I accept the challenge!

You know, I love a good book. A couple hundred pages to properly get lost in. But... I love a good blog just as much. Unbrave Girl's blog falls into my "good book/blog" category (I don't really make a difference there, as long as it's a good read). Long, rambly, funny blog posts that have made me miss my bus to work, arrive late to a meeting with a friend, miss my Luas stop and forget all about my dinner. I've no regrets though, a good read must be given the appropriate attention - always. My dad taught me that lesson long before I knew how to talk back.

Last year, I was fortunate enough to meet the lovely Sally of Unbrave Girl in Shanghai of all places. We spent my birthday together and let my boyfriend take care of trivial matters such as hailing a cab, organising tickets to the Oriental Tower and paying for dinner. What? Don't look at me like that! It's not like I didn't try to give him money, he wouldn't take it. If he doesn't want it, well then that's not my fault. He's since got better though. He graciously let me pay for the petrol for his new car in February this year. I filled up his tank three times, it was about RMB340 each time...and you wonder why I didn't bring back any presents. All my cash got converted to liquid and then it went out of the exhaust. While we're at it, I also paid for some of the food shopping and for my fish's new clothes. Honestly, I'm an awesome girlfriend! There's no disputing that...

But I'm going off topic again. I don't want to disappoint you though, since I do generally go off topic at least once in every blog post I write.

Back to the subject at hand. I really enjoy reading Sally's blog posts. They are funny, mostly light-hearted and they make me laugh, but her latest post "The No Body-Snark Diet and Full-Length Photo Challenge" especially rang a bell with me because she's right. 100% spot on. I really believe we spend too much time looking at things we're not happy with which leaves us with no time to look at the things we actually are happy with.

I for one am not happy with my weight. Never have been. I've tried hard to change it and when I first came to Ireland I'd pretty much succeeded. I was happy with what I'd archived. It took two stints in a clinic for weight loss management, loads of salad and tons of exercise to get there. I didn't turn myself into a beanstalk but a healthy, fit as a fiddle young girl ready to tackle life in a new country.

Summer 2005

Then I started my first job...an unbelievable opportunity for a naive 18-year-old girl, dabbling in expat life for the first time ever. I was working for a huge, international company, got to meet loads of people from different cultural backgrounds and paths of life. I got completely wrapped up in the job and wanted to show my manager that I really deserved the opportunity I'd been given. I worked all the overtime I was asked to, got up at the crack of dawn every morning to be in work on time and always went the extra mile. My ambition came at a high price. Canteen food, late night junk food, tons of coffee, chocolate... All the years of hard work, it went down the drain. The clothes sizes got bigger, I got unhealthier and more and more unhappy.

I stopped sharing photos of myself and went as far as having a hissy fit at anyone who even just tried to take a picture of my face. My standard excuse was: "Don't take a picture of me, the camera will break." I joked about my weight, my pancake-like face just to show everyone that whatever they were thinking or saying behind my back, it didn't bother me.

What a pathetic lie! Of course it bothered me, it always did. I just never let anyone see that it did bother me. I tell you, I'm really good at falling apart when I'm all alone but when I'm around friends and family I always put on a brave face.

Throughout the last couple of years I tried really hard to control my weight but I never quite managed. I didn't stick with the exercise or the healthy food long enough to make it work. I just didn't have the energy to go through all that 'crap' again. I'd already spend so much time convincing myself that I wouldn't succeed anyway that I saw no point in trying...again. Instead I just continued with the jokes and making fun of myself. You know, why not? If I do it, it doesn't hurt so much.

What a foolish girl! I wasted so much time growing an elephant-thick skin instead of taking a good hard look at all the beautiful assets I do actually have. Enough of that. I am not allowing myself (or anyone else for that matter) to make fun of me. It hurts and I won't hurt myself again or let anyone hurt me. I am beautiful and if you don't see it, well then you can take a hike!

I've beautiful hair, it's full, shiny and sparkles almost as bright as a diamond in the sun. I also have beautiful eyes. Officially they are hazelgreen but there's amber, blue and a smokey kind of grey in them. My fish once spend an hour gazing into my eyes and he still couldn't make up his mind about their colour. Anyone who spends that much time looking at you must think you're beautiful and for a good reason too! Actually, I really do have to thank my fish. It's because of him that I woke up and saw the light. From the get go he always told me I'm beautiful and I never doubted him. There was such sincerity in his eyes, I had no reason to doubt them.

That's why I am, like Sally wrote, putting a stop to the harsh self-criticism. There's justified, healthy criticism and then there's the unhealthy kind, which I've wasted too much time on. I'm officially tossing that kind out of the window. I am who I am and I want to change but I will do it at my pace, a healthy pace, and no-one has the right to insult me along the way. Your snarky comments are not welcome and I won't stand for them. I don't need those kind of people in my life. Genuine concern for my well-being, I'll always welcome, but anything else? NO.

Should I ever relapse and make stupid comments about my body and figure, my friends and family are allowed to take a heavy book and hit me over the head with it. Like my dad always said: Kleine Schläge auf den Hinterkopf erhöhen das Denkvermögen! (Gentle pats on the back of the head raise your ability to think.)

So there's that. Here's to a new me. Incidentally I've lost quite a lot of weight recently and I'm on a mission to be healthy and happy and as my flatmate would say: I don't give a rat's ass what anyone thinks about me!

So on that note, I accept your challenge, Sally, and here are some full body photos of myself. Thank you for your wake up call!

Enjoying spring in Stephen's Green Park, Dublin

A night out with friends in Koblenz, Germany

Eating ice-cream and shopping for wedding dresses in Germany

A new dress

Enjoying the sun in Dublin