I spent a long time mulling over this image. I debated on posting it and showing the world such a close view of my legs. Anyone who knows me knows how much I dislike that part of my body. For many reasons. From shape and muscular structure, to girth, fat, and how scarred they are. It began from when I was a teenager. I had body dysmorphia even then, although I didn’t know it had a name. I only knew I hated the sight of my (tree trunk) legs and that if I could help it, no one would ever EVER see them.
That continued for many years until I was 26. I had a spurt of post-natal body love and participated in a beauty pageant which necessitated that I parade up and down the runway in a bikini (I know I know but it was an interesting experience). After that concluded, I retreated back into my shell. More than 1.5 decades were to pass before I, at the age of 40, felt they were sufficiently toned from working out that I could “bare” (and bear) them in capris. Big step for me. Until 2 years later, in 2014, when I began a 3-year long period of unexplained rash and hives. Peppered with bouts of Angioedema. All of which required local steroid shots to treat, at times numbering over 80 in a single sitting. Shots which left, in their wake, so many scars that my legs were beginning to look a lot like the rough, speckled surface of Mars.
I was devastated.
Now, it’s been 3 years, and whilst I still do need the occasional localised steroid shot, frequency has dwindled from every other day to 4, 5 times a year. And for that I am grateful.
But it does not take away from how my legs look. Rather, my right leg. Although it’s still scarred, my left has been spared for the most part. The rash (caused by Systemic Lupus Erythematosus or SLE, I was diagnosed with it in May 2015) seemed to be particularly fond of the right shin. Oh, and there are also the scars/keloids from (a) a motorcycle accident when I was a teenager as well as (b) incision scars on my kneecap from a micro-fracture surgery in October 2014.
Yes, I went back to wearing pants and skirts and dresses. Long ones. And at the gym, pulling my capri workout pants as low as they would possibly go to hide the scars. Hide. Hide. Hide.
Which is why this photo here is a big step for me. And although some poses have me covering my right with my left, you’ll see in some other shots, a full-tilt frontal display of the scarred shin. This isn’t the first time I’ve shown them. A while back, in February, I wore a miniskirt which, to be perfectly honest, shared the shit out of me. And after I saw the photos, I swore I’d never ever do it again. My hatred for my legs was renewed with a vengeance.
True. I didn’t know how else to style this gorgeous ruffled denim jacket, and it IS a sponsored item of clothing so I have an obligation and responsibility to showcase it in the best possible light. At the same time, I look at these photos and I still don’t like what I see BUT I think I hate what I see a little less. Perhaps by 5%. I don’t know. It’s not something easily quantified. And it could very well change tomorrow, the next 10 minutes, depending on how quickly I find myself in an unflattering position. But as of right this very moment, I am 5% ok with how my legs look.
I spent the last half hour trying to come up with a suitable closing para to this and my mind is blank. I suppose it’s because this isn’t the sort of issue one writes about and then makes a concluding statement on what’s next. It’s one of those things that oscillate from here to there and back again, depending on how our day has progressed, isn’t it?
One thing though. I’m not writing this because I feel sorry for myself. Or want validation because I know it has to all come from within me to be lasting. I’m writing this because body dysmorphia is something I’ve struggled with for a very long time, and I’m continuing to struggle with it on an hourly basis.
I look in the mirror and I still see an elephant. I still see a woman who went from tiny to massive, and who, as a result thereof, had to use a cane to walk for the most part of 2015/2016. Who went on to become a recluse. Not leaving the house for almost two years. Who wouldn’t let anyone outside of the family see her, making up excuses to not attend important school events and activities, missing birthday celebrations. Who still purchases XL clothes because that’s how she sees herself.
I know it’s in my head.
And I want it out of my head.
One hour I’ll feel that I’ve made major progress, building muscle, shedding fat and toning up. And the next? I’ll be hating the crease near my armpit or cursing that fold under my chin which stubbornly refuses to go away despite having lost 80lbs. Even now, when I sit on the couch, I cover my midriff with a blanket because, well, it looks like the midriff of a bloated whale. To me.
I’m writing this because I hope that it will help me. I think it will. And maybe if others feel the same way, it could be of some use to them too. But mainly I’m writing this for me. I’m not even completely certain I’ll post this. I share a lot of myself, it’s true, but this is very personal even for me. Nobody likes to admit to having insecurities, or that something’s wrong. Particularly when it’s something wrong in our minds. The world at large tends to respond far more favourably to physical ailment than it does to mental and emotional.
If you’re reading this, then it means that for better or for worse, I clicked on the Publish Now button. And that I truly do believe writing is my therapy. What’s yours?
p/s my photos are by Sofia Touassa
I link up here.
By the first picture I only thought: I want to stare for hours at those shoes! But the whole outfit is great and I haven’t seen a more fabulous denim jacket then that one! I hope this post will help you accept your legs more!
It’s not an easy struggle is it, Sheela? I know my mom still refuses to wear her skirts without hose (except when I make her for the blog) because of some veins showing. Yet when it comes right down to it, I think we are our own worst critic.
And truly (with sincere honesty) I would have never noticed anything bad about your legs. Heck—my scar is front and center and unless I wear a paper bag over my head, I’ll never be able to cover it!! So here’s to scars and imperfections!! They make us wonderfully unique and lovely!!
Impressive booties! and then we can enjoy the explosion of colors in this outfit! Great!
I actually wouldn’t have noticed until you said something, but I know that what our brains make us think other people will see depends solely (for the most part) on what our brain thinks we see, and we are (for the most part) our worst judges. I know because I do the same thing. I have the blanket of cover up and the opaque tights and the mumu-style clothing I favour because I think hiding is easier than showing. I’m so proud of you for pressing the Publish Now button. Writing is carthetic. Sometimes I wonder if we make it worse for ourselves by participating in this phenomena that fashion blogging has become, but actually we have to keep going even though the street and the individual and the ‘normal’ view is being made ‘perfect’ and ‘idealised’. We don’t face our fears but only watching and not participating (something I’ve done a lot lately). Thanks for this inspiring post.
You look great Sheela. And you have showcased the jacket perfectly. All I can see is beauty and a lady that sure knows her stuff. It’s funny how you see one thing and us another. I guess I feel very similar sometimes too. xx
I see beauty and strength in your legs, and thank you for sharing them with us. Just for today, let’s tell ourselves that we are just right, just as we are. xox
You have a beautiful style Sheela! Please keep it up as you’re inspiring so many of us who are also struggling with our body image. Thanks for sharing this beautiful outfit at the Moda Thursday linkup!
I think your legs look great! Muscled and toned. It is always amazing how we see ourselves vs how others see us. I think we are our own worst critics. Love how you styled that jacket and those shoes!
Sheela, we all suffer shades of insecurities like this from time to time. And I also think that body dysmorphia is much more common than we know. I think you look fabulous here and am so proud that you managed to lose 80lbs – that’s a huge achievement! My advice to you is to try to be kind to yourself. Imagine that it’s your darling daughter and how you would pour love onto her – now let that love shower down over your beautiful body.
Your honesty strikes a chord with me and I admire you so much for that.
Isn’t it a tragedy that we cannot see ourselves the way that others see us? Or that we cannot see in ourselves that which we see in others? I am by no means trying to offer validation because as you said, it has to come from within. But do you know what I see? Strong beautiful legs carrying a woman who is not only physically beautiful, but who also has a beautiful soul. And do you know what else I see? Legs that look very much like mine. Both structurally and cosmetically. I have thick muscular calves for one so petite; they are also scarred and my right one is terribly veiny from a knee surgery when I was younger. And do you know what else? I’ve always hated them, but now I’m thinking…if my legs are so very similar to Sheela’s and I love hers, why can’t I start loving my own? Something to think about I suppose…
We are so hard on ourselves and need to start seeing ourselves as others do. You look gorgeous and are rocking this look! I’m obsessed with those shoes!
Doused in Pink
I understand where you’re coming from. I myself have struggled with body image especially as a teen and into my early 20s. I still have those doubts that creep in. I look at your pictures and see a confident women who wears what she likes and comes across as confident in her skin. Those pictures of you you with your legs showing or not comes across the same way. We can pick ourselves apart best because we are our own worst critic. Here’s to scars, self kept secrets, insecurities and confidence. We can be all those at the same time.
You look stunning. I love the different floral prints in your look. So unexpected, but chic. Thanks for linking up to Top of the World Style.
I totally feel you in this post! So glad you are feeling the fear and doing it anyway. I barely see any scars and I think your legs are fabulous! I have some things in my head and this post really helped me. Love the shoes and dying over the gorgeous floral dress. I love your daring style Sheela!
Fabulous combination . Great pair of pins and you can tell you have worked on them , great definition. Go girl ,from Manchester england.
I have muscular legs too and have often felt the same way! I’m getting past it these days too and it helps to have pretty shoes! Love this look on you and this honest post!
cute & little
Girlfriend, these boots are too fierce. I love ’em!
And you are so brave + honest in this post; you have some serious HEART and strength, lady. Thank you for being so open- and you keep rockin’ short skirts whenever you like because you are beautiful!
Le Stylo Rouge
I only see a very beautiful and brave woman, one with great a great sense of style.
I know how you feel Sheela, I dislike my own legs intensely – I have what we call “cankles.” But honestly, your legs look great in those amazing shoes. Gail x
Such a beautiful and honest post, Sheela. To me, you are beautiful inside and out. Your legs are telling a story and hence they are beautiful! Remember real beauty always comes from the inside and not what society thinks beauty is.
Writing is my therapy too. I’ve been writing in a journal since I was in middle school, and boy does it help me. You are such an excellent writer and I always enjoy stopping by to read your posts. Thank you for your honesty, and let me just say – you look absolutely gorgeous and I’m glad you decided to post these pics!
Great look, I love your boots. They are amazing 🙂
Writing is a great form of catharsis. Put it out in the universe and I bet a lot of people will relate to your experiences. I have some scars from a car accident last year on my legs. They’re part of me now and part of any future posts I do. My legs were never perfect (dark knees, lots dark hair which cause dark roots after shaving, short, stubby and chubby), but I gotta embrace what I’ve got, right?
I’ve always been critical of my physical appearance – in my 20s it was debilitating at times – but slowly, over the years, I’ve become more confident. I’m still not keen on my sturdy legs but I’m tired of self criticism, it achieves nothing. Letting go and accepting is liberating. Chances are, nobody else is noticing those things that bother us so much. You have great legs and you always look amazing. Fabulous shoes too!
we are all different because there is no mold. we all bear scars from the challenges we’ve faced in life and they become part of the story of who we are. there should be no shame or self-hatred, only pride for persevering and meeting those challenges fiercely. thank you for courageously sharing this part of yourself.
PS – that jacket is to die for!
No need to be conscious about your legs! They are beautiful and thank you for overcoming your hesitation with showing them. The shoes are fabulous and you just look great overall!
I think we all have parts of our body which we are insecure about. For me, it’s my arms – I never wear sleeveless clothing because of how much I hate them. I love that you owned your insecurity and chose to post these pictures anyway. You are fabulous and an inspiration!
Oh darling, and here am I admiring you for still dressing up (and so beautifully) when you were sizing up. And still blogging about it. I never knew you retreated in real life. How strange you kept blogging.
Yes you are right, it is in your head. Like an anorexia patient, nearly dieing, sees a fat person in the mirror. The mirror shows your perception, not your reflection. Your mind cannot be that impartial.
What we see is a strong, beautiful woman with an awesome style, great clothes which suit her perfectly and the best shoes ever. Do we see a perfect person? Heck no. Do we want to see a perfect person? Heck no. Sooooo boring. A woman showing self confidence and dare and looking as good as you do, is far more interesting and pleasing to the eye. Scars is what we all get growing older. Even my legs are covered with brown spots and scars. I say tough. People see and experienc the whole picture not the details. And it is your character too which makes how people perceive you. Even without knowing you in person, I can tell from your writing, style, expression etc that you are as tough as a rubber ball, determined and soo stylish. You look really good. And I know, that no compliment I give you can solve your questions about yourself. That is up to you.