Letting Myself Go.


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Photo: Hartwig HKD via Flickr

There’s a phrase—an insulting, snide, sneering sort of a phrase—that tends to be preceded by the word “She”:

“She’s let herself go.”

“She’s let herself go” usually means that, as she’s aged (whoever “she” might be) or as time’s gone by, or since the last time we saw her and assessed her appearance, she’s somehow become less attractive, less well-kempt, less physically acceptable, somehow, and that she really ought to have done more to fight the decline.

Even when I was a very young woman, I used to feel uncomfortable with this phrase. I was acutely aware of how unfair it was, to judge a person in this way. To say that she (almost always, she) somehow owed it to the world to stay as young-looking and as conventionally attractive as possible, for as long as possible, despite the fact that time, let’s face it, passes, and life happens, seemed breathtakingly  impertinent.

The older I get, the more my discomfort is replaced with a sort of righteous indignation.

How dare they suggest that anyone owes it to the world to (presumably) hold themselves in, or keep themselves back—to fight against their natural progression into maturity and a deeper knowledge of themselves, in favour of a superficial, inevitably doomed and all-consuming struggle to retain elusive youth?

What an individual woman chooses to do with herself, in terms of her appearance, is entirely her prerogative.

What I choose, on any given day to do—to make-up or not to make-up, to eat healthily or not to eat healthily, to wear clothes that flatter my form or to wear saggy, baggy clothes that show up my aging for what it is—is entirely my decision to make.

And, yes, despite the fact that sometimes I make an effort to look my physical best, I am, on the whole, letting myself go.

Not in the sense of not caring anymore about myself or my health or my life or the way I project and present myself—in fact, I love to live healthily and holistically—but in the sense that I will not be imprisoned by the dictates of what the world in general thinks constitutes “presentable” or “acceptable”.

Absolutely right: I’m letting myself go!

I’m setting myself free—and I’m thoroughly enjoying it!

Letting Myself Go


I’m letting myself go!

The once-caged,

would-be wild thing that I am,

the bold, bright and beautiful thing,

with wrinkles and crinkles and folds that sing

of Life.

Yes— I’m letting myself go—

to the four winds, to fly,

to pot, to sleep and dream

and to seed, to blossom all over again.

Yes—I’m letting myself go,

and no! I do not owe myself to anyone,

to keep myself in,

scrubbed and trimmed,

painted and slim,

well-kempt and presentable

like some prized vegetable,

whilst my beauty outgrows

the eyes of those particular beholders;

Yes—I’m letting myself go—

and I want all the world to know

that I don’t care one whit what they think of it—

what they think or say when they look and see…

I’m letting myself go—

I’m letting myself grow older and bolder and more wonderously


Yes, I’m letting myself go;

I’m letting myself BE

and the whole world can like it or lump it,

scorn it, applaud it, discuss it and score it,

like some kind of social judiciary.

I’m letting myself go.

Yes—I’m letting myself go.

I’m letting myself,


go free.


Relephant Reads:

Measuring Up. {Poem}

Our Bodies Bear the Marks of our Journeys. 


Author: Ruth Calder Murphy

Volunteer Editor: Kim Haas / Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: Hartwig HKD/Flickr


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Ruth Calder Murphy

Ruth Calder Murphy (aka Arciemme) is a writer, artist, music teacher, wife and mother living in London, UK. Her life is wonderfully full of creativity and low-level chaos. She is the author of two published novels, “The Scream” and “The Everlasting Monday”, several books of poetry and one or two as-yet unpublished novels. She is passionate about celebrating the uniqueness of people, questioning the unquestionable and discovering new perspectives on old wonders. She is learning to ride the waves that come along—peaks and troughs—and is waking up to just how wonderful life really is. You can visit Ruth and view more of her art on her website, or on her writer’s page on Facebook. Her books are available on Amazon, here.


3 Responses to “Letting Myself Go.”

  1. Pat says:

    This is the story of my life. I (and no one else) hold myself up to an unreasonable standard of physical presentation. I will be 60 this year and have a family wedding to attend later this summer. My mind is already telling me to start preparing for it (like it's the Oscars or the Olympics) – must lose those last 10 pounds, etc. My brothers and their wives are all attending and I'm telling myself that I don't want them to say "she's let herself go". We don't see each other except for every couple of years. What I should be doing is celebrating the fact that all of us are still around and healthy and will have a blast no matter what we look like! These feelings do not come from vanity on my part, but from insecurity. I remember saying to someone once "if you look really good, no one expects anything from you". Obviously I have some soul-searching to do – thanks for this article!

    • arciemme says:

      You and me both, Pat! I wrote this and I still have to pull myself up short for doing and thinking the exact same, self-sabotaging things again and again… But I think the more of us who recognise that we do this, and challenge it in ourselves, the better – for us and for our societies and our societies' children. One step at a time, one self-emancipating decision at a time, we're making the world a better place. I hope you thoroughly enjoy the wedding, and let yourself "go" in wonderful ways!

  2. Faye says:

    I’m having the reverse problem. .. I’m not ready to let myself go and I don’t see that changing. I’m 40 years old and in a very emotionally abusive relationship. I’ve got friends from school who have let themselves go and keep harping on me that I haven’t. My boots have a hard time with it because their friends comment on my looks or people out and about. I have other friends who say that if I let myself go my abusive and narcissistic boyfriend will let go of his tight grip on me and move onto someone else.

    What they don’t understand is that eating well and training hard are about the only thing that I feel in control of. When I finally do exit this relationship, I don’t want the work of getting back in shape or sagging skin to also be part of what will be a long fight back to feeling good inside about myself and learning to trust my heart to another man.

    I enjoy getting dolled up. .I enjoy walking into a room and getting a lot of attention. I like it even better that this man in my life is aware that no matter how bad he tried to make me feel about myself, that I am gorgeous and worthwhile. Because I emote that, others notice and gravitate to it.

    Let me add that my heart is the best thing about me. Looks fade and at some point I will look my age. Men can be replaced and children move on to live their own lives. So long as I have breath in me, I’m not going down without a fight… neither physically nor mentally.

    Love to you ladies. Xx

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