Over on Instagram last week there was a flurry of inspiring posts on ‘positive body image’— my favourite being from my blogging buddy Alison who posted a pic of herself and her daughter in matching swimming costumes.
When I saw it I literally did a double take and thought—
‘Wow — she’s so brave’
— and then had to have a word with myself and ask ‘Why is that brave?’.
Why is a normal woman ‘brave’ for posing in a swimming costume?
If she was a model, would I be thinking that?
Nope. Of course I wouldn’t.
Then I thought about a photo that my boy had taken of me whilst we were in Cornwall.
We’d spotted a fantastically ‘Instagrammable’ wall and I’d been keen for him to take a photo of me standing against it. I was really excited about my photo opportunity — the perfect Kodak moment — and I was very excited about sharing it on my Instagram feed.
But when I saw it I was so disappointed.
I didn’t look like the woman I was hoping to see. And no filter would make me thinner and taller — stretch my fat little dumpy legs — and turn me into the young, thin beauty that I aspired to be.
So I didn’t post it.
In Search of a Positive Body Image
So seeing Alison’s post, a couple of days later, really resonated with me. Positive body image is such a rarity.
Why are we so unkind to ourselves?
Why is our attitude to female body image so warped?
I know it’s a cliché but the media — and social media — is most definitely to blame.
Films, magazines and billboards regularly remind us of how we ‘should’ look. And these days Facebook and Instagram are full of pictures of pouting girls and preening boys. There’s a growing number of women who seem utterly obsessed with fake eyelashes, painted eyebrows, Botox, fillers, liposuction…
I’m working in a young industry too — and that doesn’t help matters.
The majority of my very best blogging friends are at least 5, 10, even 20 years my junior and I’m faced with images of younger women on my social feeds most of the time.
Blogging and You-Tubing are now ‘career choices’ for many young girls; when asked what they want to be when they grow up.
Forty-something seems a bit of a weird age to be when you’re a blogger. Some fashion brands seem to shy away from working with ‘older’ women, almost as if they don’t want to taint their image and, in doing so, turn off the younger generation of shoppers.
Some, on the other hand, embrace social influencers of every generation; which in my mind is a really potent thing to do.
For a brand to appeal as much to a 20 year old as it does to a 50 year old — without turning the other off or negatively influencing them — is surely like attaining the holy grail, in the retail world.
Bringing Up Men
I don’t have a daughter but I am bringing up the next generation of men.
And I want them to grow up accepting and appreciating different female shapes and sizes, rather than expecting that all women should look like the airbrushed beauties you see in magazines and films.
I want my boys to grow up seeing their mama comfortable and confident in her size 14 jeans; rather than being ashamed that her bottom doesn’t fit into a size 10.
I want them to see me looking happy and self assured in photographs and know that this is what normal women look like.
So that when they’re men — with wives and girlfriends (or boyfriends) of their own — they’ll be the ones championing real women.
That the females surrounding them will never have to worry — or think twice — about sucking in their tummies or showing a little bit of cellulite.
That my boys will never, ever, make fun of them because their legs are fat or their skin isn’t perfect — and they’ll be 100% confident of posting photos of themselves in a swimming costume.
Because the men — that I have been a role model for — will make them feel beautiful.
With my influence there’s a possibility that my two little sons — and a whole generation of men being brought up by the women of today — will shatter this crazy warped idea of perfection. Wouldn’t that be amazing?
Being Kinder to Ourselves
And, as for me, I posted that photo.
I made a pact with myself to try and be ‘braver’ — to not let my body-demons get the better of me — and to be less influenced by what I ‘anticipate’ people will think.
Because as I learnt today — as a direct result of posting that photo — other people simply aren’t looking at me with the same critical eyes, that I reserve for myself.
And that’s quite a powerful thing to remember.