Let's Talk Body Confidence


How do you deal with body confidence?

I’ve really been struggling with body image and body confidence lately. I know that this is something most women (sorry men, I know you do too but this is more about my experience) have to confront on a daily basis. I found a documentary on Netflix called Embrace that seemed really timely for this internal conversation. It’s a fascinating look at the issue through the eyes of Taryn Brumitt, an Australian body image activist. I definitely recommend watching this documentary especially if this is something you’re dealing with.

I generally feel like an empowered woman – I care a lot about women’s rights, I speak up in meetings, I stand up for friends, I surround myself with women who I know to be smart and kind. But this area of body image has me thrown for a loop. Intellectually, I understand that my self-image has been hijacked by representations in the media – fashion, television, movies, Instagram, etc. I can look at ads and recognize photoshop. I know that people who are skinny have issues and troubles of their own, but I can’t deny that I often ruminate on the assumption that people who are “thin” and “beautiful” are actually happier and have better lives.

About 3 years ago I was in the best shape of my life. I was living at home with my dad on the island where I grew up and didn’t have many friends or social activities, so the boxing gym became my social life and primary activity. I was working out intensely multiple times a week and for the first time in my life actually felt athletic. It was great but still overshadowed by the fact that I didn’t feel like I looked like the “ideal” that I had in my mind. I was proud of my body for what it was able to do and happy with how strong I’d become, but I still didn’t look like I wanted. On top of this, a guy I was dating at this time – mind you, this is the best shape of my life – told me in an intimate moment that I was “heavier than he had initially thought”. I was devastated. Here I had made myself vulnerable to someone I thought I trusted and he had used that opportunity to bring down my self-esteem. Unfortunately, though this was 3 years ago, the effects have lingered and poisoned every romantic experience I attempt to have.  This is something that no women in my life had really talked about before; what do you do in a moment like this?

I’ve wanted to have a fashion blog since 2007 when I discovered ‘wardrobe_remix’ on Flickr. I used to post a few pictures on the group and had a lot of fun doing it, but I never ended up making my own blog. I was seeing so many blogs featuring gorgeous skinny girls becoming popular and I felt like I couldn’t compete with that. I didn’t think that my body was welcome in that sphere. Even now, I struggle with the thought of sharing outfit photos on this blog, for fear that I look less than “perfect”. The way my body looks has never changed the admiration I have for fashion in all forms, but it has changed my participation in it. I’m disappointed by that.

I think some of the root of this is the societal message that fat = failure. Being overweight, having curves (unless they’re the “right” curves), not having a thigh gap, etc etc into infinity, they are all you failing. This is obviously a ridiculously damaging message, but that stupid message has infiltrated my brain and makes me worry that if I’m not the “ideal” body, I won’t be successful in my career and no one will ever love me. When I say it out loud or write it down it looks foolish, but I sometimes stay up late crying about this fear. I’m worried that I won’t be able to achieve my dreams because of how I look. I’m terrified of dating because trusting someone to be non-judgmental of my body almost doesn’t seem possible. 

The thing is, I have friends of all shapes and sizes and I don’t judge them or their weight like I do mine. I see their spirits first – not a single one of them seems more or less deserving of success and love because of their bodies.

I’ve been taking a cinematography class in Portland and last night I watched myself act in a video – something that took a lot of guts for me to do, but all I could focus on was my double chin. I almost tweeted something making fun of the fact that I looked “fat”, but I hesitated. What good would this do? Would this actually make me feel good, or make another person who might read it feel good? Probably not. So I didn’t post anything about it. I let it go. Sometimes, those small acts make the difference. 

What about you? Have you been struggling with this lately too? I would love to hear your thoughts and stories in the comments, if you’d like to share. Likewise, if you have any advice for me I would love that too!

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  1. Hey Alison!

    This is a post that I'm sure almost every female could see herself writing. I have always been heavy, so what I turned to was making fun of myself to make things less awkward or something. Idk. Anyways, I am so sorry about what that guy said to you during a vulnerable moment you were sharing with him. It's absolutely devestating to hear something like that, even if that isn't what they intended. The first guy I was intimate with told me I wasn't his ideal body because I'm heavy, but I still was with him because I didn't think I could do better. I made fun of my weight around him to make myself feel better, until he told me that wasn't an attractive thing to do and I shouldn't joke about myself to men. Luckily, I met someone that understands my struggles with weight and only ever makes me feel beautiful. But man did it take a long time to feel comfortable enough to take my clothes off around him. I will always struggle with my weight, but it's always nice to know other women struggle as well. Thanks for writing this post and sharing personal things about yourself. :)

    1. Hi!!! Thank you so much for sharing your struggles- I've definitely made fun of my weight before because I felt like if I said it first, then no one else could hurt me with that, but I know I've felt worse about myself after doing it. I hate how a guy saying that you're not "his ideal body type" is like this roundabout way of saying that you're "so lucky" he's even with you - like weird gaslighting! I'm so glad you've met someone who makes you feel so gorgeous as you are. :)

  2. I've been feeling like the weight has been very, very, slowly creeping up and it's kind of terrifying, even though as you know, my mom tried very hard to emphasize intelligence over physical appearance. Even her efforts couldn't fully counteract the rest of society's expectations. To top it off, I've been struggling with pain when I run, making it harder than ever to get out there and work out.

    As to that guy: REALLY?! He thinks it's okay to do that? How would he feel if you'd said it was "smaller than you'd initially thought".

    Brave post, Alison. If we were all this honest with the world, maybe the dialogue would bring about some changes.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts Susannah! I miss you!!!
      It's scary that even the voices we carry inside ourselves of the most influential women in our lives still aren't always enough to combat the onslaught of media messages. Your mom is so right though- my mom believed the same thing. :)
      I've personally always found running to be very hard on my joints so I don't do much of it, even though it would help my endurance for boxing. Oh well!

  3. What an amazing post, Alison! I have no empowering words of wisdom for you but absolutely understand your struggles. While I have never been happy with my shape no matter how skinny or fit I was, I was always lucky enough to have men in my life who loved me for whatever shape I had. Yes, round is a shape! I'm currently struggling right now with weight gain of proportions I have never had except when pregnant. I have also come to the realization that as long as I am comfortable and happy that is all that matters. Obviously, our ages are very different and I totally understand the struggles you are going through having done it myself years ago. You are not alone and one day you will have the person in your life who you deserve.

    Love and hugs,

    1. Thank you Lo - I love how kind you are to yourself despite the struggle - so inspiring! Thanks for your sweet words :)

  4. It's funny how we view ourselves differently than others see us. When I "really" look at you I see a strong, smart, ambitious, vibrant, kind, beautiful young lady who knows what she wants & has so many incredible future opportunities! XOXO