Full of herself


When I was a teenager, one of the worst things that a person could be accused of was being “full of herself”.

What does being “full of herself” mean? It would generally mean a person had a high opinion of themselves, maybe walked with a bit of a swagger and a general air of confidence in themselves.

And lately, especially after reading Glennon Doyle’s book “Untamed”, I am starting to think, what the hell was or is so wrong with being “full of yourself”!

One of the many things that struck me when reading Glennon Doyle’s book (by the way, I highly recommend this book. If you don’t believe me, read what Adele said about it!) was when she spoke about how we have a kind of learned belief that women shouldn’t be full of swagger and confidence. We somehow seem to have learned to view this as a bad thing. She spoke about watching a cocky young female soccer player in a kid’s match and having negative thoughts like “who does she think she is?”. She had to check herself and ask, why do I think this? It is somehow engrained in a lot of women to think badly of women who are in Irish terms “full of themselves”.

I don’t think we should beat ourselves up about this, as it probably is a learned behaviour, but I do think we owe it to ourselves to start thinking about changing our views on this. I am certainly guilty of it, but I am starting to try and change how I think. I don’t think it is exclusive to women either. I used to think that the soccer player Ronaldo was “full of himself”. But now I think that he is an amazing professional athlete who I would imagine works very hard to be the best he can be in his sport. There is plenty of commentary, good and bad about his career and personal life, but he seems to take no notice, and more power to him. 

When I turned forty, I felt I was in good shape. I was probably the fittest I had ever been, I was really enjoying running. I liked how running made me feel (after a run, I often feel invincible, like I can take on whatever the day throws at me) and I liked how running made me look if I’m being honest. Muscles were starting to appear in my legs and arms, and I felt so much leaner and fitter.  I also have Ulcerative Colitis (mild thankfully) for the past eight years and what I know is that for me, being healthy and fit helps to keep it at bay.  

So around the time of my 40th birthday, I decided to get a photo shoot done. To feel like a model for a day. To get my makeup done and put on some nice clothes, and get some photos taken. I had no one exact reason as to why I wanted to get this done. Just a feeling that it would be nice to get dressed up and to have some photos taken to remember how I looked at forty. I generally don’t feel that I look like myself in photos and I thought it would be nice to get some professional photos done where I would look good. I did also like the thought that they would be there for my kids to ooh and ahh over and probably laugh about when I’m older!

For the photo shoot, I asked the amazing make-up artist, Liz Desmond aka Lola to do my makeup. She had done my make up for my sister’s wedding and it was just stunning, I loved it. She was delighted to join the party so to speak for my photo shoot idea, and she didn’t think I was weird or “full of myself”! She recommended some photographers and I booked Anna Bonikowska. Anna was fantastic. I am not a camera natural and am not good at posing, but Anna made me feel so relaxed and it was so fun. And I loved the end result.

But here is the thing, I told no one about this except my husband. No one. My sister saw my photos on Liz’s Instagram story and was fairly bewildered that I hadn’t told her and truth be told, she probably still wonders to this day why I didn’t tell her. I didn’t tell anyone as I couldn’t explain why I had these photos taken without worrying that people would think I was “full of myself” or thinking “what is she wasting her money on that for”. I thought that maybe people would think I was like one of the drug lords wives in “Narcos”, putting a big framed photo of myself above the fireplace, complete with fur coat and designer bag! Note: I have not framed or put any of these photos on the wall! But I might! (No, I won’t)

Seriously though, what was wrong with me. I spent my own money that I earned on photos of myself because I wanted to have some good professional photos of myself. End of story. But as I type this, I still worry about putting this out there in the world.

Which is maybe all the more reason I should. We have to stop worrying about judgement or what other people think. So what if I’m “full of myself”. Maybe it doesn’t mean what we think it means. Maybe it means that if I’m full of myself, I will be full of happiness in myself. And if I’m happy in myself, then the people around me whom I love are happier, this I know. I think we all owe it to ourselves to make ourselves happy. Or to try our best. Yes, look after our kids, our friends and our loved ones. Be kind. But my god, make time to make ourselves happy. As Glennon says and I’m paraphrasing, there is no prize at the end of this all for the person who made sure everyone around them was happy at the expense of their own happiness. I’m going to continue to try and be more “full of myself”. And to encourage my kids and others to keep thinking of how to be happy, keep trying to be “full of themselves”.

I think the point that I am arriving at in a bit of a convoluted way is about kindness. About being kind to others and to ourselves. Even more so to ourselves. If a friend of mine told me that she was getting photos of herself taken to celebrate her 40th birthday, I would have thought “brilliant idea, fair play to her”. So why was I so embarrassed to tell people about having done this myself. So here I go pressing post on this and including one of the photos, still nervous if truth be told, but maybe it will help someone out there to be a little kinder to themselves, to be happy in themselves and to be “full of themselves”.


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