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Ellie Balfe On Breaking Up With Her Ideal Self

Knowing what you choose to listen to, and what you choose to filter out, does more for self-esteem than a lot of things.

Let me tell you about my body... 

My body is a 44-year old female body. My body has grown, birthed and fed two daughters.

My body has been weak and strong, sick and well. My body has grown and changed physically as I have grown and changed emotionally.

The one constant. The one vehicle.

My body fluctuates according to what’s happening in my life, I go up and I go down, hovering around a certain dress size like a moth around a flame.

I have been a size 8 and I have been a size 14. My body is a powerhouse - housing my energy and thoughts and giving action to them. My body is capable and I respect it.

But, I think it’s time that I came clean on something. It’s something I have only recently realised as truth, and that is that I have been on a diet of some sort or another for a large part of my adult life.

Collective insecurity

I have tried the Atkins, the 5:2, the grapefruit diet, clean eating, meal replacement shakes, intermittent fasting, diet pills and the old stalwart; simply not eating.

And, after all that, what can I report? That they all make you lose weight. For sure. But more importantly, they all make you lose your mind.

That level of focus on your body and how it’s not the way you want it to be is borne of a collective insecurity so rife that it has pervaded a lot of female media, a lot of female conversations.

It’s passed along lines of women generationally too, from grandmothers to daughters to granddaughters. All carrying the same legacy of messaging – that they are not good enough, that they are not beautiful unless they look a certain way.

I have felt it. And I won’t lie and say that I still do not. As I write, I am thinking of the fact that in the past year, I have gained a stone – a full stone – and I fight with myself for it not to make me feel bad.

I think of why I have gained a stone and I realise that the past year has held enormous change for me, but that is it entirely positive change. That I have fallen further in love than I have ever been and we are enjoying a new normal; living together, drinking wine, eating great food and hanging out with our kids.

I lifted my previous focus on daily exercise, as I was focused on living this life I have been gifted; using my body for enjoyment and joy. And isn’t that the point?

New Mentality 

As per the cliché, a certain wisdom does arrive with age. It comes around age 40, it doesn’t knock the door down; it sneaks in unannounced and it’s often at odds with a lot of one’s previous thinking.

But arrive it eventually does – the wisdom that delightfully imparts a ‘not-a-fuck-will-be-given’ mentality. Because really, why?

Why have we been allowing ourselves to feel lesser if we gain weight? If our skin is going through a breakout? If our hair is grey, our legs are wobbly, or our eyes less bright?

You know what fixes most things?  Walking in nature, eating healthy food, and drinking water…but also, laughing raucously, crying unashamedly and speaking up for yourself.

Knowing what you choose to listen to, and what you choose to filter out, does more for self-esteem than a lot of things. Self-esteem breeds confidence, and confidence is beautiful.

I take my role as a mother of daughters very seriously and I won’t tolerate them feeling lesser in any way because of out-dated narratives on what is and what isn’t attractive according to someone else’s preferences.

Around my daughters, I won’t speak of diets, of bad hair days, of feeling fat - not on my watch. Around them, I talk of strong bodies not pretty faces; of smart minds, of books, mountains, and potential.

Around them, I won’t talk about the stone I want to lose, but I’m still working on the way I say that to myself. A lot about our bodies is all in our minds. 

Beauty, like happiness, is an inside job. 

For more like this, catch the August issue of Irish Tatler, on shelves now. 

Read More: Ellie Balfe On Curating Her Feed For Integrity + Realness