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Monday 25 September 2023 Dublin: 14°C
Sam Boal Ruane says it's time to cultivate a relationship with her body that's based on gratitude. She joined the Seanad in 2016.
Lynn Ruane My New Year gift to myself? Gratitude for my body
Being negative about my body is exhausting, so it’s time to stop, writes Lynn Ruane.

ANOTHER DECADE AND another well lived ten years to digest and examine. 

After spending a lifetime pulling myself apart so I can piece myself together again, I am finally ready to say “take me as I am” – well, I am almost prepared to say it.

I have one final hurdle to overcome in a quest for self-acceptance, a mission I didn’t know I embarked upon.

From the moment I open my eyes until the second I go asleep, I think about my body.  

A lot to be grateful for

The last decade has transformed my life for the better. In a sense, I feel I am pretty privileged to be able to think about the relationship I have with myself.

I can pay my bills; I have a roof over my head and a loving family around me.

I have a platform, a supportive circle and I have had opportunities I would have only dreamed of when growing up.

I spend most of my day trying to impact the world around me positively.

Helping others helps me know who I am and the work I do brings out the best in me.

Yet, one thing I hide, and hide it well, is the twenty-year struggle I have had with my body. 

To acknowledge it brings with it some shame. 

Bodily shame

For a woman who never speaks about my body in public, I have spent the last two decades very strongly believing that my body is seen as something public.

I know only too well that body-shaming is not a characteristic I respect, yet I engage in it so compulsively, and I am my biggest victim.

I have dodged conversations about body-positivity in recent times, out of fear of being a hypocrite. How could I ever empower women to love their bodies and then go home and tell myself how awful mine was?

A body that I have criticized for years has carried my daughters, ran marathons, protected me from harm and kept me alive to enjoy all the unbelievable experiences I have been lucky enough to have in my life.

I have swam with sharks, fallen through the sky from a plane, climbed mountains, endured several injuries and illnesses, and healed each time. Yet, my default mindset is to give my body grief for all the things that it isn’t. 

Comparison starts at a young age

I have spent twenty years being overly aware of people’s bodies in every physical space. I had never noticed my body in any real way for the first twelve years of my life.

Not in the public sense anyway.

My body was fast, it was strong, and it didn’t like dresses.

I admired the birthmark on my right shoulder and hoped maybe other extended family members had one similar.

I would sit on my sofa and use the tip of my finger to trace the Y-shaped scars on my baby toes.

I noticed my hair more so than my skin, mainly concerning the length of my school friend’s hair.

I watched their hair sway at the base of their spines, while mine barely left my shoulders. 

Very quickly, the thoughts of how I looked became thoughts of how others looked at me.

Mostly boys.

Sometimes men. “You have a lovely arse in those jeans,” I was twelve, they were men.

I had never considered my bum as something lovely before, or as something people looked at.

I was told I had beautiful eyes; this was a compliment I liked.

My eyes felt more consistent than other parts of me that were changing shape with age. Since my teens, I put jeans on and check if my ‘arse looks nice in this’.

By now, my body had become something that was very much public, something to be commented on, consumed, and something that needed to look lovely.

My body winning a hundred-metre sprint didn’t seem relevant anymore.

shutterstock_1303731748 Shutterstock / Lincoln Beddoe Lynn says she learned to think negatively about her body at a young age. Shutterstock / Lincoln Beddoe / Lincoln Beddoe

Enough is enough, body shame is exhausting

I am now very aware of my body in a room, and I can’t spend another ten years in a negative relationship with the body that I have grown to internally hate.

I want to get dressed and not have to think about my body: how it will look on a camera or the eyes of onlookers. 

For a quarter of a century, my body has been subjected to all kinds of abuse. I have cursed my body, I have held the slightest hint of fat in my hands and wished I could cut it off there and then.

I don’t want to spend the next decade wasting my energy in a tirade of hate against myself. 

Body positivity for 2020

Heading into 2020, as I welcome the wrinkles around my eyes and the grey hairs on my head, I am hopeful that I can make peace with my body.

After all, I never thought I would live this long, so each day with my body should be a celebration.

I am not saying I am just making the decision not to have issues with my body; I don’t think it works like that.

Instead, I plan to practice gratitude for its existence and remember all the things I couldn’t do without it.

Like everything else I have ever shared, just exposing it will help ease its power. 


Lynn Ruane is an independent senator.



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