Our guests speaker was Sam Cleasby, and although I had heard a lot about her (particularly in the preceding weeks) I wasn't sure what I would get out of her talk. I knew she would be talking about her struggle with Irritable Bowel Disorder and Ulcerative Colitis, and definitely about her experiences of other people's responses to her. Following her open letter to a lady who tutted at her for using a disabled toilet, I was interested to hear how she dealt with such attitudes on a day to day basis.
However, I was mistaken if I thought this would simply be a revealing talk about one woman's struggles. The evening helped me (and I'm sure many others) to look at myself in a different way, and unburied feelings I had kept locked up for several years previously. (Whoa deep!)
After an update from the ever hilarious and entertaining duo of President and Secretary; Kirsty and Laura, and a break to refuel with some delicious homemade treats, Sam introduced herself to the waiting audience of ladies. She seemed to be so flattered and excited to speak to the group, but from my view, we were excited to hear her strong voice which had so recently received national exposure.
Sam began by explaining her illnesses to us, and I found it fascinating and heart breaking to hear what she had been through. Regardless of this, she came across as a strong and confident individual, who could even makes light of her experiences - already she came across as a true female role model. Her ability to explain her condition and what this meant, provided the group with a true insight into what this sort of condition could mean for people all over the world. It also made me realise that even when somebody may not 'look' ill, or as if they are struggling physically, appearance can certainly be deceptive. It made me want to be much more caring of others around me.
However, it was Sam's focus on the general state of women's self image that I found most thought provoking. Her ability to encourage a positive approach to body image was astounding, and her belief in her own body following her struggles was wonderful. As she questioned the social expectations of women and their bodies, I looked around me and realised that all I saw was a room full of awesome women. I had no feelings that some of us were better than others as a result of the way we all looked. I just loved being in a room full of people who were all listening and relating to what Sam was preaching (and she was preaching! Preaching the positives of being a woman, and actually how brilliant our bodies are for getting us through every day!).
We all need to remember how much our bodies do for us, and actually, why can't we start thanking them, instead of punishing them?
To read more about Sam's amazing story, visit her website www.sobadass.me