health

'How my obsession with Kate Middleton gave me body dysmorphia.'

I’ve always had a complicated relationship with the way I look. My face just never felt like it fit right. My body was always too squishy, and too short. My hair thin and boring. As I got older it turned into something more like body dysmorphia – some days I would look at myself and think I was truly grotesque, and not fit to walk amongst “normal” people.

And then she happened. Although Kate had been on the scene in William’s life for a long time, I’d never paid that much attention. To me, she still looked like a regular young woman. I was in Queensland on holiday with my parents when the engagement was announced. We had a pretty dodgy internet connection but I stretched it to the limit to watch the press announcement and subsequent interview.

Kate was beautiful – tall, slim, gorgeously attired, with that rich, thick, glossy mane of delicately-highlighted brunette locks that have become her trademark. Her smile was beautiful and natural, and the way she spoke so elegant, but also self-aware and nervous. She was instantly likeable, and everything about her covetable. For me, and I suspect many others, that was the day that the cult of Kate began.

kate middleton body dysmorphia
"I remember spending hours in a makeup store, having the sales assistant apply products to my face in the style and the same colours that Kate wears." Image supplied.

My own feelings about myself were in a steady decline. Although I had recently found love, the self-hatred only grew worse. I binge-ate to assuage my feelings, then felt extreme guilt. Kate become thinner and thinner as the wedding drew near, and I hated myself for not being like her. To me, she was perfect: everything a woman should be. The moment I saw her step foot out of the luxury car to enter Westminster Abbey, something in me died. She was the most beautiful bride, and I knew I would never look like that. It didn’t stop me from trying though.

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I remember spending hours in a makeup store, having the sales assistant apply products to my face in the style and the same colours that Kate wears. My heart dropped at the end when I looked in the mirror and still saw myself. I left the shop empty-handed, probably despised by that poor sales assistant. As the years went on, Kate became the perfect wife, perfect Princess, and then, the perfect mother, with her two beautiful, cherubic children. I stayed the same; unable to lose weight, unable to like myself, and unable to let go of an ideal.

I would look at the tiny circle of the Duchess’ waist, and imagine what it would feel like to be a woman like that. Someone who could wake up in the morning, put on an outfit, and not worry about lumps and bumps. I started to feel that the only way I could be truly happy was if I were that perfect, too. I tried dyeing my hair, getting hair extensions, dieting, buying similar clothes and shoes. My eyesight had started to fail but I railed against wearing glasses to the point of giving myself headaches, because Kate didn’t wear glasses. Which, in my twisted mind, meant pretty girls didn’t wear glasses. When I got married and started thinking about a family, I thought I must start right away. Kate was 31 and a half when she had her first child, and I was 30. To do it right, and be perfect, I must stick to the same timeline; never mind that I was not ready, nor wanting children yet.

If all of this thinking and behaviour sounds obsessive, it’s because it is. I have mental health problems that cloud a lot of my thinking, and can make life pretty difficult. It’s something I’ve worked on for years and years, and the Kate fixation is only a symptom of the problem.

More recently, I’ve been looking at myself in the mirror. Really looking at myself. And I realised I’ll never look anything like her. I’m short, she’s tall. She’s slim, I’m plump (or whatever the correct term is). She has thick, curly hair; I have fine, straight hair. She’s an English Rose, and my background is Italian. We couldn’t be more different.

The most crucial difference, though, is that she’s a Princess, and I’m not. Kate has money, support, daily hair and makeup artists, and access to a wardrobe I could only dream of. I can admire her from afar, and still feel some inevitable envy. But I can’t hate myself for not fitting an ideal that’s hardly even real. I’m me. I still don’t like it, but I hope someday I will. Baby steps.

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