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It turns out that taking pictures of earrings while wearing them is not easy.

I did something I never thought I would in my last skills practice session: I talked about my self-esteem. This is probably me at my most vulnerable, so talking about it was actually quite a surprise to me, let alone anyone else. My listener and observer were the two who are also going for the person-centred course next year and certainly people I feel safe with, even though I’ve barely worked with one of them. I didn’t know this was what I was going to talk about until my mouth opened and out came the words.

Last week, in the same triad, we had talked about earrings. I had bought a pair at the art gallery just visited and was wondering what to talk about so C challenged me to discuss them. So I did and it was more interesting than I thought. C followed me and also talked about earrings with H leaving it until the following week to talk about her thoughts on earrings and appearance.

What is it about earrings? I had mine pierced when I was 12 or 14. I actually have no idea what age, other than my mother was with me and supportive. It took her a few ears before she then had hers pierced as she got envious of the wider choice of jewellery for me. I just liked the look of them on other people and quickly veered towards the long dangly type. For many years I wouldn’t be seen leaving the house without earrings: it was just as much a part of getting dressed as putting on clothes was. But that stopped, and I think it stopped due to the very practical reasons of having babies. If you’ve ever had an earring yanked out of your ear by a very small hand you’ll know the sense of it. I could have moved to studs but they weren’t me and as a mother of small people, I just stopped doing things I didn’t have to and this included self care.

I simply never went back to them. I would sometimes put them on if I was going out somewhere “nice”, but not if I was just going out, and not as part of getting dressed. And yet I was aware, as the year progressed, that I was putting more effort into trying to remember to wear earrings on my college day. There is certainly something about it transferring from being a day at college to a day spent with friends that merited a bit more care. I have increasingly been wearing earrings whenever I go out and since we had this discussion I’ve been wearing them most days, putting them on first thing regardless of whether I’m going anywhere that day or not. So in some almost sad way, they reflect some aspect of my self-esteem.

Going back to my childhood, my mother found it difficult to treat me to things as dad would question her spending. Whether this was the reason or not I don’t know but we bought a lot of earrings. I had found a gallery (no longer as good as it was) full of jewellery stalls and there were always a few pairs worth buying that were cheap and fun. As such they probably passed under my father’s financial radar and he did enjoy seeing us both in them. So they were also an expression of freedom.

So although it seems trivial, earrings are both a reflection of my self-esteem and a reminder of my pre/teenage relationship with my mother.

Having discussed all this in triad the previous week, this week I talked about my self-image. I was, for me, brutally honest. I talked about my history with weight, how I was not fat until I had pregnancies, that I lost weight after each one just as I had put it on until the last ten years when I’d started putting on weight after quitting smoking and it had never come off.

I said that I could wear clothes that I felt good in, a hair style I like that I feel reflects my personality and wear jewellery that makes me feel good. And yet, even with all that, I look in the mirror and I say fat. I struggle to see the confident person who dares to be different in appearance. I say fat; I see fat. I am well aware that this is not the reaction I want. Looking through past blog posts on fat I have actually come a long way in the last few years. I no longer hate the way I look although I do wish I were different. I struggle to see anything but the size but I’m also increasingly aware that I try to set that to one side and think about clothes and appearance without taking size into consideration. I occasionally see myself in a photo and think it isn’t all that bad really. That is an improvement on total hate.

That paragraph feels like a jumble of incoherent thought.

Going out with my friend last week we went to a tourist town fully of independent jewellers, from the cheap to the highly expensive. I bought the most expensive piece of jewellery I have ever bought myself . If this isn’t a symbol of improved self-esteem then I don’t know what is. I admit I thought it was slightly cheaper that it turned out to be but by that point I was well into “fuck it mode” and my friend was highly enjoying watching me spend money. And I didn’t just buy one piece either. Not going there again in a hurry.

I have received comments about nice dresses and where can I buy them, comments about nice hair (having gone from red highlights to all over red last year) and I do feel better about myself. And yet there’s something that needs untangling. My cut in alcohol intake has got a small voice inside my head telling me I might lose weight because of it and I’m trying not to be pleased about it. I want to lose weight but I also want to not care about losing weight.

And yet, and yet I talked about this. I feel that this is me at my most vulnerable, mainly because I still assume that people look at me and see fat as I do. So I’m also amazed that I did, in a positive way.