Why We Need To Stop Pretending Body Confidence Is Simply A State Of Mind

Sometimes we all wish we could change things about ourselves and often, when other people say things like, ‘you’re beautiful, you don’t need to change’ or ‘you’re a good looking girl, it could be worse’ it’s disarming, it’s frustrating and it doesn’t help. We all have days where we don’t feel good in our own skin, some of us more than others. It might be that you dislike your nose and can’t help but focus on it whenever you see a photo of yourself, or it could be that you struggle with a more serious issue in accepting yourself and the way you look.

Insecurity about our physical selves is something we’ve no doubt all experienced and with nine in 10 teenage girls suggesting they’re unhappy with their own bodies, it’s clear that something isn’t quite right with the way we’re taught to perceive and judge ourselves and each other. I mean, nine in 10 is just crazy. Personally, I’ve fallen in and out of love with my own body plenty of times. I struggled with dysmorphia and disordered eating as a teenager and have always felt self conscious about certain aspects of my appearance.

My nose has always bugged me. It’s one of those things I’m fairly certain other people don’t notice but it always had two dips near the top and the middle which made it look narrower and slightly hookish. My lips always used to bother me too. Not because they were thin but because my top lip has always been a little too short, meaning I have to make a conscious effort to close my mouth all the damn time so I don’t look gormless. Using all the muscles in the lower part of my face to do this all the time meant I tend to always have a bit of a pout on which honestly, I think gave other people the impression I thought I was a bit cool growing up. In truth, I just didn’t want to sit there with my mouth open.

Feeing confident about your appearance is largely down to state of mind, however, with so many young women experiencing low self esteem linked to looks and body image, we need to stop pretending that this is all it is. Sure, I can feel like I look great from one day to the next, but things like my lips and my nose will always bother me and no matter how many feel-good mantras I utter as I put my make up on in the mornings, or how many likes a selfie I post on Instagram might receive, I’ll continue feeling the same way about these things as I have since I was a kid.

Illustrations by Alexandria Coe

I’ve always been a confident person but good vibes and positive thinking will only get you so far, there are things I’ve always felt insecure about and wished I could change. But there’s another issue that affects our self esteem and this is where things get messed up… Often if we voice our insecurities, other people will often undermine us, telling us that societal pressures, airbrushed images or wealthy celebrities are to blame for our feelings about the way we look.

Let me be honest, I find this very reductive and somewhat offensive and as a teenager, being told I was perfect the way  I was and that I shouldn’t compare myself to women in magazines did not help me. I’ve been uncomfortable about having a short top lip and big front teeth and about having dips and bumps on my nose for as long as I remember. This has absolutely nothing to do with reality TV, women’s magazines or Snapchat filters.

Over the years, I’ve read a ton of articles written by women about the pressure young girls feel to look a particular way and how ‘deeply alarming and disgusting’ this is and often, this kind of rhetoric does little to make women feel good about themselves. In fact, it does the opposite. It shames us for daring to want to feel more comfortable in our own skin by making the changes we, in some cases desperately, want to make.

This bizarre sort of article is the exact reason I’m pro-surgery and pro cosmetic procedures. No one has the right to make you feel bad for wanting to be your best self, for seeking beauty and for claiming agency over your own body. The important thing to bear in mind is that no decision to change yourself should be taken lightly and you should always conduct proper research and consult with a qualified professional to ensure your own safety and desired results.

I’m lucky in that my insecurities have by no means ruined my life but they’ve always been with me, so when presented with the opportunity to actually do something about them, instead of just thinking more positively and getting on with things, I took it. I visited aesthetic specialist Olivier Branford at the Cadogan Clinic on Sloane Street to discuss my thoughts on my appearance and the things that bothered me.

alexandria-coe-nudes-ace-and-boogie
Illustrations by Alexandria Coe

One of the UK’s leading plastic surgeons and cosmetic professionals, Olivier and I talked about body confidence, the statistics about teenage girls and how making small natural looking changes can be far more conducive to raising self esteem than positive thinking alone. You might not agree with this it’s something I believe very strongly. I’ve seen the impact that making small changes can have on a person’s confidence, how their view of themselves and the way they take on the world can alter overnight and I myself have experience of this too.

Olivier worked with me to visualise and make small changes in order to boost my confidence and I’m not exaggerating when I say I felt more beautiful and powerful than I have in my whole life after a few sessions with him. Now, this of course has a lot to do with other changes I was making in my life. In order to feel more body confident I had been exercising differently, eating differently and making time to say yes to more things that made me feel good.

My point is that achieving true body confidence is a journey that’s different for everyone but we can’t keep pretending that simply having positive thoughts is enough. There will always be things we dislike about ourselves and being shamed for wanting to change them is not helpful. Instead we should be asking ourselves how we can support others in their self improvement, how we can make them feel good and how we can help ourselves to feel better too.

We still have a long way to go in terms of accepting that all bodies are unique and that beauty looks different to different people, but we should also be teaching our teenage girls that it’s ok to feel insecure and that those feelings are valid, whilst we continue to encourage them to feel beautiful and comfortable with the way they look.

The bumps on my nose and my short top lip aren’t things I worry about any more and honestly, this is great because it frees up a lot of mental space for me to focus on other things. I feel much happier and more confident and I’m grateful that I had the power and support to make those small changes. Sure, there will be people who’ll always be against a woman like me making changes to the way she looks, but it’s worth remembering that your body is the only thing that will ever truly belong to you and therefore loving it, respecting it and feeling your best in it is entirely up to you.

Find more here
cadoganclinic.com

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