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Why do I not consider myself important enough to be able to focus on the things I need to do to look after me?

I stopped smoking in May 2005, having started aged 10 or thereabouts. I had been thinking about it for a while but couldn’t quite get to the starting point. What finally triggered me to say “no more excuses” was watching my growing children pretend smoking with lollipop sticks and thinking they would be doing it for real if I didn’t stop. So in a sense I didn’t do it for me.

I recognise the importance of exercise. It’s taken me until last year to find a form of exercise that I enjoy and that suits my daily routine, but still I can keep on top of it for a few months and then it disappears again. Again I’m trying to set an example for my children. Also, I’d like to live a full lifetime and am aware of all the health risks of being overweight. For the record, I’m not obese, but could certainly shed 5 stone or so, a figure which has been increasing slowly but steadily over the last three years.

I’m avoiding the question.

Do I not wear make up because my mother didn’t so I never got in the habit, although I dabbled in it as a teenager? Is it because I don’t feel that I’m worth painting? Or am I making a feminist statement about its futility? I don’t know anymore as I return to question these things that I thought I knew. Even these trivial issues make me question my own judgement and ability to make decision based on reason and logic rather than my childhood.

My mother is very passive and lives in the shadow of my father. She lacks self-confidence and pride. My father criticised rather than praised. I sometimes felt surplus to requirements, with a large gap between me and my sisters even when I was reassured that I wasn’t an accident. I didn’t feel valued. And, as an adult, I picked partners who didn’t truly value me either.

My father only counted tangible achievements, whether it was exam results, or making a little bit more money each year or getting a better job, having nicer holidays. My mum valued keeping my dad happy and struggled, both with her own weight and to create her own life outside the home.

I still feel I’m skimming the surface of the answer here, but it’s a start.