How I’m beating low body confidence
For 42 years, three children and probably more wines than was strictly necessary, my body has been there for me. A faithful servant to my every whim, you’d think I would view my body as a dear and devoted friend, the very definition of ride or die.
My body has shown me nothing but goodwill and acceptance. And in return, I have criticised it, abused it and hidden it away.
A lifetime of low body confidence
For years, I’ve dealt with poor body image. Throwaway comments from family and friends (that I have never forgotten), damaging ‘advice’ from women’s magazines and a steady diet of society’s obsession with desperately thin and impossibly beautiful women have played no small part.
I’m not the girl I was at 15, 25, even 35. I am more confident in my opinions, my talents and my worth, in general. But looking in the mirror each morning, a hyper-critical teenager stared back at me. I had to wonder, when will this bullshit end?
What is body image?
The Oxford Dictionary describes body image as:
“The subjective picture or mental image of one’s own body.”
The important word here is ‘subjective’ – meaning what we think of our bodies is not a fact. It’s merely an opinion – and a skewed one, at that. And almost certainly different to the way others see us.
Negative self-talk is one thing – but when our body image starts shaping (and limiting) our choices, the potential to live life fully can slip away.
No beach for fat bums
My body confidence has fluctuated over the years, but I entered my 40s with a quiet resolve to love myself more. Finally, I thought, I’m on the path towards self-acceptance.
And then last summer happened.
We went on a beach holiday and I did not swim. In fact, I only went down to the beach once, wearing bathers under my regular clothes which I never took off. I sat on the sand and observed my family having fun rather than being a part of it.
Summer at the beach, fully clothed and fully broken. A spectator to life. To joy.
We returned home early. My husband told our devastated kids it was because he had a cold. But that’s not why we left. We cut a beautiful family holiday short because I was crawling in my own skin.
How to boost body image
My summer holiday from hell was a kind of rock bottom. I will never get back the moments low body confidence has stolen from me. And though revealing my cellulite in swimmers is uncomfortable, missing another moment of life BECAUSE of cellulite is intolerable. A healthy body image required a mental shift, not a lower number on the scales.
So I’ve been on a quest to unbreak my broken self-image. Here’s what helped:
- Focus on what your body can DO. Mine grew three tiny humans. It gets me everywhere I need to go, often on limited sleep. It has squatted 80kg. It once survived being doused in two bottles of champagne (not recommended). Our bodies are strong and spectacular.
- Aim for ‘body neutral.’ 24/7 body love is unrealistic. We all have bad days. But on those bad days, we can get away from the mirror and out into life where our talents, friendships and pleasures have nothing to do with the absence of perfect abs.
- Try to move every day for your mental and physical health. A walk. A 15-minute workout on YouTube. Consistency is key – not extreme effort.
- Do a social media cull. Instagram has been shown to negatively impact body image. Unfollow accounts that want you to purchase their “beach body” plan. You already have a beach body: it’s your body when you’re at the beach!
- Find body image quotes that inspire you and try repeating them to yourself each morning. Stick them up on your mirror to remind you. Here are two of my favourites:
“Your self-esteem won’t come from body parts. You need to step away from the mirror every once in a while, and look for another reflection, like the one in the eyes of the people who love you and admire you.”
“You are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress, simultaneously.”
Jiggly dancing and self-acceptance
My body has proven itself to be an extraordinarily capable vehicle in which to travel through life. It deserves to be celebrated! My journey towards self-acceptance continues, with good and not so good days. I try not to dwell. I keep busy with the things that really matter. I am careful about what I am modelling to my daughter. I know she takes her cues from me. That’s why she sees me dance in front of the mirror every morning, jiggling in all the right places. I am a work in progress – and a masterpiece all the same.
And so are you.