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The Skin We’re In: Triona McCarthy On What Her Sister’s Death Taught Her About Body Confidence

body confidence

This month’s issue of IMAGE magazine is The Confidence Issue, full of  Ireland’s leading female voices on our relationships with our bodies. One of modern life’s holy grails is achieving a state of acceptance about our bodies. Irish women have shared with us the moment they discovered body image, and Triona McCarthy’s piece here, from our July issue, really put it all in perspective. 


At 6.40am, February 8, 2010, on a cold, dark, miserable morning, my sister Tricia took her very last breath, wrapped in my arms. She was 30 years old. I lay there with her for an hour or so after – just the two of us – ’til someone came to take her to the morgue. I noticed a single tear on the left side of her face; it broke my heart. I knew exactly what it meant – she didn’t want to die. There was so much more she had wanted to do – marry, have babies, but her body had let her down. She started to look less and less like my little sister as her skin drained of colour and character right before my very eyes. I realised I was lying with the shell that once housed this charming, sweet, intelligent and graceful girl. It dawned on me that our bodies are merely a vessel and it’s the spirit that really matters.

It’s definitely made me question why we put so much emphasis on our exterior – make-up, diets, beauty treatments, actually what I write about for a living.

I’ve interviewed some of the most “beautiful” women in the world – Victoria’s Secret Angels, supermodels, Hollywood stars, and sometimes they are… ok, I hate to say it, they’re dull. It’s probably why I’m so bloody bored of body talk, our new national pastime.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’d love to lose some weight, and I often feel bad about myself and put myself down. But body image is about so much more than physical appearance, as I learnt when my sister died.

At 2.45pm, on April 17, 2013, on a bright, sunny afternoon, my first child Maxim was born. The doctor put him straight onto my chest, and I thought, “Oh, it’s you!” He felt so familiar. Like I knew him straightaway. Weirdly, it was Tricia’s birthday that day. Of all the days! I was nearly 40 years old, and my partner Will and I had created another human being. Inside me. It blew both our minds.

I suppose what I’m saying is, your body is amazing, just the way it is. Whether it’s thick or thin, through sick and sin. Let’s try to appreciate what we have before time makes us appreciate what we had.


This article originally appeared in the July issue of IMAGE magazine, on shelves nationwide now.

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