I love how the pendulum is slowly swinging to the other side and we’re being encouraged to love and respect and honour and celebrate our bodies … just the way they are. But sometimes it feels like another candy-coated marketing tool.
Because for years they’ve been telling us how we should look. What beauty is. What products can ‘fix’ our ‘faults’. Our body image issues start from horrendously young ages. And as we grow older, they’re compounded in vicious cycles.
Here’s the real issue. How the hell do we suddenly start undoing all those damaging messages about our physical images? Messages that feel so irrevocably internalised?
I’ll admit it: sometimes it’s hard to look down at my thighs and not hate them because they ‘should’ be thinner. Or that little roll on my tummy that ‘shouldn’t’ be there. Or the neck that’s starting to show her age.
A friend once told me that no matter what her body shape was, no matter how beautiful she was, not one woman she knew actually loved her own body. Not even a little bit. I was surprised. And pretty much unsurprised.
We’ve become good at punishing our bodies for looking the way they do. Experts, in fact. A sharp swing in the other direction is a difficult ask. And I think it’s important to start by actually admitting to ourselves that it is a difficult ask. There’s no switch to flick off years of dedicated self-loathing. It doesn’t work that way. And now the pressure is on loving, not hating.
When you admit that it’s not going to be easy, you’re not saying it’s impossible, you’re just saying you’re going to be gentle with yourself on this journey. Because isn’t that the whole damn point? To stop beating yourself up for not being enough?
And it is a journey. A deeply personal one. Whatever truth brings you back to your own love and acceptance may not work for anyone else. For one friend, her watershed moment was standing naked in the mirror and drawing hearts all over her body. For another, it was realizing all the amazing things her body was capable of, even if she was two dress sizes bigger than she wanted to be. For me, it was a year of intense television appearances.
A year of being on television, on stage, in magazines … instead of becoming more insecure as a woman who probably wouldn’t be labelled as ‘thin’, I’ve actually become so much more confident. I got such overwhelming support from people all over the country that I realised our ‘faults’ are so much more exaggerated in our own eyes. Other people don’t see what we do.
We see something ugly. They see someone beautiful.
More than that, what we tend to think of as an imperfection is so often the very uniqueness that others love about us most. And there’s so much else I realised too. Like the way I look like my mother, and my mother’s beautiful, so how could that be a bad thing?
But mostly, I think it’s about authenticity. I’ve seen again and again how people who are confident, people who feel good about who they are, people who embrace themselves, no matter what their physical shape, draw others towards them like moths to the light.
When we stop hiding from ourselves, when we stop burying ourselves in shame and loathing, we start to give ourselves room to shine through … and that’s the most beautiful thing.
So be patient with yourself. Be kind. Forgive. Know your boundless worth. Be your body’s best friend. Be more encouraging, be less judgemental. Get out there and do things that make you feel good. Be totally you.
Because you’re gorgeous.
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