I’m a size 12 and weigh ten stone and five pounds (I know this because I just weighed myself for the first time in six months). This means I am two dress sizes smaller and a stone lighter than the average UK woman. I am also three dress sizes larger and at least a couple of stone heavier than the average UK model. I’m not curvy but I’m not willowy thin – my body doesn’t “fit” anywhere. But this doesn’t mean I can’t talk about body confidence.
I’ve never been discriminated against because of my size, never had to put up with disgusting abuse because of the shape of my body, never been made to sit on a different seat on the bus or a plane. And for this, I am well aware of my privilege.
I have, however, suffered moments of crippling self doubt and self hate, often triggered by feelings about my body. And this is why I’m going to continue to talk about body confidence and unpick ideas about body image and what they mean to me, despite not being a bigger woman and having been lucky enough to never have suffered abuse for my size.
The body positive movement is an important one fighting to free marginalised bodies and battle fatphobia (Megan at Bodyposipanda writes beautifully on this). I’m fully aware that the shape of my body does not put me in this group of oppressed people. But I also feel that messages of body acceptance, body confidence and self love should not be confined to any one body shape.
I know larger women who’ve been discriminated against because of their size and I know smaller women who’ve battled eating disorders born from a hatred of their body. I know women who’ve had real relationship problems because of their feelings about their own naked bodies and I know women who’ve never taken their kids swimming because they can’t face the idea of being in a swimming cozzie in public. All of these women range from sizes 8 to 24.
The UK teen girl population has one of the lowest levels of body image in the world, with only 39% of our teen girls having high body esteem according to the 2017 Dove Global Girls Beauty and Confidence Report. If you surveyed these girls’ mums I’m sure the figure would be even lower. We have a bad relationship with our bodies here in the UK, and it’s not helped by the constant images we see of one type of body in magazines, on TV (Love Island, anyone?) and social media.
And this is why, as much as I loved the amazingly written article by Laura Jane Williams in Red Magazine on body image, I disagreed with some of it. Laura writes that “the only way to empower myself, and to also empower the women around me to accept their bodies in whatever shape and size they come in, is to remove discussion around them full stop.”
Laura argues that, “to analyse and dissect our appearance continues to fuel the idea that bodies exist to be analyzed and dissected – no matter how positively we try to do it”. I can see this, yet I feel like the alternative – to stop talking about the subject at all – is not the solution.
I agree that our society is far too focused on appearance. And I hate that “Ooh have you lost weight?” is seen as the ultimate compliment. But I think we do need to keep talking about body image, self love, body acceptance and sharing photos of our normal bodies in all shapes and sizes in order to normalise the idea that we are all different and no one shaped body is better or worse than another. Staying silent on this subject could push us into a place where the next body image survey shows an even lower number of UK girls with high body esteem.
I feel strongly about this stuff as a mum of girls but I also recognise that body image issues are not confined to one gender. I know men with body confidence dilemmas that are holding them back from enjoying life, meeting people and doing regular stuff like going on holiday with their friends and families. Body confidence is a human-wide subject.
For me, body confidence is not about losing a stone and putting a photo of yourself on Instagram with the caption “I feel amazing, I’ve lost a stone, I can finally wear a bikini! #bodyconfident”. If that’s you then all power to you, but it’s not my take on the subject because, for me, it’s not about loving your body AFTER you’ve lost weight or feeling good about yourself AFTER you’ve “corrected” a so-called “flaw”. It’s about accepting – and, hopefully ultimately loving – your body as it is RIGHT NOW.
That’s not so say you’ll love it every second of every day and it’s not to say you won’t want to change something about it at some point. But wouldn’t be it brilliant to get to a place where we all felt truly comfortable and confident in our own skin, without looking in the mirror and seeing all the things we want to change about ourselves?
I have so much more to say on this subject but for now I wanted to pop in and say HI! I’m back! Now I’m back from my work trip abroad I’ll be posting regularly again and, if you saw my little update video on YouTube or follow me on Instagram, you’ll know body image, confidence and self love are all things that are likely to make an appearance in my content from now on.
For now, I’ll leave you with a big old internet hug, a smile that reaches my eyes (laughter lines for the win) and an attitude that says you are worthy of love and acceptance WHATEVER your body size.