Health and Wellbeing, My head

Why I look more lovely at 38 than when I was 20.

February 26, 2015

me 20

I look back at pictures of myself at 20 and I see a young lady who was pretty cute.

I was 10 kilos lighter than I am now, and my skin was mostly flawless. There were no gentle lines at the sides of my eyes that smile for a minute longer than I do, nor was there any scarring on my chin from post-breatfeeding acne.


Exhibit A…. laughed a lot to earn these puppies.

There was no pigmentation from pregnancy, just smooth young skin, that I treated with utter disrespect, regularly wearing make up to bed and rarely wearing sunscreen. All this aside, I look more lovely now and I’m not speaking with an ounce of vanity.

At 20 my boobs sat high and proud on my chest. I’d whip them out at the drop of a hat because I was quite proud of them, and most likely drunk and disorderly.

This tall, slim dark eyed girl I see looking at me in photos was cute, no doubt, but the tragedy of the situation was I didn’t like or respect myself worth a scrap.

I didn’t know my worth.

I was only so slim because I didn’t eat for at least 3 days a week. Thursday to Sunday I took a massive amount of drugs and I danced virtually non-stop. How I held a job remains a mystery to this day.

I had a ball…Don’t get me wrong.

I can barely remember a thing for about a good 5 years there, but I know it was cray-cray fun.

I think about my kids partaking in this manner of cray-cray and my skin wants to crawl straight off my skeleton.

By the time I was 21 I had had couple of boyfriends who did considerable damage to my self esteem, so between the violence and the drugs and the emotional abuse I actually didn’t think very highly of myself at all.

I could have looked like a friggin’ super model but nothing would have made me see anything in the mirror that reflected anything light. I reflected broken fragments like a shattered mirror.

The years following I traveled a lot, and there were eating issues, and my weight yoyo’d and then I had kids, and I guess I grew up and realised that although I will always be somewhat vain, my external appearance actually comes from the inside.

Our external appearance actually comes from the inside.

I started reading the children Roald Dahl’s The Twits. It’s “a little bit scary” so we’ve swapped to James and the Giant Peach, but a wonderful quote of his tumbled out from Chapter 4, the introduction of the horrible Mrs Twit.

“If a person has ugly thoughts it begins to show on the face. And when that person has ugly thoughts every day, every week, every year, the face gets uglier and uglier until it’s so ugly you can hardly bear to look at it.

A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick out teeth but it you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”

roald dahl quote

The fact is I don’t look that much different. A little older, with body parts located in slightly more southern locales, but the simple truth to why I look better than I did those 17 years ago, is because I now love myself.

I train really hard, and I eat really well, and those things help to quiet my monkey mind because my stuff will always be there on some level buried as deep as Inception, but my internal thoughts and feelings towards myself are now mostly shiny reflections.

I still get anxiety and I still stress about spots but I’m kinder to myself than I have ever been.

I’m proud of myself and to be able to say that loud and proud is an achievement in itself.

One of the questions I ask my portrait subjects is “what’s something you have done in your life that you’re proud of” and some people think long and hard and scratch their metaphorical chins, and others blurt some amazing moment, without a moment’s hesitation, where they lived to their fullest.

It’s not about age or experience its about being able to quickly reflect back and say ‘I did this, and I owned it.”

When I was 20 I would have scratched my metaphorical chin. I did have a swathe of things to be proud of, but I wonder if I would have been able to quickly draw on them. If I met me now, and I pointed my camera in my face, I would still scratch my chin.

Not because I would now struggle to think of something, but because I would struggle to pick just at 38


What’s something you have done in your life that you’re proud of?

Please tell me. It will make me smile.



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  • Reply raphaela February 26, 2015 at 7:46 am

    Love this so much! So true, we grow lovelier as we grow older and feel comfortable in our skin. xxx

    • Reply Danielle February 26, 2015 at 1:49 pm

      Amen, sister

  • Reply Renee Wilson February 26, 2015 at 7:53 am

    Such a great read! I think the biggest thing I’ve noticed as I’ve gotten older is that I respect myself way more than I did as a young sprocket. As a partying 20 something I didn’t respect myself, I let people treat me terribly and make decisions for me. I’m more confident in myself now and love myself for who I am.

  • Reply Kelly Exeter February 26, 2015 at 7:57 am

    Beautiful post Dannielle.

    Hmm – something in life I’m proud of? I think, in general, getting the most out of myself/not being afraid to ‘do the work’. With things like triathlon and writing – I had/have talent, but not lashings of it. But they were/are two things I decided I wanted to be good at, so I’ve worked very hard at them over the years and any achievements that have come about have been very satisfying because those achievements have always been about the work.

    • Reply Danielle February 26, 2015 at 1:49 pm

      I love that… I had talent but I had to work at it. That’s a great life lesson for anyone.

  • Reply Emily @ Have A Laugh On Me February 26, 2015 at 10:26 am

    I’m proud of the way I have risen above some negative interactions with people I have thought were friends. It’s taken me WAY too long to realise their approval didn’t matter. A much happier me am I!

    • Reply Danielle February 26, 2015 at 1:48 pm

      I’ve been trying to formulate a post about exactly that…. I think it takes maturity and releasing ego to let it go. Happier you is awesome you, Ems. You know it x

  • Reply Ana February 26, 2015 at 10:46 am

    Brilliant post. I absolutely never had any kind of self confidence, apart from always just knowing in my marrow that I’m a bloody excellent mum. I’m still working on proud, I’ve taken a beating emotionally from my parents in recent years and it’s shaken me deeply. But taking baby steps to feel proud, definitely.

    • Reply Danielle February 26, 2015 at 1:48 pm

      It saddens me to hear of parents not being supportive and bringing their children down. Do your best, be kind to yourself, and never listen anyone who makes you feel less than spectacular.

  • Reply Megan Blandford February 26, 2015 at 10:54 am

    I love this, and I think of my past self in a similar way. I’m so much happier now.

    The thing I’m proudest of about myself is moving past the expectations of others and of myself, and doing what I really want to do in my life. Freedom!

    • Reply Danielle February 26, 2015 at 1:47 pm

      That’s an awesome achievement. Definitely worthy or great pride.

  • Reply Sonia from Sonia Styling February 26, 2015 at 1:39 pm

    I bloody love you, you spunkrat. I’m proud of my body for getting me through 5 years in a back brace during adolescence and surviving major spinal surgery at the age of 15. I’m proud of my spirit for bending, but not breaking and helping make me who I am today. x

    • Reply Danielle February 26, 2015 at 1:46 pm

      That’s a cracker. I’m proud of you too…. in so many ways.

  • Reply Nicole- Champagne and Chips February 26, 2015 at 4:28 pm

    Oh you are a wise soul. I’m still working really hard at the liking me bit. I am really kicking some goals with the ‘being the kind of person I want to be’ bit though.
    The thing I’m most proud of is when I helped a patient, being treated for “psychosis” in the hospital. It’s a very long story but I realised that her “psychosis” was coming from a place of paralysing fear and got a friend of mine who spoke her language along to find out what was going on. I really feel that I was partially responsible for ‘saving’ her, up until that point her chance of being transferred to a psychiatric hospital were very high and there’s no telling how things could have turned out.

    • Reply Danielle February 26, 2015 at 6:21 pm

      Jesus, dude, that’s something to be mega proud of. Intuitive and empathetic. Two wonderful traits.

  • Reply Emma February 26, 2015 at 6:07 pm

    I just completed Army Recruit training for 4 weeks at age 38. Yep left my husband and kids for 30 days and kicked it’s arse!

    • Reply Danielle February 26, 2015 at 6:20 pm

      Boom!!! I love that. Well done, Mama!!

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  • Reply Jules February 27, 2015 at 12:15 am

    Great post. I was the shy quiet teenager with no self esteem who moved out of home way too young after many years of being told I was stupid. Completed my teaching degree with the support of my awesome hubby with Four kids under 10.

    • Reply Danielle March 2, 2015 at 10:46 am

      I just saw this…. you should be so proud of yourself because that’s one hell of an achievement!

  • Reply Shell Parsons February 27, 2015 at 10:40 am

    Oh Danielle….I have just discovered your blog via the divine Kelly Exeter’s Facebook post. What a beautiful post. As a woman in her late 40’s I too have many bits of me pointing south. I am heavier than I’ve ever been but I am also “more me” than I’ve ever been. We need to truly embrace the beauty that is uniquely ours. Our inner beauty and joy is what puts the light in our eyes, and if that turns into smile lines, I am proud to wear them. I absolutely adore your line ” I reflected broken fragments like a shattered mirror.” That line is too exquisite for words. What am I proud of? I am proud of the fact that I am working towards my dream of becoming an author. I have around 8000 words of my novel written (being a perfectionist isn’t great for the word count! nor is having an increasingly dependant elderly parent:-) and as I found that I needed to have my head in the right space to work on it, I decided to start a blog so that I could still be writing, even if it wasn’t on my book. I would love for you to take a look if you have the time. This is my very first blog post, where I talk about reconnecting with the magic of dreams.x

  • Reply Gems March 3, 2015 at 8:19 pm

    I love this piece! I am not where you are with your body and your self, but I hope to be one day, I guess maybe in the middle. Your 20s were my 20s sound pretty identical they were awesome and then relationships and self esteem took a beating. I had babes and although I found my strength as someones mother and remembering I am feminist and wanting them to be strong. I am still working on the liking myself and approaching/tackling the anxiety as I find that really really hard. I’ll get there.

    • Reply Danielle March 4, 2015 at 2:28 pm

      We are always going to be works in progress but if you keep trying to be kinder to yourself, and you do little things daily, you’re on the right track x

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