Mandy's story


To understand my journey to making peace with the mirror you need to understand what has brought me to now. How I created this idea of who I needed to be, so that I would be loved and accepted. Just like all of us!

You see we have all had experiences and received messages from our family, friends and society that help shape who we are and what we believe!

So what did I believe……..

My first experience of being conscious of my body, when I started to really judge it and hide it, was like most of us, puberty.

As a teenager I had acne on my back and shoulders and NEVER showed this part of me. I swam in oversized T-shirts, or didn’t swim at all! This was the beginning of my self-loathing journey!

I became conscious of my body as I turned into a young woman. Often getting the message that I shouldn’t look too desirable, or attract attention to myself, it wasn’t safe! So I began to hide myself.

I was only ever at one school for a few years and so learning to fit in became a matter of survival. I became good at being what I needed to be, to be accepted.  I got the spiral perm, followed the trends, and did what I needed to do to fit in! All the while being who I thought everyone would like, hiding the real me!

A straight A student at school, I have always been an overachieving perfectionist, putting a lot of pressure on myself to achieve high standards. I learned to pin my value to gold stars and awards, and went on an endless pursuit, never satisfied with what I had achieved. Always wanting the external validation to feed my sense of self. Putting all my value into what I achieved, like I was nothing without it.

I was blessed with my 2 children at 25 and 26years old. I watched in awe as my body grew and grew!!!But  I was not prepared for the aftermath of pregnancy, how much my body changed, and the whole new range of shit bits I had to worry about! My boobs were now empty, and I was considering tying them in a knot rather than wearing a bra!

The stretch marks on my stomach tell  the story of how far it had to stretch to give life to my beautiful children. What a gift it is, to have the capacity to have a baby, for this I am infinity grateful. Despite my gratitude, I like many others judged my body for not being what it once was! Isn’t it crazy that after 10 months, (my boys took some baking!) of my body  stretching and growing a baby, I thought my body would just spring back. Worse still I judged myself, and was ashamed to show the stretch marks and saggy boobs I was left with.

The truth is I had bought into the idea that I needed to be perfect inside and out. I had always been great at faking it until I made it. The problem was even though I could put on a pretty dress and play the part, inside I felt worthless! When I looked in the mirror I knew I was faking it, and I felt pathetic!

As a size 8 people saw me as perfect (and still do!), and as a people pleaser I set out to deliver exactly what they were expecting. Ironically they loved and hated me for it! All of this lead me to hide my TRUE self, become body conscious and start loathing different parts of me.

Not accepting ALL of me, just loving the bits I thought everyone else would like!! Watering myself down so I wasn’t too much for others, and dressing myself up so I was ENOUGH!!

This was until I had a total breakdown….. at the time I thought it was a breakdown, when really it was a breakthrough!!

It really is true that when you feel like everything is falling apart, it is actually all coming together.

I had been successfully juggling being a mum and running my own business for 7 years. Giving all I had to my business and family, never really stopping to look after myself. Even though I was successful, I was never satisfied. I pushed and pushed to set up a National Franchise and I went from success to struggle, as the price of the expert advice ran me dry.

I remember the moment I realised I couldn’t keep going. I’ll never forget it. I felt defeat penetrate every part of my body, every part of my soul, I waved the white flag, I was done. I had nothing left for the endless pursuit of perfection which was slowly killing me.

I was now to receive a certificate in failure, as I declared bankruptcy. I felt totally broken, I couldn’t look in the mirror without feeling so ashamed of myself. I wanted to hide from the world, I felt of no value to anyone.

Like a cheat at the Olympics I felt like I had been stripped of all I had achieved, and I had no clue who I was without it. What I did have, was a family who loved me unconditionally, loved me for just being me, and now I was going to have to learn to do the same.

It was not only my bank account that had taken a hit, but my health too! I had ignored my body, I hadn’t looked after myself, and now I was thrown in bed with Adrenal Fatigue, Gastritis and Crohn’s Disease.

It was time for me to learn to love myself, it was time for me to MAKE PEACE WITH THE MIRROR.

It was time to let go of the endless pursuit of being perfect, of thinking I needed to be more of this and less of that, and start to be happy with who I was.

I started with self-love and self-care and my stomach made sure it let me know if I wasn’t! To this day my health is a divine gift that has helped me learn to really look after myself.

For so long I had taught woman to love who they were, to use their style to love themselves and express their gorgeousness. Now I had to take my own advice!!

Instead of using my style to fake it, I now use my style to help me to love me, to feel more confident about being me. To express myself, the real me, not the watered down version!    I can do that now because I don’t feel like I need to wear a disguise, now I can simply be me. It was only when I began to truly love ALL of me,  including my shit bits, that I could give myself permission to be ME!

It was only 2 years  ago I started swimming without any shirt to cover my skin and saggy boobs! That’s right from puberty to 40 years old I hid!!  I now swim nearly every day of the year! With no care  that my bust is so deflated you cannot tell my back from my front!! Yes people still comment, the difference now, is  I don’t let what others think or say make me hide uncover who I am. The woman who was hidden behind trying to be perfect, trying to fit in and trying to be different. Now I can see how I was slowly infected by the self-loathing virus from puberty. How the picture I had painted was never designed to celebrate who I am. Society delivered me a story of not being enough and believed it!

The truth is I am NOT broken, I don’t need to be better and what you think of me can never be as mean as what I have thought of myself.  It is what we whisper to ourselves that has the greatest power.

You see it is how we feel about ourselves, what we believe about ourselves that paints the picture of who see in the mirror. It wasn’t until I could love and accept my reflection that I could really make peace with the mirror.

For the last 2 years I have started  EVERY day enjoying a run and swim at my divine beach haven that fills me up with SELF-LOVE.  I use my outfit to help me celebrate myself. If I feel any self-loathing whispers I shut that up with a great frock, a great pair of heels or some bright earrings. I use my style to express the girl I was once afraid to show. I have found the freedom to be me and it has nothing to do with the size jeans I wear!

Don’t wait to love yourself, start now, go for a walk, wear an outfit that helps you feel gorgeous, learn HOW!

Join the conversation, as I share stories from women who are on the journey to making peace with the mirror. It is my hope that you will recognise pieces of yourself inside these stories, and find  HOW you can learn to LOVE yourself.. Every single woman is uniquely gorgeous, but sometimes we need help to see that.

My BIGGEST wish is for you to find the freedom to be you, and truly make peace with the mirror!

Go and be gorgeous xx

Mandy Hargreaves   

Founder – Finding Gorgeous                                                                                      

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