Louise Mc Sharry is a DJ, journalist, instagrammer, cancer survivor and Mum. Speaking outwardly on her Instagram about body shame and unrealistic beauty standards, I couldn’t wait to hear her story about the relationship she has to her body.
Can you start off by describing the attitude to beauty in your family home while you were growing up and how you think that affected you?
I moved from one home to another when I was seven so I had two contrasting experiences. My biological mother was as into makeup, hair, nails and fashion as most women in the 80s. I remember sitting on her bed as she got ready at her dressing table, and an interest in that kind of thing was definitely initiated there. My aunt, who I moved in with when I was seven, is not at all into that kind of thing. Until a few years ago, she was still carting out her wedding makeup for special occasions. Appearance isn’t really that important to her, which was something I struggled with a bit because it was really important to me. If I wanted nice clothes or makeup I had to figure out how to get them for myself.
During your teens, how did you feel about your body? Did you compare yourself to your friends or family? Do you remember who your role models (for example musicians, actresses, an older cousin etc) were and what, if anything, you did to look like them?
I hated my body as a teenager. I felt I was too fat, a feeling which was given credibility by the people at school who called me fat on a regular basis. I compared myself to literally everyone. My friend’s older sister was beautiful and I definitely idolised her, as well as Cher from Clueless, whose makeup I tried to emulate on many occasions.
Do you remember ever feeling body shame as a child/teenager, or being body shamed by others?
Yes. I was on my first diet at 6. Kids in school called me fat on a regular basis. One boy wrote ‘FAT GIRL’ in big black permanent letters on my school bag during class when I was fifteen. Family members made comments.
How, if at all, did your relationship with your body change from childhood through your teen years and into your adult life? How do you think this has affected your mental health?
In my thirties I’ve found a way to be relatively at peace with my body, although it’s something I have to work on all the time. Up to that point I always saw my body as my enemy. I thought it was gross, and an obstacle in the way of all of my goals. I felt unlovable, and like a failure. It definitely affected my mental health negatively. I had a very low sense of self-worth.
If you’ve had children, how do you think that has affected your relationship with your body?
My body has changed in shape since having my son, and I have been surprised by how much that’s bothered me. I kind of thought that I had just accepted that I didn’t have the typically beautiful body so really what difference would it make? But it has made a difference.
As you get older, do you feel your attitude to beauty change? And are you concerned about the effect that aging will have on your body?
My attitude to beauty has definitely changed as I’ve gotten older. I think I’m getting better with age. I don’t spend too much time thinking about aging, but I am taking better care of my skin these days.
Do you think that men and women are equally subjected to unrealistic beauty standards?
No. I think women have it much harder. However, I do think that things are getting harder for men.
Do you remember one stand out moment in your life that highlighted to you how you felt abut your body, whether positive or negative?
Recovering from cancer was a real ‘aha!’ moment for me. I realised that my body was not for show. It has a purpose, which it serves brilliantly, and it is unfair of me to think negatively about it simply based on its physical appearance.
If you could give your younger self one piece of advice about your relationship to your body, what would it be?
Your body isn’t stopping you from doing anything, your mind is.
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