Body confidence is a vast topic with a hell of a lot of internet opinions thrown in the mix. However, the more I’ve reflected on my own opinion and experiences I’ve always come back to the same point which helps me to seperate me from my body. Now, full disclosure here, I’m super duper happy with my body. Some days I waste my time glancing at the mirror for slightly too long – you know? uncomfortably long. Long enough to begin picking out flaws disguised in my brain as ‘areas for development’. But, there’s a certain mentality which gets me through the rougher thoughts…
And I’m sorry if you don’t want to hear this, but the key (for me at least) is exercise. No, no, no – I’m not talking about doing exercise to lose weight or get a better body. I’m just talking about the act of moving your body.
From an early age I’ve taken part in exercise and from the age of 8 I’ve been involved in a swimming club. This may seem menial, but think about it. In the most important, arguably most character shaping years of my life I was spending hours and hours a week in nothing but my swimming costume in front of my peers – both girls and guys. I went through puberty, my body developed along with all my friends in the pool. And I didn’t even really notice. We were all too busy trying to get personal bests and out swim each other to be worrying or feeling awkward about our changing physiques.
Of course there are numerous factors which attribute to our own self image and body confidence. And while I don’t want to detract from the importance of having a loving environment, I ultimately pin my body confidence to the swimming pool environment I grew up in. Some sessions, where the public were also there, we’d go into the women’s showers and middle aged women would be happily showering naked (probably, definitely, frowned upon in leisure centres now). Those women couldn’t care less about you seeing their body. They weren’t posing and flaunting it about at awkward angles in the hopes of making it look better than it was. But they also weren’t covering and cowering away.
Swimming made me focus on the positives of my body – the fact that it was able to move through water at speed and the fact that the more I trained the faster through water it would move. My arms were paddles and my legs were fins – who cared about how thin or thick they were if they did the job?
This attitude towards my body hasn’t been plain sailing and of course there are ups and downs, moments of self doubt and comparison. It’s important not to beat yourself up about eating things or doing things…or not doing things (she says as she eats homemade salted caramel sauce straight of the pan whilst writing this…yum). It’s great to see my peers -especially girls- embrace and feel more comfortable with exercise. However, we don’t always have to focus on getting a tighter, more perky bottom, stronger, slimer arms, thicker thighs, slimmer thighs, flatter stomach, abs.
Our bodies are amazing. And they’re capable of amazing things. And those amazing things far out weigh the importance of aesthetics.