Do you ever go through a crisis of confidence? You don’t feel worthy or you loath parts of your body? Host Amelia Phillips and Vanessa Haldane, founder of Journey to Worthy discuss this phenomenon and why it’s so prevalent in Mums. Vanessa opens up about how trauma as a child impacted her self worth and how she turned that around. They discuss how can we recognise the signs of slipping into that dark place, and what can we do to boost our self worth and body positivity.
Hear more from Vanessa Haldane and other speakers at BODfest in Sydney Oct 8, 2022. Speakers include: Emily Ratajkowski, Maria Thattil, Moana Hope, Amy Sheppard, Isabella Manfredi and much more at BODfest. Sydney Oct 8, or watch anywhere in the world on demand.
Get tickets from bodfest.com.au
About the guest:
Vanessa Haldane know’s a thing or two about turning our self worth around, she’s the founder of ‘Journey to Worthy’ a community on a mission to help women experience the happiness and freedom that finding self-worth brings.
She is the host of podcast Journey to worthy and So Unladylike, is a guest speaker at BODfest – Australia’s mini festival of self love coming this October. Vanessa speaks about how experiencing abuse as a child set her on a destructive path, and how she turned it all around.
Below is an unedited transcript of the podcast episode:
Today’s episode of Healthy Herd discusses sexual abuse listener discretion is advised. I have been plagued by self doubt my whole life. I have these periods I call my crises of confidence, where everything from the food I cook, the clothes I wear, the messages I write are just. All wrong. I become so self-critical.
It can be paralyzing. I then go through my little inner coaching strategies that I’ve learned over the years to pull myself out of it. But often a few months later, that niggling voice just grows louder. And down we go again in talking to others. I know I’m not alone and I’d love to understand why this happens, why motherhood seems to have made it worse, and how on earth to shut that voice up.
This is helping her with Amelia. Are you someone that beats yourself up a bit like me? There I go again. Doing that really dumb thing. Taking on too much. Not taking on enough. I’m a bad parent. I’m unreliable. I’m forgetful, I’m stupid, I’m lazy, I’m needy. , the list goes on. Why is it that we spiral into a place of self doubt, low self-worth and poor body confidence?
Gosh, it’s a horrible place to. Over time, it can lead to poor life decisions such as maybe a partner choice or not going for that promotion or maybe not speaking up about something, and obviously can lead to real mental health challenges. So how can we recognize earlier when we’re sliding into that dark place and what can we do to boost our self worth and our body positivity?
Vanessa Halda knows a thing or two about turning our self-worth around. She’s the founder of Journey to Worthy, a community on our mission to help women experience the happiness and the freedom that finding self-worth brings. Yes, please. . She’s the host of Podcasts Journey to Worthy. She’s a guest speaker at Bo Fest, which is Australia’s mini festival of self-love, and it’s coming this.
Vanessa speaks about how experiencing abuse as a child set her on a destructive path and how she turned it all around. Vanessa, thank you so much for joining me today. Thank you for having me on your amazing podcast. You first reported your abuse to your parents at the age of eight. Now, this lands so hard with me because I’ve got a daughter who’s eight, and I know you’ve also got three girls who are aged between 10 and in their twenties.
I just, I cannot imagine my daughter coming up to me and telling me that she’s been sexually abused. Mm. Can you please, if you don’t mind opening up, tell us what happened. It was my grandfather, so I would go for sleepovers at Nan and Granddad’s house. and that’s where the abuse would occur. And it would start with him just showing me things.
It was actually my brother that helped give me the confidence to tell mom and dad cause I’d been making, It’s funny because I still use humor as a coping mechanism and as a child I was using humor even then. So I was, um, making jokes about granddad’s penis. And my brother. Is he older or younger? Yeah, older.
Older. So a couple of years older, so he would’ve been 10. And it’s my son’s age, so I’m so like, I can just picture this. I’m literally tearing up as you’re talking to me. By the way. It’s actually really upsetting when it relates to children that are, Your children’s age, you just can’t believe that a child has had to manage that, has had to make that decision of who do I tell, what do I do?
And for my brother as well, I think that got overlooked a lot. But for him to realize at 10 years old from what I was saying, That something’s not okay here. This was your grandfather, you know? Yeah. I look at the beautiful relationship my kids have with their grandparents and the, the trust and the inherent bond that they have, and I sit here and think about, I mean, it’s horrible if it was a stranger, but then to make it someone that is so close and has that inherent trust just makes it even.
and statistically speaking, it is someone who you know and trust. Oh my God. Statistically speaking, it’s more likely that someone known to your children, if they’ve been a victim of abuse, it will be someone known to them, not a stranger. That’s the statistics, unfortunately. So we’ve been a a lot more protective with the girls in regards to even having men, boys in the house around them.
But yeah, so my brother came into my bedroom and. You need to tell mom and dad or I’m going to, And I just remember not wanting him to have to say the words. Mm-hmm. . So it was really, it wasn’t because I wanted to tell them I wanted it to stop, but I was so scared about telling them, but I didn’t want my brother to have to, So mom was in the bathroom with dad.
I think my brother went and got her for memory and said, Nest needs to tell you something important. At 10, far out. Yeah, maybe nearly 11. And mom came in and I told her, and I made her promise not to tell dad like I thought I could tell her. Dave wouldn’t have to tell her. And that’d be it. Like nothing would change.
So I’ve told them I felt really, really guilty. I was really worried about people getting in trouble. I was really worried about hurting dad’s feelings because it was his dad, and that upset me a lot. Like I didn’t want dad to know that about his dad. Talking about that now it’s like, The emotional intelligence of a child, we don’t give them enough credit.
Yep. That empathy to put the feelings of your dad and your grandfather over above your own feelings just goes to show the amount of heart and love. That a child hasn’t, that you had as a child. And did you tell your mom, did you just come out and just blurt all these incidences or did you just tell the most recent one and had they progressed from exposure to something that had been, you know, like physical as well?
Yes, so it definitely started off, I would say the grooming. So it would start off as he would leave letters for other girls. Detailing what he wanted to do to them. So he would expose me to that sort of material. Then he would, Oh, I’m so conscious of saying it, but he would masturbate in front of me. Yeah.
And then it became more intense and I, I, I mean, I know if I had not called my parents at the age that I did, it would’ve kept progressing and he was getting very confident. Like I remember he. Grabbed me up onto a piggyback and he was touching me and my parents were standing right there. Oh my God. Now there is no way in hell my daughter wouldn’t go.
What the hell are you doing? Yeah. Like, Stop touching me. Yeah, but there’s this grooming that happens beforehand. He didn’t just touch me that day in front of my parents. No. But yeah, and I had to pretend like nothing was happening. What was your mom’s reaction? Look, it’s a bit of a blur. She, she held it together quite well, to be honest, and she promised me she wouldn’t tell dad.
She immediately went and told dad and they told me when I was older that dad then went over to the house. He was in the bathtub at the time, got out, got dressed, went straight to the house, and he had a key to the house and Nan and Grandad weren’t home and he sat there waiting for them to come. and they got home around midnight and he confronted them and apparently granddad didn’t deny it.
Wow. My nan started vomiting. It was just an an awful, awful situation. So my parents never didn’t believe me. Mm-hmm. , but their response afterwards, I, I mean, they could only do the best that they knew how to at the time. Yep. He was still allowed to stay within the family, just never alone with me. Mm-hmm.
but he was still allowed within the family, so it’s very, very confusing. And my nan didn’t leave him, so I had a lot of hatred and anger towards her. Like, Why would you stay married to this person? I found out when I was an adult. My dad had found my nan on the floor of the bathroom when he was a teenager, and she attempted to take her own life because granddad was always off with other women, right?
So God knows who he’s heard or what he’s done in the past, but she was of a generation that believed that marriage was forever, no matter what, and that financially she wouldn’t be able to survive without being married to a man. I remember her telling me that when she got married, she just didn’t work.
And I said, Why not? And she said, It’s just the way it was. When you’re a wife, you don’t work. You have to have babies and stay home and do all of that. You just don’t work. Sometimes I feel like we’re so backwards and we’re not progressing anyway. Where, And then you think about, you know, our parents and our grandparents, and actually we have made some progress.
Well see, my husband says, Oh, you know when he’s about a divorce. Oh, not like the good old days, you know, everyone’s stayed together forever. And I have to say to him like, That’s such a, a male thing to say because you don’t understand that women did not have a choice. A divorce was illegal. Like women couldn’t instigate divorce either, and it had to be, you had to be able to prove abuse as well, but the courts favored the man and like it just wasn’t possible.
It wasn’t love that kept. Everything was stacked against women. Everything. Yeah. But even not just from the legal system, but just culturally as well, Especially from a religion standpoint too, which both sides of my family were very religious and you just didn’t do that. So you found that your parents’ reaction, and as you said, they can only do what they.
Could do with the culture at the time, but it was not helpful for you over a long period of time and over your teenage years. I think they tried their best by keeping him away from me, obviously, and my brother didn’t go and have sleepovers there either anymore, but I remember him being at a family picnic and the whole family was.
In a podcast episode I did on my own podcast, the very first episode where I talk about my life story, I cried and I was like, My aunties were there. Why weren’t you standing up for little me? Why weren’t you saying, No, he should not be here? And my auntie rang me after that podcast episode and she said, I just wanted to let you know Nest.
We didn’t know. I was like, What? My whole life. Oh, wow. I assumed everyone knew. Yeah. She said that she knew something was off and that he wasn’t to be alone with you. But we did not know the extent at all. And so then my parents have passed away now, so I can’t have this conversation with them. But then my thoughts were mom and dad, why didn’t you tell everybody like, you’re adding shame to this?
Mm. Like, why is it so shameful? It’s almost like the adult version of what your initial thoughts were around, Oh, I don’t wanna get dad in trouble or make dad mad or get granddad in too much trouble. It’s almost like their in a child is coming out in the way they handled that. When you told them, did they know or suspect that something was up?
Did your mom say, Oh, this is not a surprise? No, they didn’t say anything like that. But mom and dad, um, when I was older, mom would mention something and I’d go, Huh. And she was talking about something about my ballet. And I was like, What do you mean? And she goes, If you don’t remember, let’s leave it that way.
So she had obviously had something had obviously happened that was a red flag for her. She had told me that there were a few things that she’d mentioned that I couldn’t actually remember. So I wonder, the things that I do remember was, was it worse? Were there other things that perhaps didn’t stand out to me as much because what I was experiencing was so much more intense that the little things that they noticed were just normal to me.
How did that abuse shape your self worth throughout your childhood and teenage. I subconsciously based my worth on pleasing men, visually, sexually, every way possible. And also that feeling of not wanting to upset people. Being a people pleaser is something I still struggle with. I just want everyone to be happy.
I don’t wanna upset anyone, even if I’m right, even if you know I’m standing up for something. I’m getting much better at that now, but I still don’t want to hurt other people, and I would often sacrifice. for other people’s happiness. I had a lot of anger. I know now that it was anger towards my parents for the way they handled things, but mm-hmm , I didn’t know that at the time.
And a lot of self hatred. So I really hated myself. I felt guilty for, even though he was still in the family, my brother had lost sleepovers and all the fun we used to have. Cause we still had fun. That’s the thing, like abuse doesn’t exist without good times as well. And that goes for all abuse. So, I still wanted to go and stay at N’S and have the pancakes and have her read me a story and you know, walk Glen the dog down to the park.
And my brother was missing out on that. And my parents were sad all the time and everything was different and it was all my fault. Oh honey, what a burden. So this self hatred just manifested. How did that express itself in say, your relationships or your feelings towards your body or the way you behaved?
Self-destructive behavior. So I loathed my body. I wanted a very curvy body from a very young age. I wanted boobs. I wanted to be what I perceived to be sexually appealing from a very young age. I’m talking like grade four, like why haven’t I got boobs, right? Like my daughter’s in grade four. You don’t have boobs because you’re not in puberty yet.
Like, what the hell? Like, why do you? But also, as I progressed into my teen years, the self-destructive behavior was relationships, choosing people to surround myself with or have a romantic relationship with who treated me the way I felt. Which was like a piece of garbage. So I ended up in a physically, mentally, sexually, emotionally abusive relationship at the age of 14.
Oh my. Now my boyfriend was only 15, 16, and he was capable of this. But I’d found myself in another abusive relationship and I’d felt like that’s where I belonged and I didn’t deserve more than. What was the point or the trigger for you that made you say something’s gotta change, and how old were you at that point?
There’s been multiple times throughout my life that I’ve had a moment of. Something needs to change. Tried to change it, but it’s so overwhelming. So you just fall back into bad habits. So after mom committed suicide, how old were you? Uh, well, I was 30 weeks pregnant with Palani and I was 31 at the time.
Oh my God. And mom committed suicide, so I had 10 weeks to go. And her reasoning in her note that she left was that at 30 weeks, if I was to get so upset, I went into early labor, the baby would survive. That was her. So she waited, Oh my gosh. Until I was 30 weeks pregnant. That for me was like, No, I’m not gonna live in this place of self hatred.
And oh my God, this has happened to me cuz my dad had already passed away. Lots of other things had happened in my life to being a, a child of the system, living in group homes, getting locked up in teenage detention, becoming a teenage mom. I got raped by two men in a bathroom. I ended up with anorexia and bulimia mental health issues.
There was so much and I had a victim mentality. This is my life. This is what I deserve. It’s one thing after another. This is just what’s going to happen to me for the rest of my life. And after mum committed suicide, I was like, No, fuck that. Excuse my language. But no, I’m not going to let that be my legacy anymore.
So I wanna turn it around. There can be a moment inside where you go, something needs to change, but you don’t just don know where to start. No, Like it’s really, really overwhelming. The intent can be. It’s like this low self worth I have these choices I’ve made. Something has to change. But then how did you actually make that change?
Cause I sit here looking at you now, talking to you. You’ve got, you know, this beautiful skin and these bright eyes, and I’ve listened to your podcast. If you didn’t know your backstory, you would be like, Here is a woman winning at life. You would’ve thought that at the time, too. Is that right? I was a big mask wearer.
Okay. Like even as a child behind closed doors, you would’ve seen the tantrums and the outbursts and the mm-hmm. destructive behavior. But on the surface I was a very polite, very happy. Young girl and teenager and always joking humor’s always been my coping mechanism, but the difference is I’m really genuinely happy now, and that’s not to say I haven’t been throughout my life because again, Sadness can coexist with happiness, and abuse can exist within good times in a relationship as well.
So it’s, you know, um, but for me it was where, where do I start? And I knew I needed to start with my physical and mental health first. So I needed to, I need to have my baby . I needed to have my baby and just, Focus on that because she was such a positive experience for us. My other two children I had quite young, so of course no one’s happy for you.
It’s just, Oh, here we go. Ne is a teen mom. We knew this would happen with Kani. I was like, I’m having a baby shower. I’m going to, And that I was angry at mom for that. I was like, Oh mom, you bitch. You knew . But this pregnancy was meant to be different cuz I’m an adult and everyone’s happy for once . So I was like, No, I’m gonna have this baby.
It’s gonna be amazing. Looking back, it’s ridiculous. We have the baby shower seven days after mum died and I look at the photos and I’m like, We really are the kids as well. Just wearing masks and really trying to be like, Nope, this is gonna be a positive moment. So I, after I had her, I made an appointment with my GP to talk about my eating disorder and the connection.
Mm-hmm. with my mind that that had just really started going deep into my past and why I had made the decisions I’d made. Because at the end of the day, they were my decisions and really looking into it, writing down a. Taking those walks by myself and just thinking, letting myself feel. It was really awful at the start.
There’s a bit of a misconception that when you start to heal, it’s all beautiful and you feel so great and light. No, You feel really heavy and full of tears, and you cry a lot because you’ve gotta move through so much trauma again to get out the other side and the other put it beside you, beside you over there for a bit and, and, and keep going on and succeeding in life.
That’s what I wanted to ask you is how does. Someone, whether they’ve had an immense trauma like you have, or traumas multiple or, or they’ve simply just grown up in a world skewed against self-worth, How do we begin to turn that around? What would your advice be? I mean, for you it was you had a actual disease and anorexia.
Mm-hmm. , so you. And you did what you do with disease. You went and saw a specialist to then turn that around. Self worth’s a little different to that. What would you say to someone that has that low self worth? What would some first steps be? I think it’s tough with low self worth because it’s not just low self worth.
It does have these other factors attached to it, whether it’s an eating disorder, whether it’s. Low body image, whether it’s trauma, whether it’s you’re in a relationship that you are not having. Yeah, mental illness, all those sorts of things contribute to the self worth. So you can’t just go at it with, Right, I’m going to just treat self worth.
What has contributed to the feelings of low self worth? Has it that you’ve just had a baby, your body’s changed, or you’re pregnant and your body’s changed? Is that what’s contributed to your low self worth? You have to tackle the issues around. You can’t just go at it like, Right, I want myself worth to be better.
What’s five things I love about myself? Yeah. I’m gonna write a gratitudes list. I agree with you. Exactly. Which these things are great tools to have on the journey. But you really, if you’ve got anxiety and depression and you haven’t been to see your doctor in a while, you need to go and you need to talk about that and work on yourself worth with it by going to see your doctor, by going and talking to a friend about how you’re feeling, by acknowledging what you’re feeling, that is already a step in the right direction, a massive step for yourself worth, because that is saying to yourself, I acknowledge that this is going on and I am worthy of changing this for.
And a lot of us walk around a little bit numb or disconnected to the fact that we might be suffering those things. You can literally Google take a depression test or take an anxiety test and you can sit there and go, No, I’m fine. This is normal. I mean, I’ve got X number of children and this, that and the other, and it’s like, Well, hang on.
If I actually sit down and Google it and do the quiz, you might be surprised at the score and you might go to your GP and say, Look, I just did this random quiz online. It’s probably gimmicky. It is saying that I’m scoring quite high for a depression or anxiety. At least that’s that first step, cuz I do think that acknowledging it or being diagnosed with it can be quite a massive, It’s validating.
Yeah. Yes. It’s validating too, because it’s like, okay, this will make sense. But when people are feeling overwhelmed, like I was, I was like, Okay, I’ve got anorexia, I’ve got bule. I’ve got debilitating anxiety. I’m overwhelmed with a newborn baby and two children who are older and going through puberty. I’ve got all these feelings.
I, I’m waking up in the middle of the night with memories of my childhood. Where the hell do I start? Like what do I, where do I start? So what I tell people when they inbox me on Instagram now is like, with everything going on, if you could magically make one problem disappear, one of them, just one of them.
Which problem would it be and how would your life look? Because then, Oh, that’s powerful. It makes it easier. I say with inverted commerce. Yeah. To prioritize where to start. So I’m studying psychology and counseling so that I can work with women offline. And one of the things is people will come to you with a whole bunch of different issues in their life.
You can’t tackle it all at once. That’s what I was saying, with the self worth. You can’t just go, I wanna work on. Okay. Uh, here, fill in this form. Like it doesn’t, like, Okay. Why do you have self, self worth pills? . Yes. Wouldn’t it be amazing? Hmm. Maybe I can worthy vibes, pills, I’ll invent those little vitamin.
Help your hair grow too. But you’ve gotta look at all the different factors and helping people identify where to start, which one is the priority. And working down the list is, is really important. And for me, that was reaching. For professional help. I love science. I love professionals. I love psychologists and psychiatrists.
I love all the, Okay, this is why you have anxiety. This, and, and some people don’t. Some people prefer a more spiritual way, and that’s okay. Everybody’s different, but you will find what works for you. And like I said, sometimes it can just be speaking to a family member, speaking to a friend. If jumping online onto a forum and like the Butterfly Foundation for example, and or an anonymous group, we’ve got the journey to where the Army J t W, Army on Facebook and people post anonymously in there.
And that’s a fantastic tool because they jump on and they say, Look, this is going on, or this is what I’ve done. I feel terrible. And they’ve said it out loud and they get that, that honest feedback without judgment, but in a safe space. And they’re anonymous. Yeah. In a very safe space. In a really safe space.
Yeah. I, I think that is extremely powerful. And if you think about self-worth as well, a big part of self-worth can be, Who we allow ourselves to fall in love with. Is it someone that treats us with the respect that we deserve? Is it someone who we allow ourselves to put up with this unacceptable behavior?
What are some of the maybe lesser known signs to be wary of in our partners that could potentially lead to coercive control, even abuse or even someone that’s just, you know, niggling away at your self worth? Cuz I know you, you speak about your ex-partner and your experience. What are some of those signs that we might be looking out for?
I think everyone looks for the black eyes and the cut lip, or the yelling in public, or you know, the really obvious signs that abuse is occurring. But it quite often doesn’t start like that. It does. And coercive control is very sneaky in the sense that. You’re abusive will gaslight you into believing that you are the person in the wrong.
So you’re constantly trying to fix things, but early signs to look for. I think there’s a couple of red flags that I tell my single friends when they’re dating to look out for immediately. Mm-hmm. , first of all, how does the person that you are just meeting talk about their ex? How do they talk about their exes?
Because if every single ex relationship is, she’s crazy. She was a bitch, she was this, she was that, and there’s zero accountability. You can have a bad relationship. That’s okay, but if every single relationship is the woman’s fault, then that person I’m going to talk as though we’re talking about a heteronormative relationship here.
So male, female. Yep. But of course it can be different. But the man that you’re dating obviously has no insight and no accountability. For anything that goes wrong. And so you will be the future ex that he bad mouths to everybody. So that’s one red flag that you can get out really early and going, eh, nah, we don’t need to have another date.
And another one is love bombing. Now I’ve got a friend who dates and she was getting love bond, but she said to me, she goes, Oh, you just, you’ve just done a TikTok on it. And I was watching it and I’m. I’m pretty sure this is love, but I mean, No, no, no, no. My friend met someone and they married in six weeks and it was fine, and I said to her, You will always find an exception to the rule.
You will always find someone who, like my husband and I, we were stupidly full on when we first got together. He told me, Love me. After two days, we’re still together though. 22 years later I put that down to immaturity on our part. We were quite young. But we are an exception. You know, when you talk about love bombing, which is essentially just, you guys are just all over each other.
It’s when your friend doesn’t see you for six weeks cuz you’ve been, you know, madly rooting away and having the time of your life. Yeah, that’s all fine. But what happens when suddenly you kind of wake up? A few weeks later and like, Oh, I should probably, you know, go and see my friend who’s pregnant about to have a baby and I should probably go and see mom and have this lunch.
Does the partner really supportive of that? Oh, I wanna meet you mom too. No. Cause that to me is the telltale sign. What happens when the love bombing is over? Have they actually isolated you from everyone or are they really welcoming of your friends? , it’s usually part of the isolation tactic. So what will happen is they’ll provide you with everything that you think that you need, all the love, all the compliments, everything that you’ve ever wanted to do.
Your favorite color’s blue. Oh my god, mine too. Ah, Chinese is my favorite. Oh my God. Me too. I love Chinese. We your soulmates. And then slowly when you start to behave in a way that they don’t like, so you go and catch up with your mum without them, let’s say, because you’ve just met this person and you maybe don’t want them to meet them yet, you know, early days.
And then when you come home, they’ve withdrawn all. So that’s, that’s the way they do it. They give it, they take it away. They give it, they take it away. And it gets to the point where you start questioning what you are doing wrong to make them act this way. And then you stop going out and seeing your friends.
You stop doing this, or they’ll say that your friend doesn’t like me. Why do they not want me to come? Those sort of things that progresses further down the line. The love bombing is not consistent with the stage of the relationship that you’re at. Like Dwayne telling me, Love me after two. Stupid . I didn’t say it back.
I didn’t say it back. And we laugh now cause it’s stupid. But like I said to my friend, you will always find an exception. You will always be able to find a story of someone yeah. Who met and it looked like love bombing, but it wasn’t, and they’re still together. Or maybe it was, and you don’t know what’s happening behind closed doors.
You’ll always be able to find someone who smoked to pack a day but didn’t die from lung cancer. Yeah. That you will always be able to find an exception. It doesn’t mean it’s not happening and it doesn’t mean that if it’s giving you the ick, just go walk away. And I think that’s for any. , if anything feels off, trust your gut.
It’s never wrong. Mm. Like it’s never wrong if you get a sinking feeling. Just call it. Call it early. I a hundred percent agree with you, and I actually did an amazing interview with Jess Hill, who produced See What You Made Me Do, and wrote the book. And she goes into a lot of detail about some of these telltale signs, and I think it’s a really powerful thing that can prevent us going down that path, particularly for self worth is really.
And particularly if we’re very vulnerable, because often those guys will consciously or unconsciously target women of low self worth for that exact reason. We’re very moldable. . Yeah. . Yeah. Now I wanna switch gears slightly to body positivity, which I’m really passionate about. I guess for, for the journey that you’ve had, what advice would you have to a mom listening who is feeling ashamed of her body to help her try to turn this.
I think the times that our body acceptance is at its lowest is when it’s going through change. So pregnancy, post baby. Correct. Puberty and aging. This is something that we don’t talk about enough, but as we get older, things start heading south. They don’t go north. Don’t know why it’s rude. , but gravity and, and self worth for women in their forties and fifties diminishes too.
But of course it’s not talked about in the same way. . I’m a big advocate for not necessarily body positivity because I don’t think someone who looks like me, that’s not the space for me, but body acceptance, body love and positive body image I absolutely advocate for and I think is for everybody. And it’s not about loving every single part of your body.
You can look at your body. You don’t have to love it. You just have to accept it because do you look at your little. Oh, I love you. I love you to like, I, I, you know. No, you accept that it’s there and it has a function and it does what it needs to do. And I think sometimes we need to separate that a bit and be like, My body is this vessel.
I’m alive, I’m breathing. I’m able to do the things I’m able to do with my children, and. . If I don’t accept it at every stage it’s at, then I’m going to miss out on so much joy and so much life with my children. My mom spent my entire childhood sitting on the sidelines because she was a plus size woman and she didn’t wanna go in the water.
She didn’t want to go on anything or go anywhere where she would be seen. And if she did go in the pool, she would completely cover up and we’d have to meet her at the side of the pool with her towel so nobody saw her. And I wish I. What I know now then, so I could say, Mom, you are be beautiful. But of course we just did what she wanted.
We wanted her to be comfortable. And it just comes down to acceptance. And it’s okay to want to put on weight, lose weight, gain muscle, lose muscle, whatever the case may be. They’re all okay, but you need to be able to accept your body at every single stage it’s at. And for me, I could never accept my stretch marks and my s saggy skin on my bum from putting on 24 kilos from my first pregnancy.
And it all went to my bum and, um, I, I could not accept it. So I hit it, I’d cover it with makeup. I would, you know, just all the time cover it up every angle of photos it was to make sure that it, you know, that couldn’t, part of me couldn’t be seen. And it was super liberating. I guess the first time that I put that bum on the screen on Instagram and was like, Okay, it’s out here now.
No more hiding. I, No, I’ve looked at some of your reels and it takes. Very brave person to flip from literally spending decades hiding. And honey, you’ve got an amazing body, so you have absolutely nothing to hide, but to flip from hiding it to then actually, you know, you do the before and the afters of, you know mm-hmm.
Instagram versus reality, which I love seeing more of these messages. Gosh, you must’ve had to muster up the bravery and it shows how far you’ve. To be able to be out there. And how do you feel now when you post something like that? Is it a sense of relief or is it a sense of anxiety? It must be a psychological process to go through.
At first it was awful and I wouldn’t sleep and I’d delete, and then maybe I’d re-upload the next week or something like that. I was very scared of showing, I guess the real me, because I’d shown people how I wanted them to think I looked for so, But now it’s a big relief. Like, this is me, this is how my body looks.
And I had someone, someone at the gym, one of the trainers, a male trainer goes, Oh, ne I saw your Instagram. You don’t look like that. I said, Yes, I do. And he’s like, No, I’m looking at you now. You don’t look like that. And I said, Um, I’m, This is what they call thin privileges. And it like, I can put on a pair of high wasted leggings underneath, You wouldn’t know.
I can carry on about my day. And you would assume a society views me completely different to a plus size person. But there is stuff going on underneath here, . Mm. And that is how I look. He was just like shocked. I was, I wasn’t sure whether to be offended or, I don’t know. Well, he’s also, it’s a, it’s a sign of a male perspective of he probably Yeah.
Sees 99.9% of his visual imagery of the woman in the span or the Instagram, not the reality. Yeah. And so how’s. Guy gonna be when he marries a woman and her body shape changes and yes, 90% of the time she’s gonna look more like the reality one. Yeah, exactly. For me, body positivity really turned a massive corner when I had children from a motivation perspective where.
I thought, to your point earlier ness, kids pick up energetically on us. So even if we’re really careful with our words and we don’t say, Does mommy look fat in this? Or We don’t sign in front of the mirror energetically, kids pick up on our feelings towards our body. And I just thought to myself, I want my children to love, respect and be grateful for the bodies that they’ve been born into, no matter what shape and size they are.
So even though it’s a tough time for body image, I feel like the stakes have never been higher because we’re setting down the foundation for our future generation and for our kids. And that to me is the motivation to, if we have got challenges with body positivity to really address. As a parent, absolutely.
I mean, these kids didn’t ask to come into this world. We’ve brought them into the world and it’s our job to raise them into functioning adults in society. We’re not raising children, we’re raising future adults, so it is a tough one. My daughter. She can’t wait to have children. She’s 24 this month. She cannot wait to have children.
And she has said though, that she has to wait because mentally she’s not ready yet. She’s got body image issues. She’s got these issues. She’s like, I’m not going to, That’s called generational trauma isn’t. I’m not gonna pass that onto my child, so I need to work on myself first. Oh, what a mature girl. Yeah, it is.
It’s really good. Like Kani said to me, When am I getting my stretch? And that was a moment for me where I was like, Okay, I’m, I’ve done alright. I’ve done all right. It wasn’t like, Oh, I don’t want them, It was when do I get mine? Because I’ve seen mums my whole life and you know, she’ll laugh at my wobbly bum or whatever.
And I laugh too because she’s not trying to insult me. No. And if she says, Oh gosh, you’re your bums fat mum. I’m like, I know. Like it’s not an insult, it’s a describing. And that’s a great reaction. It’s like, no, it’s not in how dare you? It’s just, Yeah. And so what do you think I care right now? Yeah. That makes fat bad, doesn’t it?
Exactly. So I had a friend say to me, You know, I’ve gotta watch what. My child’s eating because, you know, starting to get a bit chunky. And I said, And mm. And she’s like, Well, I don’t want them to get fat. Mm. And I said, Why? And she’s like, looking around. And I said, Why? Because you believe you’ve been conditioned to believe that fat is bad, and that when you were bigger, that it was a bad thing and you felt bad because of the societal pressures pushed upon you.
So rather than change your child’s thoughts around being fat, you’re trying to stop them from being fat. Mm. That’s. What needs to happen? There needs to be fat acceptance and awareness around different body types and not trying to change people’s bodies anymore. You’re just instilling that societal pressure onto your child if their body type is that they’re genetically fat.
So what? It was just a realization for her. She was like, Oh my God. Okay. No, you’re right. I’m instilling my, my feelings of fatness and fat bias onto my child when really I should be teaching them that there’s nothing wrong with a bigger body. Well, this is where. For me, I have a challenge and a challenge that I walk constantly and delicately because I am an exercise scientist, I’m a nutritionist.
I’ve, you know, spent my whole life trying to keep and get people to a stage of healthiness, so I am a hundred percent supportive of body positiv, positivity and of health at any. There is also, there is a truth that heart disease is the number one killer of Australians and the number one cause of heart disease is obesity related illness.
And so for me, I like, you know, if a parent comes and they’re concerned about their child’s weight because their child is overweight, if they are, I don’t think. That there should be a head in the sand and oh, well, we’re just gonna keep feeding them junk food or keep having their lifestyle. But it needs to be framed in a much better way than we have been doing in the past, and that actually is part of the mission of what I am on.
I think I should clarify that it was more about the volume of what her child was eating and her child is not by any stretch of the imagination heading towards obesity, and the food eating that’s being eaten is okay. Like it’s healthy, it’s healthy food and that you can be genetically, We all have different body types and you can be fat and healthy.
Like it doesn’t always, fat doesn’t equal heart disease in every. But yeah, in this particular case, there was a fear of fat. Not for health reasons at all. For appearance only. Yes. I, I’m hearing, Yes. And that is, and you’re absolutely right. And I would’ve done the same thing. Oh, now Nest, I could talk to you all day, but I just would love to ask you one parting tip or comment towards any moms listening now who feel like their self worth and their body positivity is at rock.
What’s one thing she can go and do today to just help her begin to heal? This is something that I do that I find really healing is taking all your clothes off. And standing in front of the mirror and just moving, just dancing. You can get as silly as you want to. You can get as crazy as you want to, but we so often stand in front of the mirror, self-loathing and pick apart things about ourselves.
But if you just s strip down to your absolute raw self and just be in that moment. I find it so helpful and healing to appreciate my body and watch it move and jiggle and not to stand there and, and pull it apart. But in regards to something that everyone can do today, apart from Dancing Naked, I wanna hear about that.
Everyone dance naked, please. Um, it’s going to look different for everybody. For someone, it could be, you know, going for a walk. It could be the journaling, whereas I’m not a journaling person. Give yourself five minutes today just for yourself and acknowledge what you’re feeling. Just acknowledge what you’re feeling.
That in itself is a reminder that you are worthy of time for you. That you are worthy of acknowledging your feelings, and, and then you can do with that what you will, Does something need to be addressed immediately? Can we just let a feeling. Go. Can we just let it pass? Can we just feel it for the day and feel shit for the day and wake up tomorrow and maybe feel a bit better?
But acknowledge it. Don’t push it away. You are worthy of giving yourself that time to acknowledge exactly what you’re feeling. Because I think for me, especially part of that self-worth journey has been pushing it all down. Like, I don’t wanna be a burden on everybody. You know, I am feeling this, I am feeling that I’m gonna push it all aside and keep battling through.
No, give yourself some time today to, to not try and battle through anything. Just feel what you’re feeling and maybe you’re feeling. I hope you are . Wonderful message to leave our listeners with. Thank you so much, Vanessa. Thank you so much for having me. Now to hear more from Vanessa Haleen and other speakers, including Emily Rata, JVs Ski Maria Faletti, Moana, Hope, Amy Shepard, Isabel Manfredi, and much more at Bo.
Jump on over to Bo Fest. It’s on in Sydney on October 8th. Or you can watch it anywhere in the world on demand. Get tickets from bo fest.com.au.