'The Road To Self-Compassion and Inner-Confidence'
I think this is one of my most requested articles to date, “how did you learn to accept yourself?”. On the majority of my posts, predominantly on TikTok, when I talk about being happy with who I am, the comments are like “HOW?!”. Either from a place of envy or a place of bigotry. I’ve been on one of the most turbulent self-image journeys, and for those that have followed me a long time, you’ll know how I’ve changed over the years.
Growing up I was a slightly chubby kid, and it was pointed out to me more than once. I then grew up extremely conscious of my weight and became determined to be the thin ideal we’ve been conditioned to idealise from the very first moment we picked up a skinny doll or watched a Disney film. This led to me becoming so obsessed with my image that I was avoiding all fat, felt that I had to make up for eating anything remotely unhealthy and would exercise 7 days a week without fail. I’d even not make plans with friends in order to work out. My image became all-consuming and whilst I was bombarded with fire emojis and heart eyes, it was one of the most lonely and depressing periods of my life.
My entire self-worth and confidence were completely dependent on my image. Many people say they don’t see the issue with that, but if your confidence is determined by your image, it is indirectly dependent on how other people see you. So if you ask yourself, “Why don’t I like myself” and detail what about yourself you don’t like, then ask yourself “but why don’t I like it”, you’ll soon realise that it’s because you’ve been conditioned to find it unattractive. Society is built with this top 1% of flawless airbrushed beauty that is fed to the masses, leading to a scramble of insecurity for the rest of us. This is then profited on by capitalism selling us clothes modelled by thinner people and the promotion of diet culture.
What I want us to focus on today is body neutrality. The more widely recognised movement is body positivity, but this receives a lot of criticism for its lack of inclusivity as it’s often reserved for a certain shape of plus-size women, and excludes men completely. It also focuses on the idea of “I love my body, I love me, I’m embracing my imperfections” which puts even more focus on the way we look. However, the Body neutrality mentality removes the focus from our body image completely by showing that we can be completely content with who we are irrespective of our physical appearance. Instead, we focus our attention on our bodies functions and just being grateful to be alive.
ANYWAY, that’s enough sociology for now (I can’t help myself) let’s get to the bit where I try to help you a little. Disclaimer; these pieces of advice won’t work for everyone nor will everyone agree! But, they will work for some of you, so if this article has helped just one person, I’ve done my job.
Be Thankful For Your Bodies Functions - So I’ve mentioned this one already, but let’s go into a little more detail. Often we focus so much on our bodies appearance that we forget all of the other amazing things it does for us. The fact we’re even here is a miracle, did you know that there was a 1 in 400 trillion chance of you even being born? So spending our relatively limited time on this earth being mean to ourselves, sucks. It’s not that easy of course, I get it. You’re not just going to change your mindset overnight. But by gradually shifting our internal dialogue to gratitude for what we have rather than resentment for what we don’t, will help you be kinder to yourself in the long run.
Treat Your Body With Respect - One of the things that irritate me is how some people seem to think that by accepting weight gain or by eating bad foods is not respecting our bodies, and to respect our bodies we need to treat them like temples and workout 8 days per week. But in reality, respecting our bodies means moderation. Too much of anything isn’t healthy. So rather than being mean to your body for getting bigger or for berating yourself for wanting to eat something that you enjoy, be kind to it. Clothes were made to fit us, not us to fit clothes. So if your body changes, change your clothes accordingly. And, if you want to treat yourself to cheeky foods occasionally, do it! And no, you don’t need to “make up for it “.
Have your Insecurities Held You Back? - How many opportunities have you missed because of the way you feel about yourself? Have you missed out on dates because you felt insecure? Have you missed out on parties, or fun beach days? When you think back to the fact our time on this earth is relatively limited, let’s try to live it to the fullest! Of course no pressure, it’s your life and you’re entitled to live it how you wish! But, don’t miss out on things you want to do because of the way you see yourself. Jump in headfirst and enjoy yourself!
Changing Your Body Isn’t The Key To Happiness - This is one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made. Changing your body to fit societies expectations may alleviate your insecurities in the short term, but one of the misconceptions of this is that once we reach our ‘goal body’ we’ll just live happily ever after! But in reality, you’re just feeding your focus on body image. It’s like a never-ending spiral of not feeling enough whilst changing our bodies to edge our way up the body image hierarchy to feel just that bit more attractive than others. Happiness truly does come from within. I know it sounds like a cliché, but it’s true.
Your Body Doesn’t Determine Your Worth - I’ve touched on this briefly already, but there is this unwritten hierarchy of beauty within our society that truly is incredibly toxic. The average body receives such minimal representation that it’s a constant fight for fitting in. It’s easy to feel less worthy and less important because of our body image, but that concept written down sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? To feel like you’re less important because of the way your body looks. So know this, the way your body looks does NOT make you less important. It does NOT determine your worth. You were born and you exist, period. Nothing more, nothing less.
Your Body Isn't Likely To Be Represented - If you were wondering why you feel the way you about yourself, this is probably it. The majority of body images aren’t positively represented in the media, and in some cases are even demonised. When you’ve spent your entire life feeling like one specific body type is the peak of desirability and everything else is subpar, is it any wonder we’re all riddled with insecurities? That’s where social media is a powerful tool. Follow creators and pages that represent who you are, and in time, you’ll realise you’re not alone.
Social Media Is A Facade - Okay I know what I just said about social media, but here’s its downside. The online world is filled with people posing in a way to manipulate their image and potentially even editing their bodies completely, then we’re made to think that these images are just candidly obtainable. People’s insecurities are blurred out and our good bits are highlighted. Now imagine this; one creator has 300K followers and they post an edited and posed image of them on the beach. 300K people then see this and feel subpar in their appearance and attempt to recreate that facade online themselves, without considering the fact the image is a falsified reality. When you think about it, social media is just billions of people lying to each other about who’s better than who, and boo, you don’t need to be involved in that.
Other People’s Negative Opinions Are Their insecurities - This isn’t one of those “oh they said something mean? They’re clearly jealous” mentalities, this is a known psychological behaviour. Some individuals are so fearful of appearing a certain way that they do whatever they can to distance themselves from it. They work to change the way they look whilst bringing other people down in the process. So, if you receive negative comments about your appearance, it’s just because they’re projecting their insecurities onto you. It’s not your problem.
The Journey Isn't Linear - Often with recovery and changing mindsets, it's easy to think that it's an 'A to B' process, beginning and end, but for body image this isn't the case. It's a continuous storm of different emotions; the waves will be calm and bearable one day, the next can be exhausting and make you want to just give up. The important thing is NOT to give up, things may get tough and having bad days is ok, but giving up is not an option. You deserve to be here just as you are.
And that's it! I hope this has been helpful for you in some way. If you want to leave a comment suggesting other methods of accepting your body or requesting other topics then please do! Just know, you shouldn't have to change who you are to fit in.