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How I got my self esteem back after working in fashion

Aimee Richards runs her own business Miss Bespoke Papercuts in Portsmouth. She talks about getting her self esteem back after working in fashion.

I’m a small business owner, mum to three little boys, with an apron tummy and the inability to stay up past 11pm at the weekend. So it is strange to think that 12 years ago I was working in fashion in Hong Kong and London, designing lingerie and partying in teeny tiny dresses in glamorous places like Ibiza and Paris.

The comfort of food

As a child, a diet of ballet and tap, Madonna music videos and an obsession with drawing and painting left little room for anything else.

That was until I discovered the comfort of iced finger buns and vending machines in the secondary school canteen.

All of a sudden I had puppy fat, which has never left, and I shot up to 5’10 in height.

Read more: Healing my relationship with food

I didn’t start to develop until I was 15 years old, and in a month my boobs grew from an A cup to a D cup, both of which I realise now are partially down to polycystic ovaries.

After a super-stressful university degree and an unhealthy and abusive teenage relationship, by the time I was 20 I was an emotional wreck.

Moving to Hong Kong

A year later I was at Heathrow Airport, moving my life over to Hong Kong to design the cheeky range for Victoria’s Secret.

Asia was a total culture shock for me, from the bright flashing lights to the amazing shops and crazy nightlife. But something that really shocked me was the reaction my body received as I walked down the street.

I would be told to ‘smoke and dance and be thin’ by the prostitutes in Lang Kwai Fong. My boss would humiliate me and remove my dinner plates as our other dining companions ate to make a point.

A doctor told me the reason I was fat, deaf and needed glasses was because my face was crooked. He then administered me a Chinese medicine which looked and tasted like cigarette ash.

Damaging my self-esteem

For two years I embarked on a crazy eating plan and punishing exercise regime.

The thinnest I could ever get to was a size 12. Even then I would stand in the mirror, pulling at my baggy arms and telling myself I wasn’t worthy enough.

I look amazing in the photographs from the time, but my eyes are hollow and sad. I would mask my insecurities by drinking a lot and involving myself in situations with men that did very little to help my self-esteem.

Working in fashion during my early twenties brought with it a lot of insecurities – and another horrible boss. But if you could have looked through the lens of Facebook, I was living the dream with my faux confidence and fabulous wardrobe.

Being comfortable in my own skin

It took realness – from in-depth conversations with my supportive friends to having babies and marrying my husband, as well as having counselling for postnatal depression – to reach where I am now, content mentally and physically.

Stick with me – and apologies now if I sound like a nan – but at 34 this is the stage of my life in which I feel most comfortable.

Mentally, I am aware of when I need to rest and slow down.

I don’t diet at all. I run and swim a few times a week. And I run my own business, so I don’t feel guilty for eating a leftover fish finger off my kid’s plate. I still rock a bright dress and lippie.

Your vibe attracts your tribe

I only follow people on social media and Instagram that make me feel good.

I choose accounts like I choose my friends.

Likewise, I follow a diverse range of women who look like me and who inspire me with the way they dress and the way they talk about their bodies.

In turn, this leads me to find some fantastic shops with outfits that I can buy and make me feel more body positive.

Remember that weight is not an indication of health

But aim for balance.

Exercise is great for getting those endorphins rushing around your body and fantastic for mental health.

The more you tell your body that it is strong, the more mentally strong you will feel and the more you will actually start to love it.

Find your gym, whether it is the pavement running, the pool swimming, a yoga mat, a dance class or weights at the actual gym.

But don’t overdo it

Likewise, if you are overeating, overexercising or restricting yourself foodwise, have an honest conversation with a non-judgemental friend or family member or refer yourself to a GP for counselling.

Everybody needs help at some point, or at multiple points, in their life.

And remember happiness is truly a state of mind and not how much you weigh.

To find out more about Aimee’s business Miss Bespoke Papercuts click here.

Charlotte Harding
Charlotte Harding
Charlotte is a journalist and the co-founder of The Women's Work Collective.


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