I wanted to post this week about something that I have been thinking about for a while now. It’s frustrating me and I want to air exactly how I feel about it, both in a personal sense and how I think it impacts on others and how we communicate with each other.
Recently, we’ve all heard the buzzwords ‘body confidence’ being thrown around a heck of a lot.
What does that make you think of? A larger woman having the confidence to walk around in a bikini? Or a curvier model being selected for a clothes campaign?
When Love Island started this summer, a lot of media attention was focused on Anna Vakili, as she was dubbed their token girl for ‘plus size inclusion.’ I’m in no way criticising, she had a banging body and the confidence to match. As for her aggressive personality? I think I could pass on that. I remember watching the first couple of episodes with Mr OneBigStressball – we hadn’t quite grasped the names of everyone yet – and I was talking about her, to which Mr OneBigStessball replied ‘oh yeah, the fat one.’ He later explained that he didn’t necessarily think of her as fat – especially after I sulkily pointed out that her reported dress dress size is the same as mine – but the way the media had hyped her up before the contestants had entered the villa had immediately signalled her out to be some sort of token fat girl, to ramp up their diversity points and make us think that ‘normal’ looking people have some sort of chance of getting onto the show.
Instagram account I_weigh has also recently been a massive hit in Instagram’s algorithms, with activist and actress Jameela Jamil using it as a platform aside from her own personal Instagram account to increase awareness about body confidence and feeling comfortable in your own skin. Credit where credit is due, I adore Jameela as an actress – if you haven’t seen The Good Place on Netflix yet I suggest you stop what you’re doing, cancel any upcoming plans and get on it – and admire her so much for what she is doing – it is fantastic that she is using her platform to try and stop harm from coming to young and impressionable women. The hashtag iweigh has been used almost 30 thousand times on Instagram, and encourages people, no matter age, weight or sexual orientation/identity to list what makes them who they are, aside from the number on the scale should they happen to step on it. I myself follow the account, and breathed a sigh of relief when Jameela called out ‘slimming’ drinks companies such as BooTea and the Skinny Coffee Co for selling laxatives to people who don’t know better.
*If you haven’t heard of these companies, don’t google them and don’t get involved with them. They are hardcore scammers, who use Z-list celebrities in need of some quick cash to sell drinks that are simply glorified laxatives. I’ve been there myself. When I was 20 years old I didn’t know how to go about losing the weight I’d put on as a teen. I hadn’t found my love for exercise yet, and moving faster than a slow walk was a repulsive thought to me. I used BooTea for a fortnight, shat out my intestines and felt sick for the whole 14 days, then learned that running and lifting weights would be a safer and more enjoyable way to get in shape.
Don’t do it, kids.
Anyway, what I wanted to say about the whole ‘body confidence’ movement itself is that I strongly feel like it is directed at women who are, in comparison to normal beauty standards, bigger. Or curvier. Or voluptuous… whatever your preferred way of saying it is.
Most of the ad campaigns I’ve seen celebrating body confidence and using ‘real’ women, as well as a large majority of the photos shared on the i_weigh Instagram, depict larger body shapes, and while I feel like it is important for bigger women to feel comfortable in their own skin. I truly don’t believe that it is an accurate representation of the norm in our society right now and is borderline going to the other end of the extreme of promoting size 0 models and rake thin physiques.
Not everyone who isn’t a size 4 is automatically a size 20, and while it may all be well and fair in promoting confidence whether you are skinny or overweight, we are neglecting to remember and acknowledge the fact that women (and men) of all sizes and shapes in between those sizes suffer from body image issues as well.
(To be perfectly honest, being a former PT, I think promoting plus size confidence with models who are severely obese is dangerous, as feeling comfortable with being overweight is one thing whereas neglecting the health problems and risks that come with being obese is downright unsafe… but that is a blog post for another day.)
Back to my main point though, it seems that whenever we see someone being applauded for their ‘courage’ for wearing a bikini on the beach, or congratulated on feeling at ease with their body nowadays, we see a woman who is noticeably bigger than her peers. But what about the in-betweeners? The people who have small frames but are self conscious about how big their boobs are? Or the people who have more athletic figures? My fellow flat-chested ladies? Ladies who have no boobs but a big bum, or vice versa? Or the ladies who try and try but can’t seem to gain weight? No matter the figure, no matter the size, we are all human. I KNOW I’m not overweight. I KNOW I lead a healthy lifestyle. But I know I’m not on my own when I say that this in NO WAY implies I don’t go through mental battles with my self-image almost every single day. For the first time this year since I was about 12 year old I had to buy a one-piece swimming costume for my holiday to Spain, because the shopping trip I took to buy beach wear knocked my confidence so badly that I started crying in the changing room and gave up trying to buy a bikini. Mr OneBigStressball gets frustrated (he says he doesn’t but he totally does) taking photos of me whenever we do anything nice because I’m constantly paranoid that my legs look ‘blocky’, or my ass looks flat, or my boobs look tiny compared to my belly, or my nose too big for my face, or my feet look too big…. You get it.
Seriously, please don’t get me wrong, I really admire women who are bigger who have the self love and self confidence to be themselves, and it is right that their willingness to be themselves is celebrated. But in doing so, the media seems to have neglected the fact that after abusing our perception of what ‘perfect’ is for so many years, they’ve left us feeling confused and unable to accept ourselves for what we are.
I’m not super skinny and I’m not super fat. Does this mean that I have no right to be self conscious and that if I go out in a bikini my confidence should be a given? No. In-between girls spend just as much time as anyone else scrutinising and picking themselves apart, and this cannot be overlooked.
I myself don’t have the answers on how to fix this. I am aware that there are thousands of other problems in the world, but all I am saying is that the ‘courage’ of being comortable in your own skin is not reserved for those with extremely thin or extremely overweight bodies. We all have bodies and we all have our own negative thoughts, and the journey to self acceptance is something we are all going through.
Anyone who is finally able to accept themselves for who they are should be applauded or their confidence.
What do you guys think?