Well I have a very special guest post tonight, from a dear friend of mine, Kerri, who you will find over at Katagal Kapers. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about intersectionality, and how body policing extends across size, shape, colour and physical ability. I’ve been talking to various friends of mine who identify as being bodily “different” to the imposed cultural norm in some way or another and wondering how their experiences of self esteem, confidence and the attitudes of others compare to mine, as a fat woman.
I decided that I would love for Kerri to share her story around confidence and self esteem first as a guest blogger here on Fat Heffalump, because in the years I’ve known Kerri (about 10 I think), I’ve seen her bloom and blossom from someone who was barely heard from in most situations to a confident, outgoing, strong woman. I think in some ways our respective growth in confidence is what has brought us together as friends – we are close in age and have been colleagues for over a decade, but have grown to become good friends over the past few years. I’m not sure that it’s a coincidence that we’ve also both grown more confident and stronger of self esteem at the same time our friendship has grown.
Kerri is a dear friend, valued colleague, cycling buddy (she wishes she had a bike as beautiful as mine), conversation partner, confidant, constant support and a bloody good cook that I am honoured to have in my life. She is a true inflater in life – she always leaves you with your spine just that little bit longer, your head held just that notch higher.
Kerri has given me permission to share that she is hearing impaired, and wears hearing aids (the most awesome little bitty items of technology my geeky self has seen that ISN’T made by Apple) in both ears.
When I originally asked her to post I had this in mind, and so I’ve also asked her a couple of “interview” questions to go with her post, since I think they not only give an insight into her feelings about her confidence and how others treat her, as well as leading into her story about confidence and self esteem, but also show Kerri’s phenomenally positive, optimistic personality, which is one of the things I love most about her. She also challenges people’s perceptions and attitudes, which is to me, such a radical act of activism that she lives every day. What a woman!
So let’s start with the mini-interview:
FH: Do you think your hearing impairment was ever behind your shyness or lack of confidence?
KB: It probably contributed a little because I could never be sure that I was hearing conversations or general chat correctly so I didn’t participate for fear of looking silly – I still did on innumerable occasions within family gatherings or close friends but that never really mattered but looking daft in front of strangers did up until I started to do storytime and now I don’t care.
FH: Do you think you’ve ever faced any discrimination because of your hearing impairment?
KB: I don’t believe I have ever been discriminated against because of my hearing, well I can’t recall a situation there may have been but I don’t hold onto stuff and usually forget it ever happened if it has. I rarely ever tick the box saying I am a “woman” or “hearing impaired” or anything of those exception boxes for conferences or anything like that. I’ve never expected my work to pony up special equipment for me ie phones, although with the VOIP rollout I did ask Helen (a colleague) if they were going to have bluetooth capability and she then went to marvellous lengths for me to see if we could maximise the bluetooth component of my new aids but it wasn’t to be, but we sure gave it a good crack.
And now, without any further ado, Kerri shares her story on her own self esteem/confidence journey.
Well I think I’ve made it in the world of blogging for I have been asked to guest post in a dear friend’s blog around the issues of confidence, self esteem and body image. Three things I was very late in life in obtaining but once I got them, my life changed radically for the better.
I never had any issues with my body per se. I was raised in a standard nuclear family with a mum who was always dieting and eating low fat foods but I don’t remember absorbing that issue, its only recently that I have been reflecting on this that I realised that Mum was always on a diet of some kind when I was small. I was an average kid and skinny pre-teen largely due to surgery I had that prevented me from eating for about ten days and I dropped kilo’s inadvertently, that only reappeared when puberty hit.
My Dad was always praising my body as strong and tough and it was, one classic moment was when Dad said “Jeez love you’re built like a brick shit house” and he meant it with love referring to how strong and sturdy my body was from wrestling obstreperous calves and horses and other large animals. I have to admit when I was about 15 that statement gave me a few pangs of worry but commonsense eventually prevailed and I realised he meant it with love and pride that he had a strong daughter.
I don’t remember hating my body at any point or even parts of it. I remember wishing that some parts would be bigger i.e. My boobs and longer i.e. my legs occasionally but overall it was my body, this is what I was born with and therefore I live with it. I have always been pragmatic about my body and will happily wander around naked in a safe environment (alone in my own home for now). I have no issue being naked in front of a lover who commented about how relaxed I was standing and wandering around naked, but the body to me is a shell and not the true value of a person. To me trusting someone enough to feel safe enough to have sex with them is the big one, so being naked is nothing by then.
However with issues of developing self confidence and self esteem, they came along with a lot of hard work on me. I am reasonably reserved and more a wall flower than most people would realise when faced with unknown situations but I have pushed myself hard to get past that and had many internal debates between my shy self and my common sense self.
The huge turning point in my life came when I was 27 still living with my grandmother and I had NO social life, and I do mean NONE. I was sitting home alone (my grandmother was 72 and had a male companion and was out) watching a program about dancing, it featured a company called Le Step and the director Mick French was being interviewed, he said 3 things – singles were welcome, two left feet were fine, and little to no co-ordination was required.
I was sold, I phoned up and found the next class and I went to the very next class. I was shaking with nerves and sick with fear but something inside me just said this is it; this will make your life explode. I made myself go to every class I could and it was about six weeks before I stopped feeling nauseous with fear and anxiety. I would put my professional library mask on so that I could be civil and able to speak with people. I went 3 times a week for about six years and it gave me great legs and excellent stamina. I have made some awesome friends from it and have very fond memories of weekends away in “mixed” company and developed the confidence to talk to men and dance with them sometimes in a very close and personal way but I developed trust in them to do the right thing as Mick kept a tight rein on his dance school and men were expected to behave civilly or he would boot them out in a no nonsense way.
My instinct is something I trust in implicitly, when it tells me that yes this is right and to go for it I do because it has never failed me. I have often done things way out of my comfort zone because the instinct has said ‘do it please, you won’t regret it”.
After dancing for about six years, I was starting to feel bored with it and was looking for a new challenge. I live about a 3 minute walk from a Martial Arts Dojo. I’ve always loved the philosophy of Martial Arts. My Dad did Tae Kwon Do for years and enjoyed it immensely and other people I know did it at school and of course the original Karate Kid movie had me sold on the idea from the outset. However, I’ve always been uncoordinated and clumsy, so I thought martial arts weren’t for me. But after living so close to the dojo and checking it out as I walked my dog, I yearned to learn Karate, but thought it also to be too macho as well. But talking with my friend Dawn who is a black belt from years past, she advised to check out the age range and if there were lots of kids, women and older folk then it was a good family dojo and to give them a go, so I did and I haven’t looked back.
I have been training for 3 years now and am at purple belt grade, the next grade will be brown and then the big one – Black Belt!
Karate has had a massive impact on my life, when I first started we had to complete these written modules as part of our early grading. One of the modules dealt with fear, what do you fear and why? So I had to really think about it, at the time, work was requiring all staff to undertake storytelling and I would have rather crawled naked over broken glass then read to a bunch of ankle biters. So this was on my mind, the module required me to reflect on why I feared this thing and really gets to the guts of it. Once I really thought about it and progressed my way through the module, I realised that I had no grounds in that fear and stunned the bejesus out of my colleagues and my boss by volunteering to do story time and I rocked it!
Since then the development of my self confidence has seen me progress steadily in my career, I was stagnating because I was scared about pushing myself out of my rut as a Band 3. Karate made me look at that, I am now a Band 5 for the moment and have even acted as Band 7 successfully. I have had the courage to allow a couple of men into my life personally and had short term relationships, they weren’t terribly successful but I have at least had the courage to give it a whirl and work out more clearly in my mind what I want out of a relationship and if indeed I actually want one.
I give Karate and dancing full credit in revealing me to the world. Dancing gave me the confidence to wear sleeveless tops and tight fitting pants, when I realised that women of all shapes and sizes wore these things and no one howled them down for it. Karate has given me the confidence to walk down the street and project myself as a strong “mess with me at your own peril” kind of woman. However, I know the whole time that this confident strong chick has always been inside me, she just took a long time to reveal herself.
I look people dead in the eye now, it is empowering, and people find it confronting to be looked straight in the face. I hold myself up high and square my shoulders and project my confidence out there, it works. Someone gives me a hard time, it’s never for too long, as I turn and face them dead straight in the eye and stand tall. I am a work in progress and I am always looking to improve myself and make the most of my given opportunities and live my life well!
Thank you to Kerri for her post and I hope you’ll leave her a comment below, as well as checking out her own blog at Katagal Kapers.