Love

Valentine’s Day will soon be upon us, that commercial day of love sold to us by companies across the world, online or offline. Telling us to take someone special out for a candlelight meal at an expensive restaurant, buy a dozen red roses for the one our hearts desire or send a card anonymously to one we secretly adore in the hope that they love us much as we do them.

However, do we really need a day to say what our words, thoughts and actions do every day anyway, no matter how unspoken they may apparently be or hidden we try to keep them. Nobody has the right to say we cannot love another due to their gender, racism, beliefs, or ability, as it is their personality ultimately that matters and makes us fall in love with them. That love being like a parent, sibling, friend, or romantic, it is universal but one size does not fit all.

The way we view love now is has changed over the centuries, and is quite different to the our ancestors. In Ancient Greece for example romantic love was not held with the high regard and emphasis we put on it; to them love for friends was considered every bit as special as romantic love. The philosopher Aristotle regarded friendship as a lifetime commitment to mutual welfare, in which two people become “second selves” to each other.

The idea of unconditional love, which is a fairly modern concept. Love was been seen in different ways by philosophers until then: for example Plato saw it as conditional on the other person’s beauty; Aristotle emphasised another’s virtues; for St Augustine it was their goodness; and for Rousseau it was their moral authenticity. It was during 18th century Enlightenment philosophers suggested unconditional love on others rather than god.

We almost expect someone that said “I love you” to mean that they loved us unconditionally and accepted us for who we are. However, when someone says to us they love us but just as a friend we feel it is a second rate love as will never have that romantic love with them. To me for a friend to acknowledge their love for me is truly special as mean I matter to them and that is every bit as important as romance. Having a loyal and trustworthy friend counts for so much, and never know what it may blossom into.

© Fi S. J. Brown

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Becoming a swan

Philosophers for hundreds of years have debated what is beauty; yet today any magazine, newspaper or website I open seems to think they know what it is and not always agreeing! However, the images they use are manipulated so much that the average Joanna or Joe look nothing like that and there is nothing wrong with them being how they look. Ironically, even the people in the images look a shadow of these images supposedly of them.

I’ve grown tired of the masks that they say we need to make ourselves beautiful they are but colourful chemicals, which may enhance but do not create beauty. I don’t spend hours doing make up (I next to never wear any) or manipulating images of me I post. As they are me at that moment in time, like the landscapes and nature shots I take, so why treat myself differently from the beauty I see in the world or alter me to be something or someone else?

So this is me on an early Saturday evening in June 2016, pondering from my bedroom window. I chose black and white as I prefer it to colour and at times as emphases not detracts. I have had many nasty and hurtful comments said about me in the past that I wore like scars and boils on my face. However, this is now, the me that doesn’t care; for I know as with ‘the ugly duckling’, a swan emerges and glides off into the sunset, leaving behind the past and on to tomorrow’s whispers wherever they may lead her.

© Fi S. J. Brown

The art of being me

On Friday morning I sat for an hour in an art gallery looking at a sea of paintings of people from times past; a few were of religious significance to the Christian faith, others were special commissions to show the sitters proclaimed importance and others were of a person in the crowd watching an event unfold around them. I considered how times had changed as saw people around me reaching for their mobile phones to take selfies of themselves with paintings they liked as captured themselves in that moment. I opened my sketch book and started to think on how I would draw me, with the opening lines of the Ben Folds’ Five song Best imitation of myself playing in my head.
In times past I would have drawn an ogre with big ears and nose, as thought with all the laughing and pointing to comments on how ugly I was that must be a fair representation of how the world saw me. I sometimes wish I had MC Escher’s talents, as love Hand with reflecting sphere as to me it is the ultimate self portrait but it is way beyond my drawing ability as an artist. However, as drawings are highly subjective, unlike photographs that are regarded as non-subjective as fixed in time and space, it made me question who I am at that moment looking at these great works of art.
I have learnt to appreciate, respect and love the woman I am but in my head at first it was more like a cubist portrait by Pablo Picasso, for example Woman in hat and fur collar and The weeping womanIt was then I saw a rag doll image in the style of Picasso enter in my mind, so it was that I focused on as I began to draw. As I drew the form became less rag and Picasso more patchwork one. For each patch was something that had happened in life (good and bad) in the past (be it yesterday, last month or over three decades ago) that has left an impression on the person I am today, stitched together with love, respect and appreciation of those closest to me.
I also acknowledged whilst drawing that I have faults,  I am not perfect, but then again what or who is? I smiled as thought of the Japanese aesthetic of Wabi Sabi, which is  sometimes described as one of beauty that is imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. The paintings around me had looked so perfect at first glance and thought of modern popular culture pictures, which are heavily stylised and edited to create images of people that are unrealistic. In the same way I would never know how realistic these paintings were of the people in them and how much was to the artist’s interpretation of the person(s) there in.
As I finished my drawing I decided it belonged only in my sketch book and not have a life beyond the book as not everything we see or do needs the world to see it. For art to me is a personal way of telling the story in heart and soul, life’s journey at that moment in time, giving it voice, sound and colour. Thus, perhaps in time I may paint a picture that looked more like those in the paintings in the gallery, but knew the one in my sketch pad was just as beautiful because it represented some things nobody could take away from or replicate if drawing or painting a portrait of me, as was me by me.
© Fi S. J. Brown

The Ego Trick

For the last few days I have been reading contemporary philosopher Julian Baggini’s book The Ego Trick, in which he poses the following questions: Are you still the person who lived fifteen, ten or five years ago? Fifteen, ten or five minutes ago? Can you plan for your retirement if the you of thirty years hence is in some sense a different person? What and who is the real you? Does it remain constant over time and place, or is it something much more fragmented and fluid? Is it known to you, or are you as much a mystery to yourself as others are to you? I found the questions ones similar to many I had myself in recent years about myself and changes I felt I had experienced. They also reminded me of early 20th century philosopher Rudolf Steiner’s Stages of life, which I had previously considered in my post on the meaning of life. I decided to look back on my life and the changes I felt had happened but had they really happened, was I now the swan not the ugly duckling?

I thought back 20-25 years ago during my teenage years, as I hid in my high school library from the bullies surrounded by books for company with one thing that always stuck out – the Greenpeace leaflets that sat on the librarian’s desk. I knew of Greenpeace as watched the evening news nightly, preferring it over the Australian soap opera Neighbours. Combined with my occasional discussions with my great uncle, winning prizes for my writing against CFCs, and reading Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, my interest in the environment and natural world was very much the teenage me. I also got into trouble, not with my teachers but my mother, for drawing peace symbols against war and nuclear weapons to anti-animal testing doodles on my chemistry to religious education notebooks; issues which even now I feel strongly about and would draw them again. Equally, I’d spend my evenings listening to or practising playing music for bands and orchestras, as well as enjoying writing when I could, and questioning to myself the world around me. Therefore, on some level I am still the same as my teenage self with her passions and interests, but have I changed at all?

However, despite my passions and interests noted above, my school and family pushed me away from three of the subjects I excelled at and loved the most – music, Latin and French, and towards chemistry with biology. I found the sciences interesting to an extent but not the laboratory time, it didn’t quite grab me the same and often went wrong! One time doing an experiment connected to a computer, the whole thing had to be abandoned as the computer broke down and was unable to be retrieved…I joked to my teacher it was a sign I shouldn’t be studying chemistry. Yet if you look at my university qualifications you will see my undergraduate degree was a mix of both biology and chemistry, my first masters is in environmental analytical chemistry, second masters is in archaeology and PhD is in geography…not bad for the girl they bullied and called stupid! I tried to convince myself every year that I enjoyed being in the laboratory but quite simply I was fooling myself, I considered giving up during my second year undergraduate as felt so unme, but not one to give up I kept going. My current eyes see it as a form of emotional self harm, which is why I will probably never work in a laboratory ever again in this life time (or I hope not to)!

The last few years since my PhD I have been considering where my life is going and what I want out of it beyond my three desires (a place to call home, a dog for company and to be happy). Realising that my love of the environment and the natural world is still as big as my teenage self, so often photograph and/or write about it here, equally my love of writing has come to become something beyond what I could ever have imagined. Yet, I do not feel the same woman who looked down the microscope counting proxies of charcoal, seeds, bryzoans, ostracods and daphnia ten years ago; she would draw and daydream what she saw, trying to make the data visual from her mind to the paper and not in numerical form. I feel a sense of freedom now that I am finally being true to myself – the woman I have learnt to love, appreciate and respect, is a quirky creative not a mad scientist. I also know how often I am the person people turn to for help as have an unjudgemental ear, caring shoulder and arms happy to hug, leading others and myself to question if I should not be a counsellor or perhaps speech and language therapy due to my voluntary work with adults with aphasia. I am currently putting the foundations down to try go that path as feels like I’m being deafened by the screams!

Therefore, I do and do not agree on being the same person as I was before. Part of me is the same that has always been there, deep thinking to gentle woman and lover of the natural world. However, there are parts of me that I was either to scared to share or did not know they were me. I have also learnt the importance of a select group of friends that love, trust, respect and appreciate you as you do them. A few years ago I hated myself and found the darkness blinding but now see the light of the world’s multisensory being as though a child experiencing it all for the first time. I also feel it is our experiences in life that change us, for good and bad, so we are in a constant change like the constantly changing world, which we are trying to adapt to. This all brings me back to being aware of the present moment, so we perhaps should remember to try not to be who were ten years ago but use those ten years of life experience to be who we are now. Equally, we can make foundations today for where we would like to be in ten years time but a full on plan is impossible as tomorrow is promised to none of us.

© Fi S. J. Brown

The Beautiful Ones

These days it is easy to be hard on ourselves if we do not meet the airbrushed, “perfect” image, we see in newspapers and/or magazines to websites and social media. People that we are told are “beautiful” yet feel the boy in the emperor’s new clothes when realise they are not.

Remember, this is not the world’s view on what is beautiful and/or perfect. In fact perfection is a lie we have been convinced exists, look at flowers in a field or garden, they are all shapes, sizes and colours as we are. Make up or surgery do not enhance beauty, but hide or trap what makes us unique.

Ugly is not a trait of physical beauty but in personality; with greed, envy and jealousy that eats away at them over time. Sometimes it can be seen in the eyes as darkness as it has eaten away at the soul till there is little or none left. Making them blind, unable to appreciate or respect another’s way of being.

It is easy to compare ourselves to others, convincing ourselves they are far more beautiful and/or their lives are easier or better than our own. Stop it now. Few of us know another so well that could make that comparison and in fact only we know the true ourselves. Find, accept and respect them always.

© Fi S. J. Brown

37 – The Life Jigsaw

Last year before turning thirty six I wrote a long reflection on the thirty five years lived, now as thirty seven is within finger counting distance I was asked yesterday what I would want from my next year. As someone that tries to stay focused on the present and thinks of others before herself this is not an easy question, however this is the answer that I have decided.

Life for me is a jigsaw puzzle; each piece shows people that made or make a difference being in it, and events that shaped or coloured our lives, good and bad. Therefore, it shows the bigger picture of what it means to be us and our life. How each shape fits together and the order they show themselves is very much like trying to solve any jigsaw puzzle without the box.

Sometimes we see an outside piece but cannot find a context for it, like a bird flying over a mountain or a bit of a rainbow in the sky, which on their own we may feel make no sense at all. Also, trying to make things work can be putting the pieces in the wrong places in our heads, even when we feel they should go together. So all in all can leave us quite literally feeling puzzled!

So for the next year I feel and would like a key piece to be revealed, as there are several missing. Not my purpose in life per se as feel we all have many purposes that change with where we are and who we are with, as well with the passing of time. I also have some incredible friends that mean a lot to me and fit together. So what will be the missing piece?

To be honest I do not know and nor do I want to know. As much as a few things in life make me wonder why do I bother or feel like the outsider watching in rather than being part of it. I have realised this is just what is “normal” for me and our experiences of life have similarities but equally difference. So bring it on life, I’m ready, tea in hand and passport in bag.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Art therapy 

The German philosopher Nietzsche describes how art can be a force for healing the wounds of emotional trauma. His words illustrate the link that exists between creativity and spirituality. He points to the usefulness of art making as a form of communication that can access the depth of human suffering and in so doing allow the artist to transcend pain and re-experience existence from a new perspective.

As someone that uses creativity as therapy at times I can relate to this. From my earliest years I have been known for my emotional sensitivity, which to those that do not understand call it extreme. Thus it makes sense to express myself in creative form, freedom not from judgement but to be me. For example turning my camera on myself showed me the person not the distorted image the logical part of my brain kept trying to paint as muted the creative part.

From writing to photography and music, or visiting galleries and museums, art continues to help me cope with pains past and present. They give a voice to what I or others cannot say aloud through muted fear to visuals in my mind that paint life as I see it. By being creative I see things from the different perspectives I see in the world; seeing the larger picture of multicolour and multisensory not tunnel visioned to paint it black and white with all being x or y it is often depicted as.

Art to me is self expression using different media to show how life is between the extremes and a snapshot of how life is in our world. So write, paint, photograph, sew or knit wherever and whenever you like, we set the rules not anyone else as it is our life lived our way, warts and all.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Hollywood Love

Movies, who does not want to see the latest blockbuster at the cinema or curl up on the sofa with a loved one to watch one? Well I don’t and I have not been to the cinema in over six years. I do not subscribe to Amazon Instant, Netflix or I love Film as there is nothing that grabs my imagination or interest to say “oh I must make sure to see that” after hearing publicity or friends talk about movies they’ve seen. Certainly when it comes to Hollywood movies it feels like I have seen it all before with the amount of remakes, sequels, prequels and even the new ones have old themes that have been done before, often better, to the point of saturation. So where is the originality and/or creativity?

Is it because the big studios do not want to take risks, rather have a guaranteed income with star names people will go see? Take the current movie about the Suffragette movement in the United Kingdom, I have nothing against Meryl Streep, but why does she have to play yet another iconic Britain (having previously played former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher) when there are many British actresses who could have played the role. The same thing echoed when Renne Zellweger first played Bridget Jones, when I thought of many comedic actresses in the United Kingdom that fitted the roll better. Have a Hollywood name and then can sell the movie not just within the United Kingdom but to America and beyond seems to be the order of the day, as providing the money to pay for the movie to be made and stakeholders want to have a large return on the costs.

However, this post is not about the creativity and/or actors of Hollywood, it is about the way movies portray love. In Ancient Greece romantic love was not held with the high regard and emphasis we put on it, instead love for friends was considered every bit as special as romantic love. The philosopher Aristotle regarded friendship as a lifetime commitment to mutual welfare, in which two people become “second selves” to each other. Where as today when someone says to us they love us BUT just as a friend we feel it is a second rate love as will never have that romantic love with them. So when did this switch begin and what role has Hollywood played in this?

The idea of unconditional love is a fairly modern concept. Love was been seen in different ways by philosophers until then: for example Plato saw it as conditional on the other person’s beauty; Aristotle emphasised another’s virtues; for St Augustine it was their goodness; and for Rousseau it was their moral authenticity. It was during 18th century Enlightenment philosophers suggested unconditional love on others rather than god. Today we would almost expect someone that said “I love you” to mean that they loved us unconditionally and accepted us for who we are. Yet what has influenced this and caused such a shift?

From almost the moment a child is born we read to them fairy tales of a princess and prince meeting after he’s rescued her from horrible existence and they live happily ever after. I should note if you have ever read the original Brothers Grimm versions you will know how sanitised these versions are of the tales, you will never read or see Sleeping Beauty the same way again. Little girls dream of being princesses, sometimes beyond, conditioned to believe one day their prince charming will come to free them the life that traps them. Despite the fact few of us look like the so-called princesses and even fewer are a real life one.

Many Hollywood movies made in the 1980s and 1990s were aimed at the growing teenage market, particularly the so called Brat Pack, depicting how life was in an often exaggerated form to be that age. Girl meets boy, they secretly fancy each other but cannot be together until something happens. However, even when they get together there is a sting that he’s done something she won’t like so they split up until he finds a way to prove to her he loves her unconditionally. Like the fairy tales it is implied that they both lived together happily ever after. Conditioning us further to believe that this is how love is meant to be for teenagers.

The so-called romantic comedies play up the fairy tale notion of love conquering all to be with the one we’re meant to be with against the odds. They are like the teenage movie but aimed at all ages, in particular women. As a woman I am suppose to enjoy these kinda of movies as appeal to my feminine side, where as in reality most movies I enjoy are driven by a good plot and idea(s), particularly those set in the dystopian worlds as feel more realistic than the unrealistic utopian ones the romcoms portray. To me they are saccharine sweet and far from funny but add to a perpetuation of how a female and male are. They also almost exclusively heterosexual.

Another way love is shown in movies is how they show the so-called TRUE LOVE, which is filled with passion, romance, drama, desire, sacrifice, electricity, devotion! This is to typify the unconditional or fairy tale love. They long for the person that completes them or is their soul mate. We are led to believe that this love is everlasting as after all they did live happily ever after at the end of the story/movie, right? When a relationship ends we some times find people say that it was never true love they felt for him or her, which is often false, as what you felt for that person was love, it is the feelings that have changed with time. So yes (s)he really loved us and was true love, but it does not mean it lasts a lifetime for everyone.

Many movies now also have sex scenes, which show us its so called importance within a relationship. Wait stop, why is sex seen as so important these days unless due to us watching movies, TV programs, music videos and the media that have made it such an issue? For some sex is the ultimate expression of love, but in reality it is far from that, a person’s thoughts and actions is what matters not how often they have sex with us. For some it has such an important part of a relationship, a partner that does not want it is seen as weird or frigid, or force them to have it even though they have said no. The partner then looks for it elsewhere, thus affairs behind the back of this person we’re meant to love unconditionally. Many now think nothing of having alcohol and having sex with a complete stranger, which may or may not become a partner/lover in the future.

Some like myself are asexual, we have no sexual desire, but that does not mean we do not enjoy the other aspects of being in a relationship. Even within asexuality there are many differences, it is not an one size fits all definition. Equally for me sex is a trigger, I cannot watch scenes with it on as my head says please stop and I do not want to see that, so I avoid it where I can. Sex is not a dirty thing to me so do not get me wrong, it is more I feel it is something to do with someone we trust and comfortable in the company of, not a throw away line at the end of a night out with friends and the next morning it is like yesterdays newspapers best for wrapping fish and chips.

From observing the relationships of friends and family with those they love it can be seen how it is very much an umbrella term to cover many different ways we can feel about another human being. My closest friends I love unconditionally and will do anything for until my dying day as they have such a special place within me that when I think of them individually and/or collectively that I feel blessed to have them in my life. My sister in law said when she first saw my brother she knew that was the man she wanted to marry, compared with a friend that kept meeting a girl at the school gates, a fellow single mother, neither of which would have called themselves gay or lesbians then but fell in love with the person.

I often feel like the odd one out as see people in relationships and at almost 37 never experienced what it is to be in love. I never had a childhood sweetheart or did the drunken rumble as a student, as not something I looked for or did it call at my door. The one relationship I have had was nine years ago, long distance for nine months, that should have been nipped in the bud; it was a false start from the start as they did not respect me as a person nor would support me back as I was to their needs and wants.

I have had attraction once in my life, but have never told him how I feel, as like the Ancient Greeks friendship to me is just as special as romantic love if not more so. As for Hollywood love vs. real life love, I feel we need to stop being sheep or robots believing that is the way for us all, life is not an one size fits all t-shirt but human sized. Therefore, love is full of different quirks, flaws and idiosyncrasies that are unique to the love we have for the other person and they bring out within us as play out the movie of our lives.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Normal…a redefinition

How a dictionary defines normal can be very different to how as people we do, ask hundred people and you will get a hundred definitions. Equally, ask the same hundred people what they define as abnormal, and you will get the same result. This is because our life experiences to the people we meet adding different colours and layers to how we see the world. With the advent of social media to the cult of celebrity these too add to this perception we have of the world. Seldom do we stop and think of what is normal and/or abnormal and do not question it.

We pass judgement every day; be it how best to serve tea or coffee to how to dress ourselves and the partner we choose to have in our lives (if at all). They all serve as means of self-expression, that is to say they say “this is my way” of living life. The choice of partner you will already have opinions on, some maybe tutting or swearing at the thought anyone may want a partner of the same gender as themselves to choosing not to have a partner at all. So which is the normal way? Simply put all of them are and none of them are.

Even people that claim not to be judgemental make judgements every day, knowingly and unknowingly. So on deciding if another’s choice partner as in the above example is normal or not we are making a judgement, not on morality or ethics but based on our personal sense of normality.

In defining what is normal, we need to look at our own lives, where we make judgements and where others judge us. Whilst doing this we also need to consider not just why we think this way, but what is the root of this belief and why we have these expectations of others and equally ascribe them to ourselves.

Expectations of ourselves and/or others can be due to our families, beliefs, and cultures we grew up in to the ones we find ourselves living in now, which by breaking these can lead to estrangement and even death. Equally, we need to learn not to be hard on ourselves and/or others for failing to live up to these expectations: For example, in some areas of the world you would be expected to be married with at least two children by 21, but we have to remember that may not happen for all and trying not to be judgemental on someone that by 25 is single and a virgin. How can we ascribe the actions or personality of ourselves and/or another normal and/or abnormal just because they are different to our own?

So should the word normal in this case be left like many prejudices and stereotypes be left in the past? Just because we do not agree with, have no knowledge, expect life/another/ourselves to be a certain way, is it really abnormal? Equally, should we expect others to agree with and/or collaborate with our ideas of what is and is not normal? Have they not also got their own, just as valid, ideas and ways of expressing what is normal to them?

Let us return to defining what is normal, a friend once said “it is a function on a washing machine”. Normal in real terms is what is right for us and our journey, trying to conform to the expectations and ideals of others is like wearing our neighbour’s underwear! We also try to put labels on ourselves so can find like minded people, only do this if you must to let them explore your world but remembering not to judge them by our ideas of normal, for we are not them, have not and never will experience their journey their way.

I am currently writing a short book exploring the above themes, to find just what is normal to us, the journey to find what it is but always remembering that one size will never fit all, and finally accepting what we have found, which can be just as difficult as the prejudice we can encounter from others.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Perfect happiness

Does and in what ways appearance and body image – being perfect – is it connected to happiness? A current prevalent assumption is that those who are more perfect will be happier. Many women (and men) judge themselves and others on how much they ‘fit’ the dominant ideal, on how perfect they are, and their sense of self often follows from this. That being perfect connects to being happy is often assumed: ‘if I’m thinner, prettier, sexier s/he’ll love me more’ or ‘if I was ten pounds lighter, I’d be happier with myself and my life would go better’.

The images we are presented with these days from movies, television, magazines and newspapers are real but not real, the people represented in them maybe real but the images are not as have been subject to edits that in some circumstances show someone to be something they are not. Yet even if we know these are not real these are still presented as representations of how a modern woman or man should be. If anyone is not fitting with this view, many often laugh at them in the way some with disabilities were regarded as freaks for a circus in Victorian times, but who are we to act as judge and jury to another we know or don’t for gaining weight but celebrating another losing, when we ourselves are not perfect. This idealisation of being a specific body mass index as in some way it’s a number to show we are within ideals, but it is only a number, like our weight or height, that says nothing about a person’s personality…it really is comparable with shoe size in that respect! By chasing perfection we’re trying to catch a fish with a hole in the net, it is flawed and unrealistic. Looking at a meadow of flowers in spring to the leaves falling from the trees in autumn, all are different shapes and sizes as even within nature nothing is perfect, should that not be telling us something?

We look in a mirror ,sometimes conjuring up images of someone we want to be if only this outer shell was different…if I lost weight, had bigger breasts/muscles, or was a bit taller, I’d be happier…but happier how? Have we actually stopped to think that this shell is just that as it is within that the beauty really is? Some try to say it is “only ugly people say that”, which I think is bollocks, it is only ugly people that say it is about looks only as cannot see beyond the image they see. A person’s beauty shines from within to the outside, but narrow-mindedness and prejudice eats away at this so twists their view of how either gender should look. Happiness is not something we can buy, yet many think by creating a new version of themselves via a surgeon’s knife or buying certain things like “diet” drinks or pills we will be. We’re being brainwashed into believing this image of beauty is the norm and achieving it will bring us happiness, which many wonder why they are failing to find this happiness. Some spend money on “beauty” products but is like adding glitter and stars to a tortoise’s shell, it adds nothing but a bit of colour or a mask to hide the real us from the world.

For the last five years I have been on a journey of not just self-discovery but self love, appreciation, respect and understanding. I thought I truly was ugly compared with my peers and the world around me, being laughed at and mocked. I had thought since I was 18 I was the love child of Frankenstein and the Hunchback of Notre Dame, but I never resorted to surgery or pills to change it as I could not look in the mirror and I realised I was “stuck” like this for the rest of my life. However, between 2008-2009 I had lost weight to the extent I looked ill, I had people at my work place concerned for my well being, and I knew deep down the key to happiness was not my weight, it certainly had not helped my self confidence in feeling sexier or prettier. With the advent of selfies becoming more and more the norm, I turned the camera on to myself, and asked “is that really what I look like!?” I realise now I am not ugly or unloveable, I am just me, which may not grace the covers of magazines or newspapers, be a famous musician or movie star, but who really wants to be with people constantly judging your every bad hair day and weight gain.

When we make the image of ourselves in our heads it is not what to outside world sees, in fact as I learnt many are just hoping that nobody is laughing at them. Anyone who imposes how another should look be they are magazine or partner deserves a slap on the face, only we truly know what our shells of a body can and cannot do and these are not representations of the people we see about our streets. Furthermore, if someone is slimmer or larger than normal we should not be jealous of the slim one who maybe trying to gain weight just as the larger one maybe trying to lose it. We should not change who we are to fit among the “cool” gang by altering our personality, this also applies to our outer shell. By chasing these ideals we’re trying to throw off our shell like it was a layer of an onion and reveal a new one but humans the layers are inside not outside.. Equally, we’re not robots that are programmed to be one thing, we’re filled with emotions that different things trigger different ones, we’re pieces of art that our behaviour and actions paint the person we are beyond the initial image of our shell. Finally, we are part of the natural world, we are beautiful because of our imperfections not despite them, think of a four leaf clover that is said to be lucky but the majority have only three, its beauty is in its difference and imperfectness.

© Fi S. J. Brown