• emmanuellegammage

What Is Body Confidence?

Body image blog posts are my absolute favourite. I feel like I am spreading a sprinkle of happiness and reality into the world where there is so much pressure and confusion surrounding what we should look like. From a young school girl, to an anorexic, to now - my version of body image and body confidence has drastically changed over my lifetime thus far.

From a very young age, the dominant narrative I can remember is that skinny = attractive and attractive = skinny. Body confidence to me meant being the skinniest I could be and making sure everyone saw that. The feeling of emptiness and loose clothes was addictive. When people complimented me on my weight I would beam. Body confidence had nothing to do with how my body felt or how healthy it was - as far as I was concerned, my diet was the picture of health. It was all about how I looked and how I thought I should look. I felt amazing when I looked skinnier than the day before or when an ab looked prominent and I would make the most of it by showing off my body and relish in what I thought was attractive and healthy, except I would check my body at every moment I could - checking I still looked skinny - so I wasn't really confident or happy in my body. I was constantly afraid of my body changing. I was even afraid to drink too much water because it would bloat me, but I was also told drinking water would help lose weight so I had to drink enough that I went to the toilet every 5 minutes to relieve the bloat. I thought I was body confident because I would show off my body and 'work' on it to make it 'better' but I didn't know then, what I know now. I thought body confidence was feeling able to show lots of skin and not have to worry about how fat I looked, because there wasn't any. BODY CONFIDENCE IS NOT JUST SHOWING OFF YOUR BODY.

(I found some extracts from my diary when I was recovering and you can see how I just wasn't prepared to let that control go. I was so stuck between wanting to be free and wanting to be skinny. I tried to hide my skinny thoughts by disguising it as 'healthy' and 'balanced'. Body confidence to me then, was being skinny and feeling pretty enough to be desired and valued by other people. My life was dominated by control, restriction, rules and my body. I wanted to be happy with how my body looked - I am now but it's more than that, I'm just happy to exist).

Body confidence is a term that has completely transformed in my mindset. My definition has changed throughout my recovery and every moment leading up to now. My relationship has evolved and I have constantly learned about it. To me, body confidence is appreciating my ever changing body and acknowledging that it has absolutely nothing to do with my happiness and who I am as a person. How I thought anorexia made me feel - actually did the complete opposite once the illusion shattered. I thought feeling empty was amazing, but I realised that I was just hungry. I thought feeling skinny was the best feeling ever, as Kate Moss famously said, but I realised afterwards what utter bullshit I was feeding myself - I felt shite 24/7 because my body was never enough. I kept telling myself if I could just lose a little bit more I'd be happy, but that was a never ending cycle.

Even years after recovery I still valued being skinny. That was the dominant narrative embedded in my brain for so many years. It doesn't just switch off over night, you have to re-learn everything again and again until you embed something new. A big thing that changed was who I looked up to - my social media feed was about tips to lose weight, models, exercise routines and how to be 'healthy', there was 0 information on anorexia, real health advice and positive body image advice so I was only consuming negativity until I actively started seeking positive content. That helped me learn about diet culture and why I treated my body with such disrespect and less value, and gave me daily reminders about how wonderful my body was. I have now trained my mind to speak kindly towards my body and not punish myself for my ever changing body and things that I can't and don't have to control.

I genuinely don't want to change my body. I genuinely love and appreciate my body. I forgive my mind for the cruel things it did to me and I have made peace with my story. I love who anorexia has made me become and I thank life every day for how happy I am when I never ever thought I could be in the position I am in now. Recovery felt so far away. I had no idea how to get through it and I couldn't remember what life was like before it.

I love my body the same amounts no matter what it looks like. I appreciate more than its appearance now - I appreciate its functions like keeping my memories safe, allowing me to feel magical emotions like love and joy, allowing me to walk through forests, allowing me to chase my nephews around the garden and consume unlimited amounts of cake. I don't feel guilty after eating too much. Don't get me wrong, I have eaten more than my body can physically handle at times and feel a lil bit sick, that's not comfortable for anyone! But I don't punish myself or compensate for it. If I'm going out and my clothes feel a little tight or unflattering then I'll just opt for something I know will make me feel comfortable - because what's the point of making yourself feel unnecessarily self-conscious? I don't let that upset me because it has no impact on my day whatsoever, clothes are clothes and my day will continue the same no matter what I look like.

(I love my leg dimples and tight jean marks. I love my cake-filled stomach. I love my body in pretty matching underwear. I love my body dressed up in skin-tight clothes. I love my body wrapped up in a million layers and a bare face. I love my alcohol-filled body and Christmas period pants. I love my anorexic and recovery body because it fought for me every second and STILL carried me even when I neglected it).

Body confidence is actually nothing to do with my body now. Body confidence is simply existing and living every day without feeling the need to acknowledge it, check it or wish it was anything else. Body confidence is leaving the house without worrying how people are going to look at my body. Body confidence is wearing my favourite underwear and showing my body to my boyfriend despite looking bloated and feeling full. Body confidence is going to bed full and not contemplating every food decision I've made and calculating the calories in my head and how to burn them off later. Body confidence is simply feeling 'normal' and unphased by how my body looks. Body confidence is not even considering my body when I make a decision. Body confidence is simply not giving a damn about what it looks like. Body confidence is allowing my body to naturally change and not taking steps to prevent it.

I thought it might be nice to share some thoughts on body confidence by you guys, some of the readers of my blog posts! So that we can all feel part of this sunny, joyful and positive community so that we can uplift each other and be present in this journey together...what is body confidence to you?

"Looking in the mirror and not caring what I look like because I like what I see and it's not a priority"

"Being comfortable in your own skin, but I think it goes further than just being comfortable, I'd associate it with confidence and I associate confidence with not being afraid of what people think"

"Feeling happy with the way I look and appreciating that my body is so important because without it, I quite literally wouldn't exist. It's embracing and fully loving yourself. Your body is more than what it looks like, it keeps you alive and able to do amazing things every day"

"Knowing that I don't have to show off my body or talk about it or really do anything about it to be happy and appreciate myself. It is simply existing without thinking about my body - it's just a vessel for who I am so that I can eat burgers and travel around. It means no more than that"

"Good lighting. Knowing that my body looks different ALL THE TIME in different angles, poses, lighting etc - it's not my body that's the issue, it's everything else telling me it's wrong"

“Body confidence means to me that the answers to simple questions we ask ourselves each day (what will we wear today? What will we do today? How are we feeling today?) are no consequence of how we feel about our bodies. (DISCLAIMER!! How we feel about our bodies is not one emotion, our bodies and emotions towards our bodies change everyday and that is perfectly fine and NORMAL!)”


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