‘Hate’ is a strong word. My relationship with how my body looks fluctuates with my moods and is complicatedly enmeshed with my sense of self-worth, but at the same time at odds with my rational adult brain. Of course that would have made for a very long blog title.
Besides, you’re probably here for the goat.
The goat looked dead. Really dead. She was all tangled up in a rope on the riverbank, her head twisted at an impossible angle beneath her legs. It looked like she’d fallen from height and broken multiple bones. We were hiking up the other side of the river in the lashing rain (a staple feature of the Azorian weekends). As we got closer, we could see she was still breathing but clearly in trouble.
It was a fast-flowing river and the rocks were slippery. A huge black billy goat grazed next to her, his horns long and menacing. My brain wanted nothing to do with them, but I was already scrambling down the bank. I removed my shoes, rolled up my leggings and slowly crossed the river towards the goats.
The rope was tangled around every limb, pulling her neck all the way back in a horrible way. I carefully removed the rope but still she lay in a mangled heap, her eyes wide and terrified. She was in pain but I didn’t want to move her in case I made it worse. My friends and I shouted at a nearby house for help and eventually a young man emerged and (a little reluctantly, it seemed) came to help. I closed my eyes as he lifted the goat’s flanks. She cried out in pain. I just wanted the suffering to be over. She needed to be put down, shot, killed quickly and humanely.
When I opened my eyes, the goat was untangled and standing on all four hooves, blinking as if to say ‘what’s the fuss?’. Not a single bone broken. She practically did a pirouette and cartwheeled into the sunset. The man laughed at the stupid sentimental tourists and went home.
We carried on with our hike.
Some days I feel grateful for and proud of my body… all of it. How it works, its strength, height, flexibility, resilience, its curves, contours and definition.
Most days I’m so busy enjoying the world around me that I don’t give a single thought to how I look. It’s just ego, vanity…its all meaningless in the grand scheme of things.
But there are dark days. On these days I sink into a cesspit of despair, unable to fathom the ugliness of my figure. How dare I be so unfemininely tall? The nerve of my fat tummy, my flat buttocks, my crooked teeth, my imperfect nose. I want to punish myself. I feel my boyfriend should leave me and in unconscious ways I seek to make this easier for him. I find myself compelled to flick obsessively through photos on Instagram of women with flat tummies and round buttocks and silently bully myself for not looking like them. I Google ‘how much is a Brazilian butt lift’ and start crazy diets, exercise excessively and feel generally awful about existing.
This is called low self-esteem, and if you have it, nothing in the world can change it except you. It doesn’t matter how many times your partner, family or friends tell you that you’re beautiful. Somewhere along the way, you developed a core belief that you are not worthy, and until you untangle that sense and pull it up at the roots, it will continue to grow and taint everything you do in life.
Low self-esteem is like a parasite that drains the true self: the worthy, confident, kind, intelligent people we truly are.
The moment I saved the goat, I ended a period of low self-esteem. It was like the sun had finally broken through the cracks in a cloud, bathing me in the kind of warm sunlight I’d forgotten existed. My feelings returned to me; my excitement and happiness and love for everything and everyone. In that small but significant moment, I remembered that I am a worthy person with the ability to fight fear and collaborate to do something positive. It made me feel good about myself when for a while I’d been feeling really quite terrible.
It was a simple thing. It’s not like goats now honour me with a national goat holiday or a bronze statue or anything. In the end she still spends her life tethered to a rope, in risk of entanglement.
But every time I emerge from a period of darkness, I feel like I heal a little more. I understand why I feel the way I do, and I can work towards rewiring my brain to finally convince myself that I am allowed to be here on earth with everybody else. Just as worthy, just as interesting, just as beautiful.
I hope that you feel the same.