LAST week I wrote a piece on body image and the importance of being mindful about the way you speak about your body.
The response was amazing (thank you everyone!) and it really seemed to strike a chord.
The comments came thick and fast (I still haven’t had a chance to get around to replying to them all yet) and sadly it seems that when it comes to body image, us women still have a long way to go until we reach a healthier level of acceptance about how we look.
And so this week I’ve been really thinking about my body image.
Now, as a younger woman and as a teen. And as I’ve thought back over my 35 years, it really struck me, that somehow I’ve always been able – on most occasions anyway – to rather like how my body looks, regardless of what the media says or personal comments that have been made.
Make no mistake, like all of us, I’ve come across some challenges. At school, for example, one of the lads in my form, loved to call me ‘ironing board’.
For some reason he seemed to find real offence with the fact that I didn’t have the largest of breasts (no doubt comparing me to page 3 models – big cheers to The Sun for keeping going with this sexist daily occurance ey?) and yet here’s the funny thing.
My lack of boobage has never bothered me. Not then. And sure as hell, not now.
Sure his comments stung a little bit but even as a developing teen I would look in the mirror, see my small but shapely breasts and think they were just fine thank you very much! And years later, I still do.
But how have I managed to be happy with the way I look? Well, my friends, I’ve wracked my brains and done my best to sum it up.
I’m certainly no expert on body image but here’s how I’ve managed to love my body most of the time. This is what has worked for me.
1) I try not to compare
One of my best friends at college had the most amazing legs. The kind of legs you’d see in a magazine. Gorgeous they were and no doubt still are. My legs are one of my best features (or so I’ve been told) but hers totally ‘knocked mine out of the park’.
Did I mind? No. I still loved my legs, even though hers were much more beautiful.
Why? Because I’ve got my beauty and she’s got hers.
My lovely Dad once said to me: “It doesn’t matter who you are, there will always be someone richer, prettier, smarter or thinner than you.”
And he’s right. If you continually measure yourself against others you can only fail. You’ve got to concentrate on YOU.
Every woman I know and have ever met has something beautiful about her. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. Perhaps you’ve got the most sensational skin or eyes that can melt the toughest of hearts. Maybe you hate your tummy but you’ve got the most magnificent waist. Whatever your beauty is, you have to find it and love it and leave the comparing alone.
2) I try to appreciate it
I did everything to avoid stretch marks when I was pregnant so was rather dismayed when they started to pop up from nowhere in my last trimester.
Admittedly I wasn’t too keen on them at first but now, a couple years on, I often forget they’re even there. It’s only when my naked body catches a certain light that I can see them.
Those silvery streaks may not be perfect but they are beautiful. They’re a reminder of carrying Elsie after all.
You have to learn to appreciate your body. As I said last week, it does a brilliant job of keeping us alive.
3) I focus on the positive
Some women will do anything not to see themselves naked. But if you’re one of them, I urge you to try and change your perception.
After giving birth, my body looked like nothing I’d ever seen before. My tummy was still there, huge but now saggy. My breasts were massive (oh if my school buddy could have seen them then!) and swollen and sore. But I still looked in the mirror naked. I still tried my best to like what I saw.
I tried to marvel at the changes my body had undergone and to accept that my body was forever altered. And crucially, I was kind to myself. We are our own worst critics about our bodies but we have to stop and be much kinder to ourselves.
Next time you see yourself in the mirror naked, stop, look hard at your reflection and find something positive to say. I guarantee you’ll start to feel a damn sight happier about how you look if you change your perception.
4) I listen to those who love me
My husband has always been and continues to be my body’s greatest fan. :) Never once has he said anything negative about my body. He’s loved me for over 14 years and continues to marvel at my womanly curves. I know how lucky I am to be saying that. I also know how fortunate I am to be with a man who only sees my beauty.
The people who love you, love you for who you are so listen to them when they say kind things!
When your husband tells you that you are beautiful, believe it! When your best friend tells you, that you have the most sensational figure, believe her!
We have a tendency to tune out the good stuff people say about us and only focus on the bad. But if you pay attention and learn how to enjoy a compliment, it can really help the way you feel about yourself.
5) I don’t buy or read crap women-hating magazines
You know the ones I’m talking about. The ones who slate celebrities. The ones who zoom in on women’s bodies and publish the most unflattering images known to man.
They are not nice. They won’t make you feel good about yourself. And they promote hate. Ditch ’em and you’ll feel much better.
6) I try to eat well and exercise a bit
I do neither of these two things as much as I should but I do know this. When I eat healthier foods and move around a bit more, I look and feel better.
I don’t do diets nor do I believe in excessive working out but I do believe in looking after yourself.
Wanting to tone up, wanting to lose some weight, wanting to improve your diet are all brilliant things. And there’s no doubt about it, they make you look and feel heaps better if you’re not so happy with yourself currently.
7) I’m realistic
I would love to be as shapely as Jennifer Lopez but that ain’t ever gonna happen my friends! Why? Because my figure just isn’t designed that way.
So what do I do? I accept I’ll never have a booty to rival J-Lo and I focus on what I have got.
I wear clothes that flatter my shape. I show off my legs. I do ballet exercises because they suit my lean shape. I look to how French women dress because most of them seem to have a similar shape to me. I know that my perfect size is a 10.
We are not all designed to be the same size or the same shape! Some of us look better smaller. Others look better bigger. You have to find what works for you and see your body as it is. When it comes to body image, you have to keep it real.
8) I ditch the haters
There’s always someone who will put a pin in your balloon. You know the kind of person I mean. They mock instead of compliment. They compete instead of appreciate. They drain you and make you feel rubbish.
If you take away only one thing from this post, please take this. Ditch anyone in your life who makes you feel awful, says horrible things about how you look or who only ever criticises you.
You deserve better. And so does your beautiful body. Let the haters hate and just shake, shake, shake ’em off.
Phew! That’s it. That was quite some list I know but I really hope it helps.
Learning to love our bodies is a long term project and certainly doesn’t happen overnight but in my experience, lots of kindness, a dash of acceptance and bit of self love goes a very long way.