Body confidence isn’t just for bigger people

body confidence as a mum

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. says

    I think it would be unbelievably great if we could accept that for some women the conversation that needs to be had is probably something like, “Why is my perception of my body so negative?” And that’s a conversation about confidence and social values and norms and it’s important and valuable. The massive lack of confidence many women feel after childbirth in particular, is a pernicious and sad thing.

    It would be equally (and perhaps even more) great if we could accept and understand that this isn’t the same conversation as body positivity and the harm that conflating those two issues can do – not just on a larger scale of how society views and talks about body positivity and marginalised bodies, but also on a smaller, human scale of how it hurts owners of marginalised bodies to see their rallying cry taken over by people who’ve never walked a mile in their shoes.

    I posted something on Twitter recently about diversity and I think that applies here – in saying it’s important for a marginalised voice to be heard, and we should be making that easier by amplifying those voices, nobody is suggesting everyone else shouldn’t talk as well.

    It’s just about allowing someone else not to be drowned out by the fact that certain voices find it easier to be the loudest and most visible. And those are typically voices owned by white, middle class, straight, cis-gender people in average sized bodies. A lot of us in social media have an enormous amount of privilege in oh so many ways – and recognising that doesn’t mean ignoring the things we still find challenging, or asking for support in overcoming those challenges.

    • says

      I think you’re spot on, Sally, with us asking why so many feel the way they do. I also think it’s worth saying that it’s OK for someone to NOT feel confident about their body. It’s not some sign of failure if, despite all of the positive messages out there, they still feel crap about how they look. And I agree with your diversity comment. I think it’s important for everyone to be welcomed into a conversation about diversity, as long as they’re prepared to listen and learn (which I know Molly is) and it’s counter-productive to tell someone they can’t be part of a conversation because they are white/slim/straight/middle-class.

  2. says

    Love this post. I had mixed feelings about the Red piece too. On one hand, it would be great if this conversation wasn’t needed, and as someone who doesn’t talk about diets or ‘being fat’ or anything negative body-wise around my daughter, I see the value in removing something from day to day conversation to help shape positive thoughts. But on the other hand…. are we at risk of sweeping it under the carpet? Forcing those conversations to be whispered because they’re taboo?
    I’m a size 14-18 depending on where I’m shopping and, like you, I’ve never been abused because of my body shape (well, as an adult anyway) but I have had so many issues with my body over the years – real, proper, ruin your day/week/month, suck the joy out of life issues. I’ve found the recent conversations around body confidence have helped me hugely and I think it’s important to keep having those conversations – and hearing from women of all shapes and sizes.

    • says

      Totally. I think it’s very easy to dismiss negative body image feelings that can completely ruin people’s lives by saying, “Well what would you know about it, you’re a size XXX” which is really damaging. Because then you get people who are too scared to talk about their real feelings for fear of offending others who might not have the same shape. But obviously I’m well aware that I don’t want my voice to drown out others’ on the internet who’ve suffered real abuse and been marginalised because of the shape of their body. For what it’s worth, I’m happier with my body now than I ever have been and I’m probably bigger and saggier and wobblier than I’ve ever been. For me, it’s been about a change of mindset rather than a change of body. x

  3. says

    Yes, Molly! I loathe that the go to compliment is ‘You look like you’ve lost weight’ but I’ll admit it’s taken me to the age of 30 something to recognise how damaging and insidious it is. It’s an ongoing process for me personally to deconstruct my body image issues and question and consider the influences I allow to dictate to me. I can often be happy in my own skin, but give me an afternoon with a group of women discussing diets, the gym and parts of their body they are ‘working on’ and I soon revert to my teenage self conscious persona and wonder whether this is what I should be doing too! x

  4. says

    I have been a whole range of sizes over the years and all the sizes have had one thing in common I have always wanted to be smaller… even when I was pretty teeny. I’ve always wanted to be something other than what I am and it really is so damaging to your mental well being and it does drag you down. You can definitely hate your body when you’re a small size or a large size the same as you can love your body no matter what size you are.

    It isn’t down to being an acceptable size or looking an acceptable way for someone else, it is all about accepting yourself and being happy with who and how you are without feeling like you don’t deserve or want to wear a particular thing because you’ll look awful or people might judge you.

    I am so much happier these days with who I am, am I skinny and have my looks changed drastically?… hell no, but the way I think about myself has and the way I treat myself has. I am done dieting and pretty much punishing myself for not being perfect. I’m trying to eat better and exercise more, but for my health and myself not to look a certain way or drop a dress size.

    Thanks to your posts on Instagram lately and other posts from others on a similar theme, they gave me an extra nudge and I have actually gotten my legs out today and I feel so much more comfortable temperature wise and I just don’t care what other people think at all.

    Stevie x

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