So, for the second edition of this series of My Body & Me I’m interviewing Sarah Hanrahan, who you may know better as @i_come_undone on Instagram.
Anyone who follows me will know that Sarah is one of my top 3 favorite Irish influencers. Separating herself from the influencer pack, Sarah’s content is a mixture of food, fashion and culture. She writes weekly events posts, monthly food posts, promotes sustainable fashion and has recently decided to go cruelty free with her Beauty Tuesdays feature.
Sarah’s content is probably the highest quality content being produced by any Irish influencer today and her level of integrity is unwavering. She’s someone I’ve learned so much from and have really tried to emulate. Best of all, a friendship has blossomed between us and I can say she’s as down to earth in person as anyone can be.
Apart from all of the above, I was excited to get her involved in My Body & Me because I think that she has a really healthy relationship with her body, with food and with fitness. On top of this, she was raised in a very different way to me in relation to these things, so I was genuinely curious to hear her thoughts on her relationship with her body and how that relationship has impacted her life.
I hope you guys enjoy this as much as I did.
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 grew up with one sister a year older than me and a young mom. My dad wasn’t around much (I adore my dad, that’s not a dig, he was just dealing with his own issues at the time) so it very much felt like a girl’s house. That being said my mom always seemed glamorous without being obsessed with her image while my sister was a tomboy type so, beauty was not a regular focus in our house.
Despite the seeming indifference, it turns out that my mom did struggle a bit with her image while raising us but, she never focused on it in front of us or spoke negatively about her image to us so I certainly was none the wiser about her plight. We were always told we were beautiful by my mom (I’ve seen the photos, she definitely embellished!) and, my sister had a zero fu*ks attitude to beauty norms so, overall the attitude in my house had a really positive effect.
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?
Mom never made us feel focused on beauty and beauty was never a big thing for my sister Claire or I… so much so that, the first time I ever thought about my weight I was 16 years old. No joke!
I remember it so well; I did a brief stint in a french boarding school and this girl called Ali was moaning about having to go swimming with the boys cause she ‘felt fat’. She turned to me asking how I felt about the swim and it was in that moment that I first considered being critical towards my body. Mad in comparison to the spotlight on girl’s weight from such a young age but, a positive home environment and mostly male friend group allowed me to survive unscathed until then.
I felt totally fine with my my body and then felt weird for being totally fine with it, that even basic self acceptance was too high a view to have on oneself. I don’t remember comparing myself to her or those around me really. I definitely went through a moment of disappointment when I realized my boobs were unlikely to grow past the B cup status they’d obtained at around 12 years old but, I didn’t focus on it for long enough to do anything more than buying one singular gel bra.
I kind of lived in my own world so, while I was aware of celebrity culture I felt so far removed from them that it never even occurred to me to use them as a reference point for ‘body goals’.
Do you remember ever feeling body shame as a child/teenager, or being body shamed by others?
I genuinely don’t. I initially went to a very small secondary school before finishing out my second level education in a grind school where I arrived somewhat over-confident and very aware of being completely alone (everyone else seemed to know people from their old school). We could wear our own clothes without any rules around that which was exhilarating and intimidating at the time. Dressing confidently helped me brave the place each morning until I made friends, all of which happened to be gay boys. Shaming me was certainly not on their agenda.
I was a very ‘average’ body type in school; size 12, small boobs, rounded hips & bum (a classic pear) so, I suppose I didn’t stand out enough in either direction to be a focus for body shaming.
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?
Despite very little changing about my body shape since school (still a pear shape, still a size 12) I definitely feel more conscious of it now. I don’t like the old adage of blaming ‘society’ for all of our problems but it would be hard to spend as much time online as I do and have my self image completely intact.
I feel like I carry more weight in my ‘side bum’ (d’ya know, when you walk and your bum comes around to the front?) than I used to but then wonder if this has actually changed or, whether the fact that I take so many photos of myself is allowing me to scrutinize every angle, and then every angle of that angle.
Overall, despite being bigger than what is stereo-typically seen as aspirational, I do feel happy with my body and lucky to have features that I genuinely really like. I don’t allow a negative internal dialogue;, it’s a total waste of energy. If you not happy with something in life change it or, accept it.
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?
I don’t mind getting older, there’s a comfort that comes with it but I do want to ‘look good for my age’. I started getting botox two years ago for a wrinkle which I felt was unusually prominent. As shallow as I feel admitting this, I do think I’d be very self conscious if it was still knocking around in the center of my face!
I definitely appreciate a wider variety of beauty as I’ve gotten older. I’ve become so jaded by the cookie cutter beauty norms I used to find myself drawn to. Now different body shapes are intriguing, asymmetrical faces are interesting and, deviations from the stereotypical image are inviting. I guess just like our palette dulls and craves more complex flavor, so too does our eye.
Do you think that men and women are equally subjected to unrealistic beauty standards?
Previously I would have responded with a hard ‘no’ to this but, in recent years I’ve definitely seen the pressures increase for men to have very muscular physiques. I don’t think the pressures are as pronounced and as layered as those that women have both scored and perpetuated over the decades but, they’re definitely building.
If you could change one thing about society and how it treats women and their bodies, what would that be?
Letting people look how they want to look without always suggesting that they must be trying to conform, that they must be aspiring to some difference, that they can never be content with their image.
I think marketing does this first and foremost as no one is more likely to spend their money than an insecure women but, I also think we internalize this ‘always wanting’ attitude and can project it on to other women when we perceive them to be satisfied. Their satisfaction make us more aware of our insecurities so, we try to get them to join us in our safe, familiar place of self loathing by encouraging them to doubt themselves too.
I’m not saying this is the norm by any stretch but it’s something I’ve definitely noticed over the years.