My name is Dr Jaclyn Lotter. I use that title as way of protecting myself from feeling vulnerable to the rest of the world, but most people who know me well call me Jax, just Jax.
When I was really young I spent every day living life to the full. I had a wild imagination that allowed me to create magical mermaid and dolphin fantasies where I would swim in our pool for hours with my friends or our Labradors, only stopping momentarily to eat a hotdog on the steps before diving into the next underwater fantasy. I grew up surrounded by boys and never once let the fact that I was the only girl stop me from joining in their games and never even considered whether I was capable of doing what they could, of course, I was! I dreamed of being Nelson Mandela’s speechwriter and changing the world with my hero by my side. I spent holidays running around the beach, boogie boarding, playing cricket and making friends with anyone who would give me the time of day. My bright pink swimming costume and bare feet were my outfits of choice. I was fun, confident, and full of life, and the world was literally my oyster.
Then something changed. I’m not quite sure when or how it happened, but at some point that same world that was my playing field turned into the enemy and my body became my battle ground.
Mine is not a BIG story of life-threatening illness or A-ha moments, no, mine is a small story, a quiet lonely battle, where slowly by surely, day by day, my confidence and self-worth was stripped away to the point where I no longer felt worthy of love, not from others and certainly not from myself.
But part of me still wanted to fight and so I found ways to compensate for my feelings of inadequacy. I began to use clothes as a way of hiding those parts of my body I was taught to be ashamed of.
As time went by I became a master of camouflage. I used bright colours and beautiful fabrics as a way to distract people from REALLY seeing me and all my flaws. Instead, all they saw was the beautiful, glamorous exterior. I learned how to hide my hips, I changed my walk to make my calf muscles stand out and began to cover my freckles. The compliments became a plaster for the pain, temporarily alleviating the pain and hiding the festering wound that lay beneath.
Then I realized that I could use achievement as another way to distract people. I began to push myself and I don’t think I’ve ever really stopped. Every time I made a team or got an award or was given a leadership position I convinced myself it was because I had somehow fooled the world into believing something about me that was not true. I was a fraud and I needed to keep achieving more and more to cover up just how much of a fraud I thought I was. I went to university to pursue my undergrad, but I still didn’t feel good enough, so I did my honours, and then I needed to really show the world and so I did my Masters, but even then I didn’t feel worthy, so I did the highest qualification I could and was awarded my PhD. But nothing took away that deep sense of inadequacy and no degree or achievement could convince me that the world was convinced that I deserved to be loved.
I became a psychologist to save the world and in the process I began to save myself.
I am now on a slow journey toward complete body & self-acceptance/love. For the longest time I thought I could find this acceptance in achievements, material things and other people. But at some point the hard reality hit that before I could accept the goodness the world had to offer me, I had to first accept myself. This has not been an easy journey. I didn’t just wake up one day and decide “screw patriarchy, screw the media, screw the high school change room, I am in fact totally freaking awesome”. Nope, that is not my story. My story is one in which every day I have to remind myself that my body is worthy of space on this earth. That I have something to contribute to the world and that no matter what – I am worthy of love. I have to remind myself that I should speak out, even if my voice shakes.
Every day I wake up and need to remind big Jax to honour little Jax and her beautiful dreams and imagination. I need to remind myself to appreciate the body I have and to thank it for all of the adventures it has taken me on so far. I have to remind myself to nurture and protect my body because we have so much adventuring left to do. I have to remind myself that it’s okay to eat that thing If I want to and that choosing not to exercise today (and tomorrow) does not make me a bad person or any less worthy. Some days I lose the fight, but the important thing is that every morning I get up and try again. This is my journey towards befriending my body again, and remembering that true joy only requires a pink swimming costume, self-love and the ocean.
This journey I have been on has taught me one thing that I am enough!
If I could send a message to the younger me I would say
I am sorry! I am sorry for all of the opportunities we have missed because I was unable to accept and love us for who we are. I am sorry that I let those magazines, adverts, movies, other girls and other boys make us feel like we weren’t good enough. I am sorry for all those mini-skirts I didn’t let us wear. I am sorry for making excuses as to why we couldn’t go with our friends to the beach. I am sorry for every run, hike, cricket match and volley ball competition I turned down because I did not feel that our body was worthy of being seen and partaking. I am sorry for quitting swimming and hockey because I was so ashamed of our body.
You are enough, thank you and I love you.
I would like my fellow women, mothers, daughters, grannies and free spirits to remember what Gloria Steinem once said: if every time you and I, every time we pass a mirror, downgrade or complain about our looks, if we remember that a young girl is watching us and that is what she is learning.
Love yourself, so that the girls that come after us can love themselves enough to fulfill their every dream. When women stand up for themselves and one another nothing can stand in their way.
In sharing my story with you all I have learnt that loving yourself in a world that thrives on your self-doubt is in fact an act of revolution and that I am a revolutionary!
Go into the world brave women, go into the world and change it, for yourselves, for your daughters and for the generations of women to come!