I always believed body confidence was conditional, that loving yourself had a size limit. I could accept myself once I reached a particular number on the scale or my clothing tag, but until then I’d be in a holding pattern waiting for my ‘real’ life to begin.
Surely you’ve felt the same? I think it’s something we all struggle with to some extent because, let’s be frank, beauty standards are fucked up.
Each new ‘trend’ seems totally at odds with the last. How the hell can you get a thigh gap AND a rockin’ booty?! And why should you even want one?
Ultimately, our insecurities fuel a multi-million dollar industry. Whether it’s some ‘skinny’ tea which will probably replicate my IBS symptoms or a new diet book, the message is that you’re not good enough as you are.
In reality, if these businesses are going to keep making money they need us to never realise what a ridiculous crock of shit this is.
The media, of course, plays a huge part in creating that image of an ‘ideal’ body, both through traditional publications and in the content which is shared on social feeds.
Yet there are writers, influencers and brands actively working against that trend to create a body positive community where women feel empowered to be themselves regardless of their appearance. That’s the point of this post, I promise. But I’m going to be real with you first.
Call bs on ridiculous body standards
It’s hard to pinpoint when my weight gain started, but I remember the exact moment I stepped on a set of sales and saw three digits. I felt anxiety drop like a stone in the pit of my stomach. That was the moment I decided things needed to change.
I was 14 or 15 and I’d slowly been getting bigger. I’m tall, so my parents always put it down to a growth spurt and my dad tried to convince me many a time that all my ‘puppy fat’ would ‘fall right off’.
And you know what, I think he genuinely believed that. But it didn’t. I was wearing bland plus-sized clothes while all my friends were sporting singlets with weird belts and babydoll dresses from Supré (let’s pray those trends never swing back around).
Not only was I overweight and eating my feelings, but I was positive that if I just got to a certain number my life would be sunshine and rainbows. Suddenly, I’d feel more confident in myself, a cute guy would magically appear riding a unicorn and ask me out… you see where I’m going, right?
I did end up losing weight. I’m glad I did because it was good to get fit, but I didn’t do it for the right reasons. As I said while discussing fat-positive film Dumplin’, I just took fear and loathing for my body and channelled it into exercise.
I was losing weight, wearing ‘cool’ clothes (give me a break, I was only a teenager), so pretty soon I’d be happy, right?
Well, yes and no. See, I thought I was happy with my body.
But it took me so many more years to realise I was wasting my life away in a holding pattern while still searching for ‘perfection’.
We waste too much of our life wishing ourselves different, but life is to be lived.
It’s not a bad thing to want to change your diet or add some more movement to your day, but not because we want to look like the current ‘it’ girl or reach a number on a clothes tag (because who the hell even knows how those things work, right?).
Call bs on those standards and throw your love behind those people and products who accept us for who we are and strive to empower our everyday.
On that note, here are three ways to start…
What I Like About Me by Jenna Guillaume
After the body confident, fat positive and fabulously fun hit that was Dumplin’, What I Like About Me is the perfect Aussie-flavoured chaser.
Set during the Aussie Christmas holidays, Maisie has to deal with the return of her practically perfect sister, being stuck on holiday with the boy of her dreams and his annoying best friend, and her dad acting really weird.
I gobbled this book up in just a few hours, most of it while sitting in the bath with the water slowly growing cold around me. What I Like About Me was immediately enchanting and utterly addictive.
Maisie is so ashamed of her body and I saw much of my former self in her. At the beach she wears board shorts and covers up even though it’s stinking hot and uncomfortable.
Although this book explores her body confidence journey, it’s about so much more. There’s crushes and family drama and Dirty Dancing references. It’s beautifully written while also being funny and utterly charming.
One of the best things about What I Like About Me was how quietly diverse it is: Maisie’s sister is gay, their parents are struggling to keep their relationship afloat, and their family is working class. Although these elements form important parts of the story it’s not the main focus of the book. That was refreshing and much needed in the YA landscape.
This is the book I wish I’d had when I was 15. I don’t know how much it would have changed my views of myself (I was pretty stubborn in my lack of confidence) but it would have been the reminder I needed that I wasn’t alone.
Am I Ugly by Michelle Elman
Body confidence coach Michelle Elman is probably the person who finally changed my thinking, in part through her book Am I Ugly? as well as her brilliant social media accounts and our interview for Better Words.
Am I Ugly? explores Elman’s complicated medical history, including multiple surgeries for life-threatening illnesses and extended hospital stays. She discusses how these experiences and resulting scars shaped her own body image and the interplay between beauty and interplay.
Elman gained popularity on social media through her #scarrednotscared project which highlighted the need for greater diversity in body image and reduces the stigma around scarring and body difference.
I highly recommend following Elman’s body positive and personal accounts, for so much advice on ways to change your thinking around not only body confidence, but relationships, toxic situations, and wellness.
I first found the wonderful body confident and fat positive Neon Moon through my beautiful friend Grace, (who explained how she accidentally became an underwear model for them in this post). I started following them, of course, because she has impeccable taste. Actually, I only found out about Michelle Elman because Grace was doing a body confidence event with her after we visited England last year.
Anyway, I came to absolutely love Neon Moon’s uplifting and inclusive social posts and vowed to buy some of their lingerie when we moved to the UK (exchange rates are a killer). But, then I saw their Black Friday sales and I treated myself to some much-needed new bras.
Let me tell you, they are absolutely heavenly. The most comfortable bras I’ve ever worn and a self love, fat positive brand to boot? Perfect combination.
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Tell me what books I need to read or people I should be following to continue this body confidence journey I’m on!
A copy of What I Like About Me was gifted to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.