I think this is a wonderful idea, and I really wish something like this had come to my school! I was a very gawky teen with a very negative relationship with my body. I went through puberty quite suddenly, growing hips and DD size breasts over one summer. With all my friends still skinny around me, and the 90s waif fashion a la Kate Moss in full force, I felt, quite simply, 'fat'. It's a feeling that still niggles at me today in my new-adulthood, even though I rationally know I am a healthy size and weight.
According to research by Girlguiding and Dove from 2013, 48% of teenage girls avoid everyday school activities because of a lack of body confidence. So what The Self-Esteem Team are doing is still very necessary and relevant.
1. Health First.
Health is a lifestyle, not a look. Being healthy is not as complicated as the internet makes it appear. It isn’t particularly exciting or glamorous, but the sort of advice your Nan might give you – three balanced meals per day/’you’re not going out until you’ve had breakfast’/’eat this apple I cut up for you’/’get off your X-Box and go out and get some fresh air’ – are actually the keys to maintaining a healthy body.
If you’re living a healthy lifestyle (with the occasional treat thrown in because life is too short not to eat a Krispy Kreme once in a while) then your body is exactly as it is meant to be. It won’t necessarily be the same as your best mate’s, or your parent’s, or anyone else you know, but it’s yours to rock as you see fit.
|Granny knows best...|
2. Identify your best bits.
When we look in the mirror, our eyes are usually drawn to our least favourite body parts. This means that, over time, our idea of what our ‘flaws’ are become exaggerated in our minds. (Other people don’t look at us in the same way we see ourselves, which is why it’s so frustrating trying to convince your best mate that bump on her nose is barely perceptible to the casual observer and definitely not a reason to stay in wailing ‘I’m hideous’ into a pillow).
To reverse this, try and identify your ‘good bits’. Make a conscious effort to look at these first when you see a photo or yourself, or catch your reflection in something shiny.
|Think Amy enthusiasm, and all about yourself.|
3. Find your style.
The fashion and beauty industries have been much maligned for causing body insecurity, but they’re actually fantastic ways to express yourself. The key is to use them for YOUR agenda, instead of allowing them to use you for theirs.
Find a style that conveys who you are. It might be that you roll out of bed feeling that you look exactly how you ought to. In which case, don’t feel pressured to do anything at all. It might be, however, that you want to dye your hair 17 different colours all at once and (I am SO SORRY to your parents and teachers for saying this) that is totally your prerogative. After all, it’s your hair.
Just make sure that your look expresses you, not what you think you ought to be.
You know those pesky fashion and beauty industries? Well, their existence pretty-much depends on convincing you that you need to change. Ditto fitness products.
With the lines increasingly blurred between ‘entertainment’ and ‘advertising’ and most people indulging in more ‘screen time’ than ever before, if we’re not careful we can absorb thousands of messages every week we’re alive which scream ‘YOU ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH!’.
The trick is to question. Buy that hair gel or join that gym if it makes you happy, but know that you were more than good enough to begin with.
|Even the amazing Brooke Davies didn't have it all together...|
|But body confidence heroes like Demi are showing that pressure from the media is not okay...|
|Not to mention J-Law. So ...|
5. Forgive Yourself
Wearing an outfit you will only be able to look back on through splayed fingers whilst rocking back and forth and blaspheming repeatedly is a Right of Passage. Everyone has done it (it teaches us humility/to be more forgiving of the fashion choices of others).
|Preach Emma, you wonderful human you!|
Repeat after us: Your value cannot be captured in a selfie.
Take some time to think about the qualities you’re bringing to the table that have nothing to do with how you look. Are you kind, brave, funny, strong, loyal or witty? Chances are, that’s why your friends love you (and not because you have a great bone structure).
Sometimes, body confidence is all about realising that you’re more than your body.
Definitely words to live by! There is loads more advice just like this on body image, relationships, self love and so much more in The Self-Esteem Team's Guide to Sex, Drugs & WTFs?!! (John Blake Publishing, out now!)