In a recent survey by Women's Health magazine, they asked 1,800 women how they felt about their bodies. The results were insightful to say the least. Firstly, 79% of those who were surveyed said they were not confident in a bikini. Only 50% of the women who were surveyed agreed that they saw themselves as beautiful. So, I wanted to reflect on my own body issues and how it's taken me almost forty years to start loving and accepting my body again.
I find body confidence campaigns and surveys really interesting. Not only does it make me think about how I sometimes feel about my own body, but also how perhaps my relationship with my own body could influence my children. Whether we realise it or not, our children often look to us on how they are supposed to be. That means our daughters are often observing us (even when we don’t realise it) and looking to emulate our every move. For better or worse, they could be following our example.
So even when our children or our partners tell us that we look beautiful, why does something inside us tells us that sometimes – we don’t. That those rolls and wobbly bits are somehow creating negativity in our minds. How do we change it?
In my early teenage years I had an unhealthy relationship with food. In fact, I don't recall eating very much at all. After speaking to a friend about this recently, she reminded me "who didn't"? So perhaps that was just a phase of feeling like you need to fit in, fit out or just to look a certain way. Who knows.
On from there, at least things got back on track from my early twenties onwards. My body confidence only really seemed to take a huge downturn when my daughter was around a year old. It is not something I developed from my own mother, as she is very body confident. She rocks a bikini whilst she mows the lawn. I love that about her. So I can only assume that for me, having children, changed how I felt about my body. But why? This body has created two healthy human beings, so why on earth should that make me feel insecure about my body? Surely it should be the opposite. It should make us feel superhuman.
Whatever the reason for feeling negative about our bodies, it would seem I am not alone. According to some research by Dove, their global research highlighted a universal issue: that beauty-related pressure increases whilst body confidence decreases as girls and women grow older – stopping young girls from seeing their real beauty. Here are some interesting key findings from their recent study ‘The Real Truth About Beauty’:
• Only 4% of women around the world consider themselves beautiful (up from 2% in 2004)
• Only 11% of girls globally are comfortable describing themselves as ‘beautiful’
• 72% of girls feel tremendous pressure to be beautiful
• 80% of women agree that every woman has something about her that is beautiful, but do not see their own beauty
• More than half of women globally (54%) agree that when it comes to how they look, they are their own worst beauty critic
It is research like these that make me worry. Could I be unintentionally influencing my daughter’s developing body image? Our children are observing us, emulating our attitudes, and for better or worse, they are following our example.
Like many women, I have felt that my body has changed so much since having children and despite being a confident and highly social person, somehow, once I’m on the beach, I feel incredibly exposed. So, after feeling inspired by several female influencers on Instagram, I’m making a stand with the girls. I’m crawling out of my comfort zone and stripping down. For the first time in seven years, the wobbly bits are out – well, not all of them, but I’m in a two piece. I rocked a bikini.
I’m showing my daughter the importance of body confidence. I won't lie and say it was excited about doing it, but for me - I needed to do it. I'm so pleased and proud of myself for getting it back on. As I wander down to the beach from the sun lounger, it feels like everyone is looking at me. But the reality is, they are not. Nobody cares. No one is looking. I am just another beach body.
So, in summary, no matter what age our children are, it is never too late to pay attention to the messages we might be sending about ourselves. I’ll try and be a bit kinder to myself. To be less critical about my body and my weight. I remind my husband I am extremely lucky. When I go for a run, my thighs clap together, which means I can officially cheer myself on, whilst jogging. I mean really, that’s a skill, right? It is like a built-in support network.
And that’s what we need to be for each other. A built-in support network.
Bikini ready? Always.