We've had a photography studio in West Oxfordshire for 18 years, and for the last 11-12 of those, we've been a dedicated body confidence studio. Consequently, I've met a lot of women who were feeling low in body confidence - here's what I've learned from them.
1 - The More Women Lose Their Sense of Self, The Less Confidence We Have
Now, this isn't limited solely to body confidence. As women, we can get so consumed by the 'roles' we have in life - as daughters, partners, mothers, workers - that we lose track of ourselves as individuals. We can forget who we are as people in our own right, and stop listening to our own needs and wants to such a degree that we can no longer even tap into them.
When we take the time to reconnect with themselves, and rediscover who we are, our confidence grows across all areas of our lives.
2 - It's A Lot Easier To Change How We Feel About Ourselves, Than It Is To Change How We Look
Why? Because we have limited control over how we look. I know, I know, we're brought up on a diet of "here's what you can buy to change this, fix that, improve the other", and it leads us to believing that somehow we should change this, fix that, improve the other.
Isn't it all an endless effort? We're being put into battle against...ourselves.
Why should we fight against stretchmarks? Scars? Wrinkles? These are the natural effects of what our bodies go through.
Let's be honest, you just get a handle on one thing, and then everything changes again (menopause, anyone?).
We can stay in that constant battle with our ever-changing bodies or, we can change how we feel. Which we have way more control over, when we make a conscious decision to do so.
3 - Stepping Away From Societal Pressures Around Beauty is Very Freeing
As soon as we're not seeking to look like anyone else, we are in a really good place to look inward, and listen to what we like, don't like, care about and don't care about.
Don't underestimate how powerful this is, when it comes to your confidence.
If you've always admired the women who just...do their own thing, this is the path to becoming one of them!
4 - Taking Control of the Messages/People/Brands We Follow is Key
We can, and should, curate our social media content into being positive for us.
I follow the Marie Kondo method here - if it's not sparking joy for you, mute, unfollow, delete, block - whatever you need to do to have social feeds that inspire and uplift you.
We have an immense amount of power over what appears in our social feeds, including over the ads we see. Take control and create an online world that serves you.
5 - Talking As Though You Are Body Confident Helps Make It True
When we started offering body confidence boudoir, I had the same thoughts as every other women coming to our studio. It boiled down to feeling this:
- this isn't for people with bodies like mine.
I would talk about the importance of feeling comfortable in your own skin, but I wasn't feeling it.
Fast forward to now, and the message has sunk in. From hearing it repeated, over and over, my brain has listened, understood, and reprogrammed itself to make me appreciate...me.
6 - Talking As Though You Are Unhappy With Yourself Helps Make It True
If talking to, and about yourself with positivity works wonders, well, the same is true of doing the opposite.
If there's one person whose opinion of ourselves we are always listening to, its our own. So when we put ourselves down, even jokingly - that sinks in.
We might think we're being endearingly self-deprecating (or, in my case that would have meant "I'll make the joke about how I look before someone else does" but, in reality, we are reinforcing negative messages to ourselves.
The more we can counter that, the better.
7 - You Have To Put The Work In On Yourself, For Yourself
aka - other people can't make you feel as good as you can.
This is desperately unfair, because other people can definitely make you feel terrible, yet there's only so much they can do to make you feel good about yourself.
You'll know this if you're a 'compliment rejector' - they say something lovely, you refute or reject what you're hearing.
Frustrating though it is, getting comfortable in your own skin is aided by having supportive people around you, but, ultimately you're the one who has to do the work (it is your brain you're changing after all).
8 - Wearing Underwear That Fits Well Makes You Feel Good
It just does, ok?
In a way that mooching about in an old bra that no longer does the job and you're just waiting to be stabbed by an escaped underwire doesn't.
Note that I didn't even say nice lingerie, just well-fitting. It's not at all uncommon for women to wait a very long time to get remeasured, or buy new underwear for themselves. If you're of a cup size that requires a reasonable anount of support and you can't remember the last time you were measured for a bra, I urge you to get measured, get some new undies.
If you can't bear to go to a shop, use the Boob or Bust method, online. (It's not elegant, but it is accurate).
9 - Women Carry A Lot Of Guilt About Spending Money On Ourselves
This is a part of our whole 'getting consumed by life' thing, where we stop giving ourselves much consideration at all.
It's not so much that we put ourselves to the bottom of the pile, it's more that we lie, exhausted, next to the pile (and then look at it and realise it's all laundry, anyway).
There is always someone, or something to prioritise over ourselves. We can get so focused on this that it becomes incredibly difficult to take either time, or money, for something that's just for us. At the same time, we'll be telling other women that they must take a break from it all.
Every now and then, talk to yourself like you're your own best friend and do something just for you. It's not selfish, it's necessary.
10 - Body Confidence Has Nothing To Do With How Our Bodies Look
This is, I think, the lesson that took me the longest to take in. Because, it simply goes against the constant messaging of improvement, trying harder, doing more.
I've met women who look like super-models who have a ton of insecurities.
I've met women who look like, well, me (not a supermodel) who simply don't. They've embraced their bodies for what they are, and got comfortable with them. I never truly expected to be one of them, and yet, here I am.