Love Flows: Helen's Body Story

March 22, 2023

Love Flows: Helen's Body Story

Beach life and swimming in the sea has become integral to Helen’s lifestyle, especially with her family. That’s why she joined us on our Love Flows photoshoot with her awesome 11-year-old daughter, Indi.

Helen’s story is the fourth Body Story from our Love Flows campaign where we look at relationships in the context of water. She tells us how creativity, strong family relationships and being active has helped her stay body confident into her forties, how she’s passing that confidence on to her children and why the sea is a special place for her and Indi.

Imagine you're standing on the beach ready to get into the water. How do you feel about yourself and your body in that moment?

I feel good. I'm very comfortable in my own skin. There are parts of me, like the tops of my legs, that I'd rather cover up, but generally, I don't think about my size at all.

I love my D&B swimsuit; it really does make me feel amazing. Not only is it great quality but it also looks beautiful and keeps you in as well. I think that people's choices in swimwear parry with their sense of style and their own confidence, it really confirms how you’re already feeling about yourself and gives you that little bit of extra confidence.

Deakin & Blue Swimwear

Thinking about how you feel about your appearance, how important is it to your self-esteem and confidence?

I was thinking about this morning. I don't really think about how I look at all. I've always been a quietly confident person and while my size has increased, I don't feel any different in myself to how I did when I was a size 10 – I just wear bigger trousers. I think that came from having a really secure upbringing, from having a really firm grounding from a very early age and then having that security all the way through.

We moved around quite a lot as kids. We went to different schools and so I had to make new friends quite often. This gave me an inherent self-confidence I think; I was very happy in groups but I was also very happy on my own. From the point of starting school right through to going to university, I developed a real sense of my own style. I think that self-confidence came from feeling secure and it came across with other people. So, it wasn't really about how I looked, it was about having my own sense of style and having the confidence to pull off whatever it was I was trying to do.

I think that's still with me now. I don't look at myself and think, oh you're fat or you're thin or you’re whatever. It's more about what I do, what I say, the friends who are around me. And that maintains or builds on the self-confidence that I already had.

What about your upbringing helped you have that confidence?

We grew up as a very strong family unit. My parents, who live with us now, are still very sociable, so there were always people around, friends and family, and I became very used to talking to a whole range of people from a young age.

Mum and Dad were both teachers, and we moved around a lot. We moved to Australia for a couple of years when I was ten and went to a couple of different schools when we were there. I worked out this morning that by the time we came back, settled in in Norfolk and I started high school at 13, I'd been to six different schools; two in Australia and four in the UK. And so, you just get used to making new friends or having time when you're happy in your own company. Over time, that became absolutely natural to me – I didn't feel like I was having to work hard for it. My brother didn't have the same response to it; people react differently, I guess.

I went to art school to do a degree in Fine Art and discovered that people don't particularly care what you look like; they care about what you do, what you say, what you make, which is utterly brilliant. I met Dan, my husband, when we were mid-teens, but didn't get together until  I was mid-way through university, and we've been together ever since. So, again, having another really solid relationship just meant that we had the confidence that we could be who we wanted to be together but also separately.

Deakin & Blue Swimwear

Were you ever aware of a body ideal or did that not feel relevant to you?

I was a size 10-12 at university and didn’t start creeping up in size until my late 20s, so when I was knocking about at school and university, I was a pretty standard size like everybody else. I had friends who were thinner or bigger than me, but I didn't look at them any differently and I don't remember wishing I was different. You just accept people for who they are and their personality. Now, I do think, oh, I need to be a bit healthier, I should eat more carefully. So, there’s that small awareness but not to the point where it changed who I was or what I was doing.

External pressure was just not on my radar at all. I don't know whether it was because art is a creative industry where people accept you in a different way. Or that most of the time I was draped in an apron or dungarees so you probably couldn't see what size I was anyway. I don't know. I guess it's how you portray yourself – if you're in a job where you have to wear a suit and everyone's wearing suits, then comparing the differences between people might be more obvious. But I can’t say it was something I ever thought about.

I remember very clearly starting sixth form.  I had gone from the school that we were in to the same sixth form, and then we had other schools that didn't have their own sixth form joining. I had a really nice group of friends. One of my friends said to me, right, I'm going to wear something really normal on the first day and then once people get to know me, I can be more extreme. And I was thinking completely the opposite. I was thinking, right I'm going to meet these people wearing the craziest thing I've got and then they're going to know who I am. But I did all that quite quietly. I've never been the sort to shout, here I am. It's just a quiet confidence.

How can you ensure you pass on that confidence to your children?

It’s been really interesting to observe my daughter Indi in the last year or so. I can already see that she's got some of my traits in her – she is definitely not a follower. She's tall and she's always been strong, but she's kind of stretched out now so she's more athletic. She doesn't give two hoots what she wears and what people might think, even in social situations where there might be a group of them meeting in the village; she's very much, I'll stay for a bit, but I'm not committing to anything, and then she'll just come home or do something else.

So, I already know that she's got a strong mind and she's not going to be easily influenced. We’ve talked about how that can change, but also about feeling good about yourself right now, and that you've got what you've got, so make the best of it and be proud of what you are. She's very tall at the minute and some of her friends are a foot shorter than her, but she's not concerned about it. That may change in the next two or three years, but it’s about keeping on talking, isn't it? It's communicating. If it became obvious that she was self-conscious or comparing herself to images she sees online, it’ll be about showing the reverse, showing what other people are doing, that all our friends around us are mixed sizes. And so, I hope she'll grow up with the same sort of level grounding that I had. It’s key to maintain that, I think.

Deakin & Blue Swimwear

You are Indi are active together. Was being active always part of your life?

I was into sport when I was younger. I used to swim a lot. Not so much team sport and I’ve never been a runner or anything like that, and I think it drifted off after leaving school.

But now I enjoy walking in a social capacity. Through lockdown that became a massive thing; walking and swimming were the only things we could do. And so, I started walking three mornings a week before work and home-school kicked off, plus one decent walk at the weekends either with a friend or by myself. The walking drops off a little bit in winter, I'll be honest, but I'm keeping it going – a friend and I were doing it on a regular basis and we're going to start again as soon as it gets a bit lighter in the mornings.

Dan runs. I can't even explain how much he runs and then talks about running and what food he should be eating so that he can run better. So, I think the kids are both exposed to a real mixture of activities.

How does being active and finding ways to play together help your children as they grow up?

I think it helps you stay young to them, doesn't it? It's important for them to see you as an individual as well. And for them to see you having fun and interacting in a different way when there are so many instances where you're having to tell them off or be serious with them. A classic example is when you go to the beach. By this age, they mostly know how to behave in public, so beach time is fun time. The best thing is when they absolutely die laughing if we go out on the paddleboard and I fall off – they think that's hilarious. So, I'm happy to fall off to continue their amusement.

Deakin & Blue Swimcrop Bikini Navy

You love being on the beach and in the sea with your children. How important is that for your wellbeing and relationships?

Very important. Where we live it's part of what we do by default. From around May onwards there's so much time at the beach. There's so much opportunity to create a strong work-life balance, and I feel, in the grand scheme of things, that we have a pretty relaxed lifestyle and being in the sea is a huge part of that. The kids make me laugh – you end up chatting to whoever happens to be in the sea nearby and they say, do you know them? Who are they? And I’ll say, no, just being friendly. It’s good for them to see that and they’ve started doing it as well. Those methods of forming new relationships just seem so easy in that informal environment.

Dan grew up in a small village where he didn't have a lot of interaction and even now, he’s the first to admit that he finds small talk difficult. I think he's bowled over by how comfortable and at ease both kids are speaking to adults – our friends, their grandparents’ friends and people they don't know. So, it’s such a healthy thing to do on lots of levels.

I would say that I'm still a very inexperienced sea swimmer compared to a lot of other people. But in the last three or four years I’ve become happy to go in the sea on my own, or just with Indi or with fifty other people. I'm not into laps; we’re just dipping and loving it.

You talked about dipping in the sea being something special that you share with Indi. How important is that to your relationship?

It’s about time. Life is busy, isn't it? And there's often a bit of a juggle so actually having that one-on-one time with each of my children is a special thing. For me and Indi to go down and have a swim, and then what comes after – getting dressed without exposing ourselves, having a nice warm drink and chatting all wrapped up – it’s very special.

So, how did it feel to take part in the photoshoot together?

Oh, I absolutely loved it. We both loved it. It was again a really special thing that we've got, just the two of us. I think it was a really important thing to do with Indi, as we've already said, and also great that she got to see some of the other people doing it. She's read some of the Body Stories already, which I think show important lessons. And we'll continue to wear the swimsuits going forward, which will always be a reminder of the day.

Helen wears The Longsleeve Swimsuit in Plum and Signature Swimsuit in Black in size 18 Hendricks; Indi wears the Navy Swimbra High Waister Bikini and the X-Back Swimsuit in Scarlet in size 10 Hepburn