more confident? Probably not. I was looking in the wrong direction if I wanted to feel good about myself.
This could have been a depressing revelation - if these women weren't confident, what hope did I have? But actually, I found it liberating. I found I could change what I was aiming for, because none of my aims could really be achieved by changing my physical self - so my physical self could stay how it was - I needed to change my mindset.
And that's what I did.
I accepted I wasn't the 'ideal' that I had in my mind, and decided to be ok with that. Because what would I really gain by looking any different?
And it turns out that acceptance is pretty much equal to confidence. I'm not interested in what other people think of how I look, so I have nothing to fear from their gaze. I can wear what I want, have my hair how I want and not feel like I need to be fashionable, because I have no one to please but myself.
The confidence this has given me in who I am, is immeasurable. I can do the things I thought I couldn't - or if I can't, there's no physical change I can make to alter that. It all comes from within.
And, of course, I don't think about food, or calories. I think about keeping healthy enough for long dog walks, and so my weight stabilised, and then reduced. To my 'wedding' weight, without the crash diet.
Looking good doesn't = confidence.
Confidence = looking good.