It goes without saying that body confidence is a massive issue for men and women of all ages, races, religions and skin colours. It appears that the one thing we have in common is an insecurity about how we look. Despite presenting a – seemingly – more liberal acceptance of how we present body confidence in the media, there’s still this taboo when it comes to discussing it, and no matter how accepting we seem, there’s still this nature of ‘tearing into’ what doesn’t fit the norm of traditional beauty.
When Lady Gaga performed recently at the Super Bowl she looked, and sounded, amazing. The woman oozes self confidence and acceptance of herself and others. But people out there couldn’t help themselves by criticising how she looked – saying that she had “a little pudge” and was on the “chubby side”. She clapped back, naturally, and told her fans that she is proud of her body and that they should be too.
But this still isn’t OK. Millions of impressionable young people will look at her and look at themselves and think that the way they look isn’t right. Gaga has taken steps to ensure that these young people should ‘love the skin you’re in’, but she’s just one voice, constantly juxtaposed every time we turn on the TV, look on social media, read a magazine. It isn’t OK; why should we accept living in a culture that belittles and criticizes based on physical appearance? When did we stop valuing people on the size of their worth, and start focusing on the size of their bodies?
I talk as this is a new thing, but it’s been happening for years. For years we’ve scrutinised others for the way they dress, behave, their shape. But we’re in 2017 now; surely society has moved on by this point?
I’ve always been chubby. When I was a kid as young as 10, I remember writing in a diary that I ‘needed to lose weight’ so a boy would like me; I remember at age 13 going whole days without eating anything until the evening when I couldn’t escape my moms gaze. And as an adult I’ve tried every diet and phase under the sun to try and lose a few pounds so my clothes would fit better. Herbal teas, diet pills, the apple diet, the baby food diet, and so on. There’s photos of me all through my life where my weight has yoyo’d; going from 30 pounds heavier than I should be, to extremely skinny. I wouldn’t say I’ve been bullied for my weight, but there have been comments made by so-called friends, strangers in a bar, peers, that have hurt, and inspired a fresh wave of dieting.
It took finding my now-husband before I became semi comfortable with the way I look. It’s a little cliche to say he loves me for the way I am, but he genuinely does. I still worry about if he finds me attractive, as I’m heavier now than I was when we met. I still have my down days, and I’m still not happy with the way I look (I’m currently in a ‘probably about 30 pounds heavier than I should be’ phase) every time I look in the mirror, but it’s gotten to the point where I’m starting to care less about what I look like, and more about my health.
Yes, I have a belly. Yes, I have rolls and ‘muffin tops’. And yes, I even have back fat. But I am also successful in my chosen career; I have a husband and son who love me; Christ, I’ve had a BABY! And my ‘Mommy Belly’ is a symbol of that feat.
I don’t know if this change of heart (I don’t want to call it ‘confidence’, because I’m anything but) comes from the fact that I have people who love me and accept me for who I am, or whether old age has made me thicker skinned, but I want to share my thoughts on the issue of body confidence, because it makes me sad when the kids I teach and the people whose tweets I follow constantly compare themselves to this unattainable ‘ideal’. It shouldn’t be about people feeling that they are not skinny enough, or ugly and imperfect because of normal flaws that everyone has. It’s about acceptance; those imperfections are what makes you you. And we shouldn’t be trying to change that, we should be trying to celebrate it.
And now it’s your turn. Try not to focus on your ‘flaws’, because we all have them. Instead, focus on why you’re a good person, focus on what makes you attractive – inside and out. We need to create a platform for body positivity, and use it to support and celebrate what makes us beautiful. It’s an invaluable tool to turn to whenever you’re feeling down about yourself. Hell, it’s an invaluable tool for whenever you’re feeling good about yourself.
Again, I’m not the most confident person, so don’t take me as an advocate for body positivity because I’m only human. And there are days when I feel crap about myself. And when that happens, I just remember that I am loved. I take some time away from everything; I’ll go and take a shower or a bath, I’ll go and read a book, put a face Mask on, just take some time for my own mental health more than anything. Because I know, deep down, that I’m worth more than what I see in the mirror. And you are too.