As I have aged, I’ve become more comfortable in my own skin. I’ve cared less what people think of me. It felt natural and obvious. The more life experience you get, the more you realise not to sweat the small stuff.
Then I noticed I had put on weight. It bothered me a lot, which also bothered me. I thought I was beyond caring about this stuff, but it turns out I was wrong.
Can you honestly say you love every bit of your body?
I’m talking from the top of your head to the tips of your toes. In her documentary film, Embrace, body positive activist Taryn Brumfitt interviewed women around the world. She spoke to celebrities and experts, but what struck me most were her interviews with normal women on the street. Casual, random chats with women from different cultures, and every single one of them had something they didn’t like about their bodies.
Even if this was an edited selection of people she met, it still made an impression.
Women everywhere are dissatisfied with some part of their body. It might be their legs, tummy, breasts – there is always something 'wrong' with our otherwise healthy and fit bodies.
Doesn’t that strike you as absurd?
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It’s 5 years ago today that I posted my ‘non traditional’ before and after photo. Hard to believe in some ways, not so hard in others! Thanks everybody for your ongoing support - I love the impact we’ve created together! #ihaveembraced #teamwork #bodyimage #bodyimagemovement #embrace #embraceyouonline
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Self-hatred can start when we are young
Hatred is a strong word, and I’m not suggesting we all loathe ourselves. But not liking just one part of our physical selves causes its own damage. Think about how you felt about your body as a teenager. Was there something you disliked, something you wanted to change?
How much impact did that have on your life, your self-confidence?
I don’t want my daughter to think less of her body because it doesn’t match a small percentage of social media starlets (or whatever the thing will be when she’s older), and so I have to start with myself now, to make sure that she has a good role model.
The shock of your body after childbirth is real
This might be quite challenging, given in the last week my daughter has asked if I’m having another baby, played with my “squishy bits” around my hips and asked why my breasts are “sad”. I’ve done my best to explain in a positive way why I look like this, but it’s taken me a long time to accept how childbirth has changed my body.
After carrying a baby for nine months, and then bringing them into the world, your body is going to be different.
Taryn says that how our bodies change after babies can be hugely confronting. She says the idea of ‘bouncing back’ after labour is ridiculous, and that women should be able to focus on their new lives as mothers.
“We don't need this extra layer of guilt or shame or bullying. It's truly bullying new mums, what they have to go through with all those messages. We need to make a choice. Seek out positive role models in your life and if the magazines aren't serving you, don't even pick them up. On social media, don't follow the ‘fit mum bikini woman’ who got her body back. Just follow people that make you feel good.”
For more on how to embrace your post-baby body listen to pyschotherapist Ginny Lindsay on Kinderling Conversation:
Turning the self-loathing into self-love
How can we change a thought pattern that is reaffirmed by nearly all the messages we get through the media? How do we stop thinking we’re less-than-perfect because we’re not a size 8 with impossibly long legs and perky boobs?
There are few things that Taryn suggests:
- Delete anyone who fits the above description from your Instagram feed or Facebook page. Follow people who look real and inspire you to feel good about yourself.
- Embrace the privilege of aging (as not everyone is given this opportunity).
- Make movement joyful. If you love dancing, sign up to a class. If swimming lights you up, make time for the ocean. Don’t commit to exercise that you hate or causes you pain.
- Celebrate what your body can do.
Imagine how it would feel to truly love your body
We know what it feels to not love our bodies, so how would it feel if we turned the tables?
In order to do that, Taryn says we need to embrace the notion of self-love.
“We’re so good at tapping into our guilt, but we can only be of true service to others when we fill our own cup up first. Self-love is not selfish. We need to absolutely make time to look after ourselves and to be your own best friend.
“Just be quiet and love yourself more than you love anyone else on the planet.”
Makes sense so far, right? I’m not quite where Taryn is at when it comes to body positivity, but she’s inspired me to start trying.
Taryn says, “I've hated my body for more years of my life than I've loved it. It's [body positivity] a new journey to go on and I have to say, it's lots of fun and it does feel very sparkly and freeing. Life is good. It’s what I want for every woman on the planet. It's like winning the Golden Ticket feeling this fabulous about our bodies.”
Taryn Brumfitt’s latest book is called Embrace Yourself and you can get a copy at the Birdsnest website.
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