Like most women, my body confidence is a journey. I have a LOT more confidence in my body now than I did a few years ago, but it’s still something I’m working on.
I’ve never suffered from an eating disorder, or body dysmorphia, or any of the other eating disorders or conditions that are out there. But just thinking back over my life so far I am amazed at how much time I have wasted worrying about the way I look.
I’m sure most women will be able to relate to this, because society places so much importance on our appearance. Our bodies are judged against whatever body trend is ‘in fashion’ at the time, whether it be skinny, muscly, bigger booty, small booty, big boobs or whatever else they’ve decided is beautiful at any point in time. And paradoxically, because we are all different in amazing and beautiful ways, there will always be some of us that can’t measure up.
My first memories of thinking about my body shape are from when I was in primary school. I was such a skinny kid that my long school socks would fall down each day because there wasn’t anything to hold them up!
I don’t have any specific memories of conversations about my body shape throughout this time, but I do remember that I always used to get compliments about how skinny I was. Interestingly (or perhaps not), most of these compliments came from older women.
I remained quite slim right through high school, and even into my first couple of years of university. I never had to try to be skinny, I could eat whatever I wanted and not gait weight. But in retrospect the amount of sport I was doing then would have MORE than accounted for my small size.
My body confidence right throughout my childhood and teenage years was very high, mainly because of the unsolicited praise that I was receiving for my size. I always enjoyed the compliments and attention on some level, but I suppose who wouldn’t?
As I got further into my physiotherapy studies at university, I had less and less time to exercise, and I enjoyed quite a few wines with my friends (who doesn’t when you’re 21 right?). Understandably, it was at this time that I started to put on a bit of weight.
Some of my clothes were starting to get a bit tight, and I thought people were starting to notice that I was getting a little bigger. I thought I could see sideways glances from people looking at my weight gain. Though to be honest I was probably imagining most of it.
Over the next few years my weight went up and down a fair bit. I’d have periods of time where I’d be really focussed on what I ate and would exercise a lot. I would force myself to go to the gym pretty much every single day, or make myself go running (even though I HATE running).
And then the opposite. I’d decide it was all too hard and so I’d go a few weeks or sometimes months without exercising at all, and I would eat junk food and takeaway food because why bother eating well when I wasn’t exercising. The all or nothing mindset was a huge hurdle for me to overcome – I thought I had to do it all perfectly, or not even bother at all.
I also had a struggle with my job as a physiotherapist. I suppose everyone expects a physio to be super fit and look really slim and toned. Sadly, I have had some comments over the years that I didn’t look like a physio should. So I always felt some pressure to live up to that ideal in a way, rather than just being myself. I’ve always hated that people expect you to look a certain way as a physiotherapist, and in some ways I think I wanted to rebel against that.
This all sounds quite dramatic now that I’ve written it down, but I know that this is a common story for so many women. Honestly, I know I am one of the lucky ones. I never really ‘suffered’ with body image as some women do, but it was something that was always nagging in the back of my mind.
Luckily things started to change for me about 12 months ago, when I had an epiphany of sorts. At the time I had just returned to Australia from living overseas in England. I went back to my old job at a nursing home in my home town, working with some incredible elderly people.
I think going from seeing the sights of the world and having the time of my life, to working with people who are literally SO grateful for just a helping hand out of their armchair gave me the shake back to reality that I needed.
These amazing people living in nursing homes are grateful for the simple things in life. They are so happy for someone just to have a chat with them for 15 minutes, the whole while dealing with a multitude of complex medical conditions. They are grateful for every day that they are healthy, so that they can continue to see their grandkids and great grandkids growing up.
I realised that being worried about what I look like is ridiculous. I am healthy, I have no serious medical conditions and I have the whole world before me. I am SO lucky. I should not be letting insecurity about my body shape get in the way of doing things that I want to do. These beautiful people helped me to realise that every moment in this life is precious, and to waste it on worrying about what other people think is a true tragedy.
We need to look after our HEALTH, so that we can do all the things we want to do. You can focus on anything in life, but if you aren’t healthy you probably won’t be able to do it for long.
I’m now glad to say that I’ve made a lot of progress along this journey to being confident in my own skin. I exercise regularly but only doing types of exercise that I actually like, including walking my puppy Lenny and doing Pilates. Exercising makes me feel strong and more confident almost instantly.
I eat a more balanced diet, though I still treat myself. I also look after my mental health by reading books, journaling and meditating.
I try to think less about what I look like, and instead try to show my body that I’m grateful for it. It’s amazing how much more confident you can feel when you are grateful for your body, and know that you’re doing the right things to look after it.
Even better, I am slowly learning to love my body, all it’s quirks and all. When you spend time actively appreciating your body for what it can do your you, it definitely makes you feel the love.
Is your perception that you need to look a certain way stopping you from doing things that you want to do? Are you happy and confident in your body? Or are you forcing yourself to do exercise you hate, and eating bland food in order to please people that you don’t like?
If you are feeling a bit insecure or struggle with body confidence, that is OK! As you can see, I’ve been there too. I’ve actually written a blog post on steps to body confidence if you’d like some more actionable steps to help you on your body confidence journey.
How are you going with your body confidence journey? Let me know in the comments below!