I was listening to the artist Lucy Rose on 6 Music recently and I was surprised by how much self-doubt she had when she’s clearly an amazingly talented woman. She was talking to Lauren Laverne about how her beautiful song, Second Chance, was inspired by looking at photographs with her partner’s gran. The gran, looking at old photos of herself said ‘didn’t I look lovely but I could never see it’. I think we all look at photos of ourselves in years gone by and think how much better we looked but remember how racked with self-doubt we were at that time. Who of us hasn’t said, I wish I had my old body now?
Just the other day I thought to myself, I wish had shown my stomach off more when it was flat and had no stretch marks pre kids. In hindsight, it was a great tummy with two prominent abs and flat. I didn’t appreciate it though or ‘make the most of it’. I don’t even know what that means, like my life would have been better had I ran around in crop tops?! Now I feel it’s a bit ‘ruined’ and like the time to show it off has passed. But of course in ten years time, I will be looking back thinking, why didn’t I show it off when I was 33. It was so much better then. Ultimately, does any of it REALLY matter?
Obsession and objectivity
Sometimes I catch myself looking through older photos and thinking I looked nice there, and checking on my phone notes (where I record my weights) to see how much I weighed at that time. I guess, in my addled mind, if I weigh more now, then its confirmation I should lose weight but if I’m the same or less than that means I’m ok for five minutes. Isn’t that awful? I didn’t even realise what a bonkers thing that was to do until I just wrote it down. I’ve never had a full on eating disorder but I can get obsessive about what I eat or the exercise I do. My diaries from when I was young note the food I ate every day and my weights. They tell a story about how obsessed I was with trying to lose weight and how I equated weight loss to beauty and self-worth.
It all got me thinking, how do we accept ourselves in the now? How do we go one step further than that and truly love ourselves in the now? With the objectivity that others see us? It’s easy to be body confident after a big weight loss or when we are happy with our weight but what about when we aren’t? What if we’ve gained weight, how do we love our body then? So many women are distraught when they can’t fit in their clothes anymore and delay buying new ones but if the reason we can’t fit in our clothes is weight loss we rush out and buy a whole new wardrobe. Our bodies are just as deserving of love no matter how much fat they do or don’t have. In theory, that’s obvious but in practice it’s really hard.
I’m the first to agree that post-partum bodies should be celebrated. Stretch marks are tiger stripes, fastidiously earned through battle. We should be proud of them and what our bodies have achieved. To grow and birth another human is an incredible feat. Yet, I struggle to love the changes in my body that have come from having two children. I still equate skinnier to looking better. I’m really trying to work on that.
I’ve been consciously and subconsciously absorbing messages from the media for my whole life that tell me, skinnier is more attractive and self-worth comes from how good you look.
Rationally, I know this is bullshit. I can see how this is a patriarchal construct to make me buy more crap I don’t need and to undermine my power. If women suddenly all loved their bodies and themselves just as they are – thousands of businesses would go bankrupt. I know this to be true.
I started on my path to self-love probably around the time I had my first child. I was comfortable with my body after having Arlo but it was easy to love that post-partum body as it weighed less than it did before I got pregnant with him. Due to him not sleeping and breastfeeding constantly, plus me having to cut dairy due to his dairy allergy I ended up about 20lbs under the weight I was when I got pregnant with him. Yes it was a more wobbly and stretched body but for the most part I was cool with it
I’m now 2.5 years on from having my second child. I’m now about 4lbs under the weight I was when I got pregnant with my first child. However, my ‘happy weight’ is about 7-9lbs under what I am right now. I’ve felt a bit uncomfortable with my body the past year. I want to fix the problems in my head.
It’s not about weight or looks
The weight isn’t the issue. The issue is my mentality. I need to accept myself at any weight and stop judging myself by ridiculous beauty standards. I always say that I would much rather be overweight and love my body than skinny thinking I’m fat and that fat is bad. If our mentality isn’t right, it doesn’t matter how great your body looks by society’s standards. You’ll never be happy.
I have a BMI of 23 which is in the healthy range (albeit creeping towards that 25 limit). I’m not fat – my body has fat. It does not (or should not) define me. Nor should my c-section scar/bulge, stretch-marks or (copious) cellulite. Who even really gets to see these things other than me? And even if they did, it has zero impact on my life. If someone thinks I look shit in a bikini, nothing changes. My life goes on as normal and they just carry on being a wanker. So why do we let it stress us out? The only thing that can make these things impact our lives is if we let them through non-acceptance and obsession.
Body positivity inspiration
I love the body positivity movement online and follow lots of ‘body-posi’ accounts on Instagram. Seeing women in all different shapes and sizes (and not just the size zero model type that we have been drip fed in the media my whole life) makes me more accepting of my own body. It’s easier for us to see the worth in other women’s bodies than our own. When we see bodies like our own in the media, it helps us to see the worth in our bodies too. As always, representation matters.
How long did it take you to believe that your body was wrong? For me, 4 years was all the time it took to soak up the message that fat was the worst thing that I could be. Worse than mean. Worse than selfish. Worse than rude. Fat was the worst of the worst. A handful of years living in our culture will do that to you. Look around and you’ll see what I mean: ? Diet culture wherever you turn – adverts telling you that weight loss is the key to happiness on our screens, in our magazines, whenever we walk down a billboard lined street. · ? Constant whispers of pounds lost and calories regretted, endless praise of people who’ve managed to shrink their bodies by any means necessary (even if that means is actually dangerous or harmful), and criticism of the ones who’ve ‘let themselves go’ or ‘lost the battle of the bulge’. · ? Images of beauty celebrated everywhere you look that don’t represent what 95% of us see in our mirrors. Even the 5% who fit societal standards of beauty fall short against the work of a photoshop wand, erasing every lump, bump, crease, mark, scar, blemish and hair. How can we believe that our bodies are worth something when we never see them positively represented around us? · ? Rampant fatphobia passed off as ‘just a joke’, ‘for their own good’, or ‘out of concern’. Fat people in our society are instantly labelled as lazy, ugly, unintelligent, unworthy, a burden. The lesson sinks in: to be fat is to be less than. Less valuable. Less worthy of respect. Less deserving of the space you take up. We forget that our human value has nothing to do with our size, and that nobody should be treated as less than human simply for how their body looks. We take in the messages younger than we think. We hear how the people around us talk about their bodies and the bodies of others. We see the images. We see ourselves. We notice the difference… We have to fight back. Because NONE of us deserve to go through life believing that our bodies are battlefields and our flesh has to be fought against before we get to feel like we’re worth something. We are worth the world exactly as we are, we always were, we always will be. ????? #BodyPositivePower
The forerunners in body positivity are slowly teaching me to accept my body and be more confident. You’ll likely having seen lots of ‘Insta-mums’ lately baring their un-retouched bodies on social media recently following Style me Sunday’s campaign with her #warriorwomanproject. I love mothers sharing their real bodies in all their glory. You know, I wonder how many women In their 30s/40s accused of ‘letting themselves go’ having finally just learned to accept their bodies?
Feminism really helps. It is through feminism that I have realised something needs to change in me. I now surround myself by good female role models and being part of the Punky Moms UK Facebook page is amazing for surrounding myself with positive body messages and inclusivity. Rejecting ‘beauty’ magazines and surrounding myself with diversity and female love is one of the best things I ever did.
But what else can we do? How else can we break down the internalised patriarchal messages about our bodies that we have built up over the years and learn to love ourselves? Many more men are more accepting of their bodies and any weight gain – you just look around at all the confident obese topless men on the first sunny day of the year to see that. Men naturally have 25% less body fat than women, they don’t have menstrual cycles that affect their bodies or go through the dramatic changes of pregnancy, child-birth and breastfeeding. Yet, their bodies are largely more accepted if they gain weight – by society and themselves. A beer belly is less criticised than a post baby belly. That just demonstrates the pressure on women.
Next in the series
I’ve started a Pinterest board about body confidence where I am pinning inspirational quotes and images that help me on my journey so do follow me there if you aren’t already.
I’m going to explore these issues further in a series of blog posts. I feel it’s something we all struggle with and one post isn’t going to do the topic justice. My next posts in this series over the coming weeks are going to focus on body-posi heroes, bloggers on body confidence, why I avoid ‘beauty magazines’ and body positivity ‘merch’. I’m also hoping to interview some rad women about their body positivity journeys too.
If like me, you are on a quest to fully accept and love your body, no matter your shape and size, then please make sure you are following me on my journey of self discovery over the next few months. All my social media icons and mailing list links are right below.
In the meantime, I would love to hear from you in the comments if you too are battling with these issues. Am I a weirdo or do you empathise? Do you have top tips that work for you? Let me know, I’d love to hear your stories too.
If you liked this post you might also like my inspiring feminist blog posts round up!
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28 thoughts on “Body confidence series – my journey to body confidence”
Oh I like this post! I didn’t realise this side to you. I can’t ever imagine you recording your weight on a phone for example. You raise so many good points.
I’m obviously overweight but I am pretty comfortable in my own skin (apart from the health aspects which I’m working on). Not to the point where I would wear a bikini mind but I was recently filmed in a swimsuit and it was fine/didn’t give me anxiety.
For me, I think our partners have a big role to play too and Steve is honestly my biggest cheerleader and always has been. He always has a knack of making me feel at my best even on days when I know I am at my worst. I do think if my life had went down a different path and I hadn’t spent so long with Steve, my mindset about being overweight might have been a lot different.
Thanks for sharing Sam. I think part of it was growing up watching my mam have a life long struggle with her weight and I was scared of that happening to me. I think it made me have a few issues that I’m only realising now. Mark is a man of few words so I don’t really ever get compliments from him so this deffo has to come from me! I don’t feel too worried about wearing swimsuits etc, but more, always feel the need to be losing weight. I expected more people to agree but I’m starting to think that I’ve got some issues with this and I’m alone!
Can you look in the mirror and think ‘I look and feel great today’ without wondering what your weight is or that thought creeping into your mind? x
Yeah I think I can, maybe! I do think good things as well as bad. Depends on the day I guess
Everyone’s journey to body positivity is do personal, I mean I would never have guessed you had these feelings or issues/concerns. I think I am probably a rarity in that I am plus size and have a lot of love for my body. I watched my mum spend years of her life on diets or focusing on the things she would do when she was smaller, not to be a downer, but she passed away at 48 and I can’t help but feel sad she stopped herself living her best life waiting for a number on the scales.
Don’t get me wrong I do have health goals, fitness goals, I want to feel good, but for me that is not always linked to weight or hitting a ‘goal’.
I also think having a daughter has helped me, I don’t want her to see me the way I saw my mum. I want her to celebrate all bodies. <3 xx
Thank you for sharing Nelly. I love that you have so much love for your body. It’s really inspiring. Xx
I so needed to read this today. I grew up massively over weight (it turned out it wasn’t TOTALLY to do with the fact I had a very ‘healthy’ relationship with food and was lazy but more to do with an Underactive Thyroid) and even with the health issue aside, I’ve managed to drop 4st. Now being only 5’3 you can imagine I never looked ‘glamorous’ in the grand scheme of things being that overweight but now looking back I find myself disgusted with my old body. And am ashamed I ever got that big. As now I’m stuck with stretch marks and wobbly bits that, no matter how much I hammer myself exercising, still seem to wobble. But even now I’m a lot thinner, I still find people questioning my weight still. It’s as though you can’t please people no matter your size. If you’re big you’re ‘fat shamed’ and if you’re thinner ‘you’re starving and being unhealthy to fit in with societies views of how you should look’. I’m semi happy with my body now but as I say, past choices make me very self conscious still. Maybe as I get older I’ll stop giving a shit? But for now I’m still going to maintain it as hard as I can and block out the people that get at me for trying to be thinner. I think you’re awesome! Always love your posts. I definitely take something from each and every one of them! Thank you for this blog!! 🙂
(Re read that I haven’t half wobbled on haven’t I! My apologies!) x
Sorry for the late reply, I just fished your comment out of my spam. Thank you so much for sharing with me. I’m 5ft 3 as well! You don’t need to apologise for a long comment at all, I love reading them and especially on this one as it was a hard post to write, it’s reassuring to hear from people who identify with it. Thank you for your kind words about my posts – it means a lot to me! Nyomi x
Thank you for this blog post. I don’t love my body, but I’ve never loved my body. I’m proud of it for birthing my children but I have spent forever loathing my fat. Right back since my early teenage years. Back then I guess I wasn’t even fat. I only seem to love myself when I am losing weight.
I’m now working in fitness and learning to like myself, just a little bit, through therapy.
Thank you for sharing x
Thank you for sharing! For me too, I should have mentioned in the post but I first remember feeling ‘fat’ aged 10, so this started way before I had kids.
This is such an honest post. I never would have thought you felt this way as you always seem so confident in yourself.
All you said is very true, it doesn’t matter who or how many people tell you that you look great, or whatever, you have to see it yourself.
I really struggle, I’m pretty overweight at the moment and can’t seem to get motivated to be healthier yet I want to be so I’m a positive role model to the children (especially since Grace cane along).
Well done you for sharing yourself in this way 🙂
Thank you Emma. I really appreciate your comment. See I am pretty confident in myself. I think it’s part of my perfectionist nature, I just pick apart any part of me that isn’t perfect.
You know, as a “big lassie” reading posts like this help me to realise that *every* woman has body image issues, which makes my confidence in myself increase, so THANK YOU!
I’ve been this weight for a couple of years now, and I’m happy that I’ve been able to *stay* here rather than putting on a few lbs every year – turns out 5-6lbs creeping on every year adds up to quite a lot when you hit your 30s. I hate my stomach, but I also know that it’s pretty much the only aspect of me I don’t like. And when I go into stores that do sell my size (a 22) I have trouble because… guess what? My size is the most common one in those places! That says a lot too, huh?
Anyway, ramble ramble… I do that a lot, lol! Thank you again for posting my lovely! <3
Thank you for your kind words Marylin. Really appreciate them xx
Great blog post, I love following fellow geordies! Everything you have said is so relatable and makes me think of the quote “I wish I was as fat as the first time I thought I was fat”. Body confidence is such a difficult topic, I wish it was easier to achieve.
Thank you Stacey! I love getting comments from fellow Geordies too! It’s such a minefield isn’t it.
Great post, love your honesty! I’m really feeling low about my body at the moment and suffer huge guilt for not taking better care of it (cancer has a lot to answer for) but you’ve helped put some of my feelings in to perspective. Thank you! Ps, your body is awesome! #jusysaying
Thank you for sharing Rachel. Who has cancer? Thank you xxx
I did, back in my 20’s. When I first got better I was very careful to eat healthily and stay strong but 9 years later I have fallen back in to old habits and eat all the naughty foods. I carry most of my weight around my middle which I know is the most dangerous area to have fat and because I ‘should know better’ I end up feeling really guilty for not taking better care of myself. I am slowly learning to be kinder to my body and mind!
Oh wow Rachel, I didn’t know that. I’m so pleased you are better now. We are hardest on ourselves, aren’t we. X
I think perhaps we are often too critical of ourselves but you know we’re the only people on the world who have never even seen ourselves which is a mad thought. This is an inspiring post and you my dear are fabulous. I am so not body confident but the more people who talk about this the more I feel I’m not alone!
Thank you Laura! Xx
This is so hard to read. I struggle with knowing someone as outgoing as you defines themselves through a number. Especially a number on a scale.
I don’t weigh myself; I haven’t ever really wanted to. I’ve been much smaller than I am now. I have more fat now than last year, but that’s largely due to other changes. I’m still alive, still strong, and my family loves me. They don’t care if I weigh more now than last week. Nor do I. In fact, I have always weighed more, when I have been weighed, than my friends who are a similar height to me, and that is largely to do with having more muscle, and of that I am neither proud nor shy – it is just a fact, like having red hair or brown eyes.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say I define myself by it at all. But something that I pay more attention to than I feel I should. But, I think this is the case for a lot of women. I’m pleased you don’t struggle with this. I might have to get you to guest post on how you have such body confidence so we can learn from you.
My 2xbabies 1xCsection stomach is just awful. Not quite sure what else I can do about it as the more weight I loose the more awful it gets as the skin is just so saggy. Hopefully I can get my head around it and accept it but i’d be devastated if anyone but my husband saw it. Which is pretty depressing to think I care that much about what other people think of my body. I think it is worse because I never been a small girl and always battled with my weight but my pre-baby stomach was always super flat as I carry my weight on my bum/thighs. Now it feels like i’ve lost my redeeming feature! Oh to be 22 again… Thanks for writing this and helping me see we all do this to ourselves, it helps to know you aren’t alone xx
Thank you, and thanks for sharing. Makes me feel less alone too. Hopefully you’ll find my next posts helpful too, you can come on my journey with me
I could have written this, no where near as eloquently mind ha, but I was nodding all the way through. I look back at photos now of times when I felt I was huge and made myself miserable and yet I would love to be that size now. I’m constantly wanting to lose weight but. self sabotaging but, I am also so much happier than I was when I was a lot smaller so in the scheme of things it could be a lot worse 😉
These days I diet/exercise for health reasons and I’m nowhere near as obsessive. I think age plays a big part in acceptance and learning to actually be happy – not just happy with how you look or judging your level of happiness by how many inches you can pinch but, actually just happy.
It’s reassuring to know I’m in good company Stevie!