When we say self-love and self-care, these ideas encompass a range of things; for some its a nice hot bath with a luxury bath bomb. For others its a Sunday afternoon roast with a large glass of red. Maybe its shutting your bedroom door and not leaving all day until you’ve finished the book you downloaded that morning.
These are all great acts of self-care, and demonstrate self-love, but really, there’s one big problem that I would bet good money the majority of women (and a stack of men) struggle with: Body Confidence.
This is a tricky to subject to write about: I see a lot of people tweet disparagingly about the media posting pictures of thin actresses. I see the flip side of this when people who have naturally slim figures find themselves feeling personally attacked. Fat-shaming is increasingly commonplace and not cool. There’s such a constant, constant barrage of all the ways we should look, the things we shouldn’t do and most of the time, the glorious lithe model you see on the front cover of Vogue has been airbrushed to look completely different anyway. Still, it’s difficult to bring ourselves around to the idea that we look good.
A little while ago, I wrote about how I was desperate to protect my nieces (and nephews!) from the media perceptions of how they should look. I’d talk to them about being proud of our bodies, how they meant we could exercise, and all the cool stuff that our bodies do like help us digest food and so on.
One evening, I did one thing I never do when I’m getting undressed; I looked in the mirror. Immediately my mind leapt to all the things were to scrutinise (and there were many)- my stomach which never wants to be flat (rude) and is decorated by a scar after I had a surgery that went disastrously wrong. I’m lucky with the size of my boobs but that’s about where it ends, they only look good if they’re in a bra that has re-enforced steel for underwiring – and on and on I went until I realised, I’d never let any of my friends – or anyone actually, speak like that about their own body.
Learning to appreciate how we look is one of the toughest things we can bring ourselves to do; we literally live in a society where it’s ingrained in us to want to change how we look – make up adverts, shampoo adverts, diet before and after adverts – it’s relentless.
I’ve been lucky enough to do some amazing stuff in the past couple of years – lots of travelling and fun adventures. The other day I went through my Instagram and noticed that there are maybe two full-body photos of me. That in itself is not a big deal – what’s sad is knowing there are some photos of me in amazing places and once in a lifetime experiences, that I still can’t quite bring myself to look at or share those photos with anyone else, all because I’m fixated on the way I think I should look.
So today’s self-care post is a little different. This is the first full-body photo I’ve felt comfortable with in months. It was taken by my incredibly supportive friend The Hels Project, who always tries to encourage me not to feel shy. It makes me feel gutted, really, to think my girlfriends and guy mates are feeling similar, so I think it’s time to make a few pledges:
- I promise to be kind to myself about the way I look, I will find something good even on the worst of days.
- I will focus on my health. My diet and exercise will be focussed on the fact it’s important to look after my body. It’s time to stop doing exercise and maintaining a healthy diet in the pursuit of looking thin: I want to fuel my body and I want to be proud of what I can achieve when I exercise.
- When I look in the mirror and start fixating on all the bad I see, I’ll remember one of the kind things Hels, or one of my other lovely friends has said to me. This could be physical or something more personal – which leads me to…
- How I look doesn’t define me. I’ve walked into situations with beautiful women and men I’m convinced would never find me attractive, really to the extent where they’d find me repulsive – and I’ve shied away from social situations because I’m convinced that I don’t stack up. I’ve worked really hard in my career, I’ve pushed myself to travel solo, to overcome some of the worst anxiety you can imagine and to join a netball club among other things – there are other things that are important about my character that are in no way tied to my looks.
- I will forcibly remind my self that social media is not real. Take for example a rather famous influencer I follow. A friend highlighted to me where you could see how they’d edited their photos to make themselves look thinner. I also caught site of this same blogger tagged in a photo by a friend and the tagged version differed wildly to the version published on her own socials. Different angles, lighting, positioning all change everything. Influencers make a living from pretty pictures: its important to remember this, because like with all major media such as magazines, what we see is not necessarily what is real.
- I will complement my friends more, and do so unprompted. I know a lot of them struggle with all of this too, and it makes me so sad that they ever feel down about it.
- I will remind myself that my body is built to do incredible things; this body could one day enable me to have children. It’s run 10km for me before. Keeping it healthy has meant I can go on long walks with the dogs – there are so many small and trivial things about our bodies that we take for granted, and I’m determined to stop doing that, too.
- Alongside my daily grateful that I keep track of, I will state something I’m proud of my body for doing, or find at least one good thing to offset the bad.
- I will be sharper with myself when I let the words of nasty ex boyfriends past seep in and make me doubt myself and the way I look.
- And finally, on days when I am really really struggling to stick to the above pledges, I will think about my nieces and how I want them to grow up appreciating the incredible things their bodies will empower them to do – to play sport, to run marathons, to maybe have children of their own one day, and how what I really want is that the world they grow up in to represent that – from the magazines they read to the films they watch.
Body confidence is tough, but it’s something we can all help each other with. Hopefully the above didn’t come off as too self-indulgent. I hope it helped you to feel a little bit proud of what your body is capable of!
What are your pledges to body confidence in 2019?