Those who know this Billy Joel song may well have sung the title to this post in their head! Although the title of the song is technically ‘Just the way you are’ I needed the full line of the song to emphasise my point for this post. If you have heard this song then you won’t need reminding of the first two lines of the song:
“Don't go changing, to try and please me
You never let me down before”
Fans of the original Shrek movie may also recognise these lines as being from the Bonus Karaoke Party after the film. Yet for those who have heard this song or at least these two lines, how many of you actually appreciate what Billy Joel was trying to say?
I could quote the whole song here but I’ll just quote my favourite lines/verses:
“I took the good times, I'll take the bad times”
“Don't go trying some new fashion
Don't change the color of your hair”
“I said I love you and that's forever
And this I promise from the heart
I could not love you any better
I love you just the way you are.”
I always imagined that this was a song sung by a husband to a wife suffering with low self-esteem and/or self-confidence, possibly even a wife suffering with depression who is desperately trying to impress her husband. The husband responds with this beautiful song about how he loves his wife the way she is and how he ‘could not love [her] any better’. It’s a song that should be listened to by anyone struggling with any of these issues and the song has taken a special meaning to me recently. Although I am (happily) single and don’t need to impress a husband/boyfriend, I know the societal pressures of looking your best, keeping up with the latest fashions and trying to imitate the lifestyles of rich and famous celebrities.
The song has taken a special meaning with me recently because I have been thinking a lot about my past self harming behaviour. As I can’t remember the exact date of the last time I self harmed, I will ‘celebrate’ December 1st as being two years without self harming. It’s already great knowing that I haven’t self harmed this year or last year and I am so desperate to keep this no self harm policy going. Unfortunately as those who have self harmed will know, self harm is extremely addictive. Those who have not self harmed or only self harmed once or twice can struggle to understand this but let me tell you, it IS addictive! I still have to be on the look out for anything that could trigger self harm desires off and I still sometimes have to use distraction techniques to avoid self harming if something triggering has slipped through my censor.
So why does a Billy Joel song have special meaning to me recently? Well, one technique I use for ensuring I don’t ever self harm again is to wear sleeveless pyjama tops. Around the house, I will quite often wear the tops without anything over them which leaves my scars on show. I am not happy about my scars and the stretch marks that also cover my arms. In fact, I am not happy about any of my scars or stretch marks which cover my whole body. I have stretch marks in places I didn’t think could be affected by stretch marks! Last year I bought a bottle of Bio Oil in a bid to reduce the appearance of my scars and stretch marks on my arms but I stopped using it a while ago. Despite sticking religiously to my applications twice a day, the scars and stretch marks weren’t fading and I was becoming downhearted. Then a few weeks ago, I heard this Billy Joel song. I can’t even remember where I heard it now but hearing the first two lines suddenly struck a chord with me.
I suddenly thought, “Why should I change my appearance? Why should I hide my scars and stretch marks?” As much as I hate all the scars and stretch marks, the majority of them were caused by my depression and schizophrenia over the last 11 years. Although one of my scars (on my wrist) was done in a bid to kill myself, the rest of them were done in a bid to keep myself safe. I am one of the few people who self harmed to try and reduce the suicidal feelings, so my self harming was actually my way of fighting to stay alive! If someone has open heart surgery in their fight for survival, although they may hate their scar, it’s a symbol of the fight inside them. So going back to my original thoughts, if my scars are the symbol of my fight for survival, why should I hide them?
The majority of the stretch marks that now cover my body appeared because of my drastic and sudden weight gain when I started taking anti-psychotics. I know how lucky I am not to have developed diabetes or other life changing illnesses from the meds I was on and I know I shouldn’t complain about the stretch marks I now have whilst others have diabetes, tardive dyskinesia or worse. Yet they still bothered me until I heard the Billy Joel song a few weeks ago. The fighting spirit in me realised that as well as my scars, I shouldn’t hide my stretch marks either. Yes, they’re unsightly to some but if a person decides to judge me because of my stretch marks then frankly they are not worth knowing!
The fight didn’t stop there. I started thinking ‘Why should I care what others think about my appearance as a whole? If someone is so offended by my appearance that they make no effort to get to know me, then what is the point in knowing them?’ I wish that I had had this epiphany 11 years ago!
So if you are someone who is so insecure in your looks that you make drastic life changes to look perfect (I’m mainly thinking of Eating Disorders here) can you answer these for me: Why do you care what others think about you? Can you not see that in the real world, no one is judged by their appearance despite what you might see on TV, in magazines and on the Internet? Believe me, life is a lot more than the cover you show others; people who are worth getting to know will judge you for the person you are, not by how thin you are, how perfect your hair looks and what you wear. Coming from a person who is 3 stone overweight, covered in scars and stretch marks, has extremely messy, frizzy hair and doesn’t wear make-up, I can tell you that I have still made acquaintances with wonderful people whilst having this appearance and their friendship is worth more to me than the friends I made when I was skinny, scar and stretch mark free and had straightened my hair.
People who are friends with you because of your appearance are not real friends. The models you may see in a magazine who may have a body you aspire to are usually extremely self-conscious and passionately hate their body. I read a magazine article about Geri Halliwell several years ago. She told the magazine about her nude modelling days and how despite having the best body she had ever had at the time, she absolutely hated her body and was extremely self conscious about her appearance. Supermodels may look fantastic and as if they have a great life, but the majority of them don’t. Photoshop is so prevalent in today’s culture that most magazines don’t have any untouched pictures in them. A lot of supermodels in magazines don’t look like supermodels in real life!
Oh and if you’re wondering about why I don’t wear make-up, when I was growing up, my skin was too sensitive to tolerate any make-up, even ones designed for sensitive skin. Once manufacturers had started developing hypo-allergenic at a price that I could afford, I was about 18. I knew how so many girls my age and how so many women years older than me were afraid to leave the house without make-up on and I decided that I didn’t want to live like that. It saves a lot of time and money to not wear make-up plus I never go outside looking like an Oompa Loompa. Maybe you should try a make-up free day someday!
If you want a little confidence boost, listen to the full Billy Joel song I have been talking about in this post! A link to a YouTube video is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bfoNGekrv3I
If you want a little giggle too, the Shrek Karaoke Party with the first two lines of the Billy Joel song can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hj2dz8VcpMI
The part with the Merry Men makes me laugh everytime!