Hang ups that should be hung up

Nearly every woman I know has some physical ‘thing’ that has caused anxiety since her teenage years, however ridiculous or unimportant it might sound to someone else.

I’m not talking total body hatred or self-loathing – we’ll save that for another time – but the small things that bother us, a little voice in our ear telling us this thing makes us less attractive. From the standard boobs too big/small, arse too wide/flat through to long toes, wrinkly knees, always-pointy nipples, or a cat’s bum belly button.

I asked my best girls about their hang ups and they came back with a list that included: small tits, saddle bags, a lopsided bum, thinning hair, and fair eyelashes that make her look like the pig in Babe. As a teenager, some boys called my friend Deborah, ‘Deb no bra’ and it tormented her for years. Teenage boys are pretty good with wordplay and have a lot to answer for. My other friend of the lopsided bum swears one cheek hangs lower than the other, and still regularly studies it in the mirror. I’ve holidayed with her many times and seen her in various states of undress and I can’t see said wonkiness, even when she’s standing in front of me pointing and ranting about how hideous it is. It has bothered her since I’ve known her. That’s 20 years.

One of mine is my feet. Or rather, the size of them. As a kid, growing feet were exciting. It meant a trip to the magical world of Clarks with their foot-clamp measuring machine (eeeek, how does it know when to stop? Will it crush my foot? Not exactly Alton Towers I grant you. Did I mention I have five siblings and we didn’t get out much?). Most trips there also meant – because of my ever-growing feet – shiny new shoes. Then by the time I was 11 I had to go to the grown up shoe section as the kids section didn’t cater for my whopping size seven feet. Couple that with lots of jokes about how I wouldn’t need waterskis and could borrow my older brothers shoes (almost, he’s only an 8. Grrr.) and I became conscious of my feet being larger than ‘normal’.

Shoe shops always put them out in a 4, maybe a 5 at a push, and they look all lovely and dainty, and  then the sales assistant comes towards you wielding what looks like a drag queen’s shoe and shouting ‘SEVEN – who wanted the SEVEN?’. I’ve rejected many shoes I’ve lusted over because I’ve thought they look like man shoes. I know in my logical head that a seven isn’t that big. I’m not in specialist shoe shop territory. If someone else is a seven I don’t think their feet look big; I reserve this distaste just for my own feet.

Cinderella-Glass-Slipper fashionloving.co.uk
She’d probably topple over in real life.

So what causes these hang ups? For myself and the girls that I’ve spoken to, it seems to be an anxiety that something about us isn’t attractive and isn’t normal, and therefore we dislike or are even ashamed of that physical trait.

Someone has pointed it out when we’re young and for whatever reason it sticks and we beat ourselves up about it. We tend to see ourselves in the harshest, most unforgiving light.

At the same time, by now I think we’ve worked out that we’re all built differently. Not one single body part or facial feature has a standard shape or size. Not a single one. Can we learn to love these foibles because unless you’re heading for surgery as a drastic solution, this is how we were born and it is part of who we are? Does anyone around us even notice or give a shit? I definitely don’t think of my beautiful, funny and smart friends and then recoil thinking ‘Ah, but she has got one low hanging bum cheek’ or ‘I’d like her more if it weren’t for the bunion’. If we could see ourselves through our friends’ eyes, we might even realise that the things that we dislike most are actually admired by someone else. My friend that despises her saddle bags has a beautiful juicy bum and in the past when it’s been commented that mine is a little on the flat side, I’ve longed for some of the junk in her trunk. And trust me, bang on some tunes and the girl knows what to do with it. Perhaps this is an occasion where we could do with taking a leaf out of the mens’ books. They must also have hang ups about how they look, but not to the same extent; you’re less likely to hear ‘Oh he won’t wear shorts. Dave just hates his knees’.

When we’re old and grey(er) we’ll probably wish these hang ups were all we had to worry about physically. If I’m the only person bothered by my feet, it’s surely wasted energy to spend time even thinking about them? I’m fairly certain that none of us have got excess energy to be slopping about willy nilly. Ladies, could it be that actually we are in our PRIME? For most of us those nerve-wracking teenage years are a distant memory, and in the years since we’ve slowly found out who we are. We’ve changed many of the views and ideas we had back then now that we’ve actually lived in the grown up world. Maybe we can realise that no one else looks at us and picks out the negatives we see in ourselves – unless they’re teenagers or idiots, and they do not count. It’s time these hang ups that we carry about as little reminders that we’re not perfection do one, perhaps freeing up some space for kinder thoughts.

What do you think – have you got a hang up that bothers you? Have you got over it – or even learned to love it? Would love to know your thoughts.

Images: theguardian.com; Cinderella fashionloving.co.uk

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25 thoughts on “Hang ups that should be hung up

  1. Pinkoddy says:

    A great post with points well made. Will have to disagree with you about males though – they have it harder as it’s not the same as girls who can talk to each other. I think it’s more dangerous. I know a guy who struggles with his weight, another who is too ashamed to take his top off, even on a boiling hot day.

    Either way I blame media portrayals and you’d think in this day and age they would have a more balanced view.

  2. DannyUK says:

    It’s not just women that suffer this. As a guy, I have the same doubts and insecurities, though in my mid thirties I’ve learnt not to pay them much attention these days. What was that song about sunscreen a few years back “You’re not as fat as you think you are…”. It’s all true! #PoCoLo

  3. suzanne3childrenandit says:

    Interestingly, I just wrote a post today about being too old to wear a bikini. Or perhaps it’s the definite c-section ‘apron’ that rests firmly on my stomach, which puts me off. Either way, I now have hang ups that I NEVER had before. And mine is becoming old – the bum (and other ‘assets’) dropping and my now teenage daughter looking better in a bikini that me ha!

  4. Lauranne says:

    I used to hate my legs and then I had an incident leaving one damaged for the rest of my life. It is larger than the other one and swells in hot weather or if I walk etc I know look back on photos wishing I had had my legs out more.

    The great thing is my friends really supported me through my issues with it, and now although I still hate it I show my legs a lot more than I used to!

  5. Jess Paterson says:

    Brilliant post. Love the lower-hanging butt cheek lady – totally epitomises your point about something unnoticeable to others can be blown right out of proportion by your own mind. But your feet – they are dainty compared to mine! I’m size 8 and proud! I also have five siblings – love it!

  6. Michelle says:

    I’ve got so many hang ups – the main one being my arms. I’m overweight, I know that, and I get on with things the best I can as far as bullying (as a child) or torment (from strangers) is concerned. But my arms, cos they have this weird fat roll in them – that not all overweight people have either, so it’s not just a fat thing, it’s all I see. I don’t wear sleeveless clothes because of it, even if it’s boiling hot – unless I’m on holiday in Florida, in which case I really don’t care. But here in the UK. Nope, it’s rare to have my arms see the light of day. Oh, and my belly. Gross. Most other parts of my fat body I deal with but arms and belly. Hell to the no. It’s sad.

  7. lisa gardiner says:

    Steph, another fab blog!! Love it. Teenagers are vile and can be so hurtful sometimes. Silly nick names and jokes that scar people for life, ot at least the early part of it. I’m almost over all those shortie, flat chest, chinky looking names now lol!! I may have a couple of hang ups, funny shaped boobs, but since they have fed my babies i have found a new respect and love for them. I have 2 rather large stretch marks, one from each baby, when i actually aired my concern my partner lovingly pointed out he loves them as they are my natural tattoos i wouldn’t have if our babies weren’t born. So i am again is total agreement Steph, and also think i am too at my happiest in my 30’s xxx

  8. Jude says:

    Oh, we’ve all got something haven’t we? For me, it’s my skin. I’m a true Celt. Dark hair, pale skin = I never tan, my skin glows in the dark it’s so pale. I dread the summer! But I think you’re right, I’m not nearly as paranoid as I was as a teenager – or addicted to the fake tan. Great post. #pocolo

  9. Kirsty Hijacked By Twins says:

    Body hang ups? Where do I start? I have many and always have done since my teenage years. I did struggle in the past but am at a stage of beginning to accept parts of my body. But if I’m honest I think there will always be something I’m not happy with x

  10. Leah says:

    What is it about feet? I am fortunate to have small feet (uk size 5) for someone that is 5ft 8in but what comes with that is the not so perfect toes that I admire in others. Mine have been given a couple of names over the years ‘monkey feet’ or ‘chiplolatas’…. Not so flattering when one has a complex. Yes, they look like fingers and is it normal to have a toe longer than the big toe … I don’t know? As you get older you just accept those personal imperfections and believe me toes is just one of them on my list.

  11. Jenny says:

    Great post. I’m sure I have more hang ups now, post-pregnancies. I can never get clothes to fit properly and it makes clothes shopping a real chore.

  12. ClaireC says:

    I have size 8 feet but I actually have grown to like them – I think they have quite a nice shape to them! It is a pain not having dainty feet or not being able to always get the shoes I like in my size but hey they suit my height and build so I’ve learnt to like them. Now there are other body parts I couldn’t say the same about it but as I’ve got older I can accept them more! Thanks for your blog Steph – great insightful writing. X

  13. Kara says:

    I look back at photos of me as a teen and wonder why I was worried about my figure……I have always had a hang up about my tummy, even though it was barely there……..now after 6 children it definitely needs some work!

  14. Alicia says:

    Love, love, love this had me laughing out very loud . And yet again so very true, why not embrace what Mother Nature gave us in reality there are far more things to worry about than our wobbly bits! Thank you x

  15. Kate Thompson says:

    I’m a true 8 – a 42, not the 41 that fashion shops pretend is an 8. (WHY do they do that??) I can rarely buy shoes, yet my feet are in proportion to my body (I am 174cm tall) and there are MANY women with larger feet. I haven’t been able to buy sandals for 3 years now and am sick of wearing my old closed in shoes during the summer. It was easier when I was younger, there was far more choice available then actually. Socks for women are all size 4-7 or they *say* 4-8 but absolutely aren’t.
    Mind you, you can’t win, Joules told me they had “proper” sized 8s so I ordered a few bits, their wellies and slippers were nearly an INCH too LONG! I wish women’s clothes and shoes would be properly sized, not arbitrarily given a number.

  16. Michy says:

    Loved reading this article! Firstly, I’d completely forgotten about the foot-measuring-machines in Clarks (how odd in reality)! Secondly, as a UK size 9, I can totally relate to the shoe shopping anguish. I’m 34 and still hate the fact I can’t buy ‘normal’ shoes and am 6’2″. However, by making clear choices about who I spend time with (I only have time for loving, kind people), and understanding that people who say cruel things are usually using it as a way to make themselves look big, the 30’s are definitely turning into the most enjoyable years of my life!

  17. You Baby Me Mummy says:

    I would love size 7 feet! Mine are size 9, try getting shoes to fit them, especially when I was younger and nowhere did them really. It is better now but I would love to go into any shop and be able to buy shoes x

  18. Mummy of Two says:

    I think it is natural to have something you dislike. I’m with you on the feet thing. I am a size 7/8 and it can be embarrassing! My feet look like big boats most of the time!

  19. Paula says:

    In the states, a size 7 shoe IS a 4 1/2 in the UK, so till I went and googled “online shoe conversion” I did not realize how just big your feet were. 😉 Enjoyed the post, which I found through #PoCoLo. Am older and greyer than most of you on this thread, and I can tell you that gravity is more kind to the flatchested. That thought never seemed to help much at the time, but will repeat it for anyone listening anyway.