I was asked recently about how to develop a positive body image. The biggest problem with body confidence is that most people think it starts with the mirror, but it actually begins in the mind. You have to get to that point where you love what you have. It’s not necessary to look in the mirror every day and think about how much you like what you see, but you should be able to pull a fierce facial expression, shrug and say “fuck it, I’ve got more important things to think about.” Life really is too short to spend it worrying about whether or not your body looks the way society says it ought to. To be perfectly honest, society knows shit all about this kind of thing. Instead, follow my five point plan:
1) Surround yourself with positivity
Look for good role models in real life and online. Follow fantastic people like Natasha Devon, Bethany Rutter and Georgina Horne on Twitter. Find some body positive blogs and be inspired by the confidence of the writers and those who comment. Be ruthless and confront people who make negative remarks on your appearance, indulge in body snark or bombard you with their constant diet/weight updates. If they don’t understand why they need to stop, ditch them. You deserve better friends. As Bethany said in her recent post on Arched Eyebrow:
The single best thing I’ve been able to do for myself is to find friendship groups where mainstream messages about beauty and gender roles and bodies are challenged. I can’t blame the women who tireless repeat diet rhetoric, completely saturated in notions of guilt, shame, deserving, undeserving, punishment because they’re only doing what they’re told by a culture that wants women to be as thin and unobtrusive as possible. But I can elect to limit my contact with them.
2) Ignore size labels
Well, don’t ignore them entirely, but use them as a guideline for finding something that fits rather than getting hung up on the number itself. Cut the labels out on clothes that you own, if it helps. View your clothing as something that should fit comfortably and make you feel fabulous. (Check out my blog post from 2011 on why size is just a number.) Organise a clothes swap with friends of assorted sizes to get rid of stuff that no longer fits. No one needs to keep torturing themselves by looking at a beloved pair of jeans and thinking they might fit again. Find a new favourite pair.
3) Find your look and rock it
Is bright pink lipstick your thing? Do you adore polkadots? Do you have an obsession with neon Nikes? Whatever you love to wear, get some more of it. Make it ‘your thing’ and it’ll be able to cheer you up on a regular basis rather than once in a while. Believe me, life is far too short to save the fun clothes for best. It doesn’t matter if you think people will consider you too old/fat/thin/tall/short for it – if you love it, own that look. Wear your favourite clothes to work and you’ll feel good every day rather than just on the weekends.
4) Exchange compliments with friends
If you need a bit of a boost, dish out compliments and you’ll, inevitably get some back. Just giving them can make you feel fantastic, but creating a little mutual appreciation society can sometimes be just what you need on a bad day. Do it on Twitter or Facebook. Declare the first Monday of the month to be a day when people can request a compliment from you if they’re feeling down. Being nice to people is good way to inject some happiness into your life. If they don’t like it, refer back to number one.
5) Become more aware of your body
Women can sometimes find it tricky to believe, but our bodies are not linked to our happiness in the way we first think it is. Close those eyes and try feeling for a change. Taste your favourite food from your childhood, feel the wind in your hair, smell fresh coffee and toast in the morning, listen to your all-time favourite song, sip Honey Jack Daniels until you start to feel that giddy tipsiness, dance barefoot on grass and then tell me that your body isn’t amazing. There may be parts that don’t work how they should, but be thankful for all the parts that do. To reappropriate a popular phrase… size isn’t important, it’s what you do with it that counts.
Image via Daniel Genesee‘s Flickr photostream.