Image: Katy Chan
We all struggle with body confidence—even positive psychology experts like Louisa Jewell. Here, she tells her story and shares six ways you can train your mind to find the beauty in you.
It’s time to turn our body consciousness into body confidence and learn to love those curves, wrinkles and imperfections.
In my early 40s, I hated my body. After having two kids, I thought my stomach looked like someone had left a chunk of pizza dough on it. I was so embarrassed about the cellulite on my legs that I’d rarely sport shorts; wearing a bikini to the beach was out of the question; and when I showered at the gym, I’d strategically manoeuvre under three towels to get dressed without exposing myself. It was exhausting.
I told a friend that I could never take my clothes off in front of other people. She looked at me and said, “Louisa, when you’re 80 years old, you’re going to wish you had this body.” I knew she was right—I’d love it in a few decades—but I needed to start loving my body in the now.
I know I’m not alone on this. We women are quick to criticize our bodies. According to the 2016 Dove Global Beauty and Confidence Report, more than 70 percent of Canadian women struggle with body confidence—that number is steadily on the rise—plus, 50 percent of these women are less likely to be assertive or stick to their guns when challenged. The study also found that, globally, 90 percent of women who don’t feel good about their appearance have opted out of important life activities and engaged in potentially health-compromising behaviours, such as skipping meals. Again and again, research shows that how we feel about our bodies can have an effect on our health and happiness. When we feel good about ourselves, we are more optimistic, have higher self-esteem, experience more positive emotions and can better enjoy our daily lives.
In other words, it’s time to turn our body consciousness into body confidence and learn to love those curves, wrinkles and imperfections—from split ends to stubby toes. It’s not enough to say, “I don’t hate my body.” We need to learn to say, “I love my body.” It’s easier said than done, I know. But the kinder you are to yourself, the happier you’ll be.
1. TAKE BABY STEPS
Maybe you’re not loving the whole package at the moment, but celebrate the parts of your body you like, whether it’s great hair, pretty feet, long lashes or curvy calves. Focus on your assets rather than your imperfections. Confidence comes not with one big success but with hundreds of smaller victories, so compliment yourself—those striking eyebrows, that infectious laugh, that comfy-cool style—and call it a win.
2. BE GRATEFUL FOR WHAT YOUR BODY CAN DO
Realize that your body is so much more than an esthetic object, and don’t take it for granted. Thank the body parts that aid you in doing your favourite things, such as the vocal chords that give you a great voice, the legs that carried you through your first half marathon or the dexterous fingers that let you knit for hours on end. Gratitude is a powerful confidence booster.
3. STOP LOOKING OUT AND START LOOKING IN
Peer beyond the Instagram ideals and get educated about the extent to which users and advertisers manipulate pictures. When you start to see how unrealistic these images are, you’ll be more comfortable in your own skin.
4. RADIATE CONFIDENT BODY LANGUAGE
When our bodies are in a power pose (think Wonder Woman with her hands firmly on her hips), it sends a message to our brains that we’re powerful. Take power-pose breaks throughout the day, especially when you’re feeling down, and train yourself to generally practise good posture: Stand tall with your chin up and your shoulders back.
5. EXERCISE FOR FUN
Staying active may be the single best thing you can do to maintain your physical and psychological health, boost happiness and increase confidence. This doesn’t mean you have to be the fittest of all your friends, punishing yourself at CrossFit seven days a week; just do something every day to move your body and release endorphins, whether it’s taking the stairs instead of the elevator, going on a long evening walk with a friend or finding a fun exercise class you adore (Zumba, anyone?).
6. PRACTISE SELF-COMPASSION
Maybe right now you aren’t doing everything you can to look your best, but beating yourself up over it puts your brain in a negative space, which robs you of positive energy and motivation. If you’re not ready to make a change—say, to start going to the gym—then own it; accept that you may not lose a few extra pounds and forgive yourself for it. When you’re ready, nurture your body with healthy food, good fun and a variety of exercise—and do it all because you love yourself, and your body, no matter what.