My relationship with my body hasn’t always been a harmonious one. As a child I was very skinny and I always assumed that once I hit puberty I would be bestowed with glorious curves. Well, I waited, and waited, and waited some more. Said curves never materialised and I wondered what was wrong with me. In my mind, I looked like a boy (in fact, I was even mistaken for a boy once!); I used to compare myself to an ironing board. It didn’t help that people would regularly comment on my size. “Do you have an eating disorder?”, “Are you sure that you eat?”, “You should eat more” and “You’d get full up eating one raisin” are just some of the questions and comments that have been directed at me over the years (for the record I have a very healthy appetite!).
I’d be lying if I said that those things didn’t hurt, but over the years I’ve learned to accept and gradually embrace my body. Understanding my body shape and learning how to dress for it were huge factors in this. My lack of waist definition meant that wearing belted dresses and jumpsuits or adding a belt to them created the illusion of curves.
I began to pick fitted styles that showed off my body shape rather than hiding in baggy tracksuits and sweatshirts that swamped me and made me look thinner. I also started to reframe how I thought about my body. I tried to stop thinking of skinny as necessarily being a bad thing and realised that my body shape was quite athletic. In addition, I started exercising regularly to build muscle and strength, most recently through CrossFit. This alone has done wonders for my overall confidence and how I feel about my body. Every new achievement feels significant and it’s helped me to appreciate my body for what it can do. Never did I ever think I’d be strong enough to lift 90kg in a deadlift! The extra confidence helps me walk a little bit taller and feel just that bit better in my clothes.
Rather than concentrating on the aspects of my body that I'm not so keen on I try to focus more on the parts that I like and use my outfit choices to highlight them. My wardrobe is full of knee-length skirts and dresses and skinny jeans (who cares that they’re apparently no longer in fashion!) because they show off my calves.
Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not all plain sailing. I have many days when I wish those curves had materialised. But, for the most part, I’m happy with my body and I appreciate it for what it does for me. So, whatever your body shape or size, here are five tips for learning how to embrace it:
1. Understand your body shape
This will give you confidence that the clothes you’re buying are going to show off your fabulous figure. Consult with a personal stylist or use an online guide to get an idea of what your body shape is and how to dress in a way that most flatters it.
2. Show off your best assets
Think of the part of your body that you like the most and use your clothes to enhance it. For example, if you love your waist, add belts to your outfits or pick clothes styles that highlight this area (such as high waisted trousers/skirts and belted dresses).
3. Challenge your limiting beliefs
We all allow negative thoughts about our bodies to creep into our minds from time to time. For example, “I’m too big to wear nice clothes. I need to lose weight first”. In order to challenge them, first try to identify where they come from. Our limiting beliefs may be rooted in past experience and/or influenced by those around us. Once you’ve identified where they have come from, re-frame them to make them positive. For example, “Our bodies come in all shapes and sizes. I deserve to wear nice clothes no matter what size I am”.
4. Think positive!
Self-affirmations are statements that we can say to ourselves to affirm our self-worth. It is thought that they can reduce the effect of negative emotions and focus us on positive aspects of ourselves. They can be a powerful tool to help us think differently about our bodies. You can use self-affirmations to focus more on what your body does for you rather than what it looks like. For example, “My body is strong and has carried me to where I am in life”.
5. Find a confidence booster
Whether it’s taking up exercise or learning a new skill, do something that boosts your confidence. It will go a long way to making you feel good in your skin (and will have positive impacts on other aspects of your life).