Hayley Stanton Prom aged 16

#TheVulnerabilityChallenge: Breathing in (Day 16)

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Hayley

Director & Coach at Quiet Connections
Hayley shares her personal stories of feeling shy, socially anxious, ‘not good enough’ and fearfully avoiding the good things in life. Growing her confidence through coaching, gradually stretching her comfort zone and connecting with others, she now uses everything she has learned to help other people grow their confidence in her role as a coach. Hayley is passionate about connecting people with similar stories and creating safe, supportive spaces to make friends and try new things. Hayley dreams of a time when all of the strengths, skills and goodness in ‘quiet’ is recognised and appreciated as readily as being bold, gregarious, and comfortable in the spotlight is right now.
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#TheVulnerabilityChallenge Day 16

Never enough

I’m not alone in being self-conscious of my appearance. By the age of 16, I was a size 8, or “far too skinny” and “barely eating” as my dad reminded me recently. I always thought I was too fat. Never skinny enough. Never pretty enough. Never tall enough, tanned enough or blonde enough.

I can look back at my pictures now and I see a beautiful, bright young woman. But I couldn’t see it then. I thought if I looked better I might feel more acceptable.

I spent the whole time holding my tummy in. My breath would never enter my gut and puff it up. I was determined my stomach was going to be seen as flat. I felt a sense of achievement whenever someone commented on my losing weight. I was getting closer and closer to being what I saw as an ‘acceptable size’. But I never got there, and I never could. Because I just couldn’t see myself how I really was.

All the while, I failed to recognise that we’re not designed to have a flat stomach; it’s meant to expand with every breath we take. We’re supposed to breathe deeply into that space. And I wasn’t breathing well.

I allowed myself to take only shallow breaths into my chest. Now I know that the way I chose to control my breathing only heightened those anxious feelings I lived with. It was one part of a vicious cycle of untrue thoughts, unhealthy coping strategies and distressing physical effects.

Want to know more about this? Read: How to reduce anxiety with balanced breathing

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