It’s no secret that being someone who is larger than the “average” or “ideal” body type comes with challenges. It feels like all of the body positive plus/midsize influencers that I follow get asked the same question over and over: how did you become so confident in yourself? Their answers vary, but one common thread is that they’re “still working on it.”
Body confidence is more of an ongoing process than a definitive goal that you can check off on your to-do list. This has been true in my personal experience as well. That being said, I think that there are still some actionable things that you can do to help your journey along. Today, I’ll talk about the top 5 things that have helped me gain body confidence.
1. I Curated My Media
As I’ve written about before, the media you consume can have a major impact on your impression of yourself. I go more into detail in that post, but the key thing about that practice that helped me was eliminating opportunities to feel disappointed in myself. Instead, I replaced them with moments to feel proud, empowered, and like I belonged.
Find accounts that inspire you to love who you are and what you look like in this moment. If you’re trying to change something about your body, stop using harmful media (social and otherwise) as motivators for that. Don’t let yourself be the equivalent of a before picture.
When I started following accounts that showed women loving their bodies, I become more and more brave on my own social media. I started sharing my own experience, posting photos that didn’t hide my body quite so much, and I felt inspired to make my account a positive environment for my followers as well. I wanted to repay the brave women who curated their online space before me by passing on the self-love.
2. I Did a Body Positive Photo Shoot
I know that getting in front of the camera can be scary for all of us, regardless of our size. But ever since I started this blog, I’ve been looking at pictures of myself much more often. At first, it was hard. It was like I was confronting something that I had kept brushing under the rug for several years. Over time, it has become easier, but I will honestly say that my initial reaction to many photos of myself is still negative.
To try to combat this, I decided to do a body positive photo shoot with a local photographer, Jordan. She is the same photographer who took my and Jake’s Christmas card photos in the fall, and she was offering boudoir sessions around Valentine’s Day. I know that boudoir typically is associated with some pretty intimate photos, but it has really grown into so much more than that. So many photographers today use boudoir to empower body types of all kinds to feel beautiful, and that’s what Jordan does.
I like having my portrait taken, but I don’t usually gravitate towards only wearing about a bathing suit’s worth of clothes when I do so. So this was a bit different, and I was nervous leading up to the shoot. But when I got there, Jordan was so encouraging, empathetic, and the space she had set up was gorgeous. I became more excited about the glamour of it and the opportunity to collaborate with a fellow body-positive woman that my nerves went away. I had a ton of fun and I couldn’t wait to see the photos.
I won’t lie and say that I loved all of them. There are a few that still make me feel self-conscious or insecure. But I love so many of them, many that are photos I never would have loved of myself a few years ago. And I’ll bet that in a few years, the ones I don’t like now will grow on me too.
If you pursue an opportunity like this, make sure that you trust and can feel comfortable with the photographer you’re working with. Try to find someone with a diverse portfolio (especially one that is not fat-phobic), and maybe ask if you could talk about the shoot beforehand if you aren’t already familiar with the photographer. I’m sure that most photographers in this field know that it’s a delicate thing for a lot of people and that making their clients comfortable is important to them.
3. I Changed Other Parts of My Appearance
I think it’s a common thing for women to change their hair or clothes when they’re in the need of a boost. I am no exception to that idea! Once I started making appearance changes, I started to love the way I looked more. I got my nose pierced, got a more interesting haircut, and gradually accumulated clothes that I thought better represent my eclectic style.
Making these changes helped me to realize that my body is not solely about my weight. I want to communicate with my personal appearance. I want to show who I am and what I like.
Similar to doing the photo shoot, there was one brave step I took towards feeling like I have ownership over my body. I got a sizeable tattoo on my arm. I had already had three small tattoos on my legs and ankle, but my arm tattoo was a different step. It was an opportunity for me to take a part of my body that I feel insecure about sometimes and make it into a canvas for some art that I find beautiful. I was in control. I know tattoos aren’t for everyone, but if you do like them, consider how wonderful it could be to have power over your body like that.
If you’re feeling trapped by your weight, remember that there are other things that you can more easily feel in control of with your body. There are ways that you can fall in love with your appearance without having to change your figure. Play around with these things and see how they make you feel.
4. I Went to Therapy
I had been to therapy before to deal with other challenges in my life, but in January, I decided to see someone about some long-standing issues including my body image. Even after just a little over a month’s worth of sessions, I can say that there are definitely some things that I feel better about. I’m learning to respect my body and its needs more, and I’m leaving behind the days of ignoring things and hoping that they’ll change somehow.
While I think that this tactic towards improving your body confidence has the highest potential for payoff, I do think it is the most difficult route. I have had to admit things to my therapist that I’ve never said out loud before, that I’ve never even wanted to admit to myself. But I had to in order to get better. I couldn’t keep the cycle of pushing problems away, because the roots of my self-dislike would always be there. Now I’m digging towards them and slowly removing them, bit by bit.
5. I Got Tired of Hating Myself
This last approach is both the simplest and the most complicated. Over time, I’ve just grown sick of disliking myself. It gets old. Just like holding a grudge against someone else, it’s emotionally exhausting. Sometimes, we give up our grudges against other people because it feels better to let them go. So why are we so hesitant to do that with negative feelings about ourselves?
It’s simple in that all you have to do is make the decision that you’re done. It’s complicated because the actual execution takes so much more. You have to give up the familiarity of saying mean things about yourself, wincing when you see a picture of your body, shying away from certain clothes because you don’t think they’ll look good on you, ordering something light at a restaurant when you’re actually hungry, turning down a social/physical activity because you think your body will make you an outcast, and all those other moments throughout the day when you hate yourself because of your weight.
Of course, it’s not realistic to think you can cut out those moments completely. But you can always strive to get as close as possible to that point. Only you have the ability to take those thoughts out of your life. We all feel some amount of outside pressure–I mean, why would we care about being fat if society hadn’t drilled into our heads that it’s a terrible thing to be? But we can shut that out. We can decide to yell louder than those external voices. We can scream our self-love at the top of our lungs, and we should.
After I received some negative feedback to a fat-defensive post I made, I said this to one of my friends: “I’m just trying to be as loud about my self-love as possible because no one seems to want to hear it.” No one likes to be told that they’re wrong. But we all have moments where our perception of the world is too narrow and someone needs to pull us out of it. That’s what I’m trying to do for myself and for other people, and it starts with some radical self-love.
I hope that this can help someone on their journey towards a better body image. Everyone’s experience will be different, but these 5 things have helped me greatly. Do you have something that has helped you gain more self-love? Share it below (let’s avoid discussing anything pertaining to diet culture, though)!