Penny Hackney – aka The Cheerful Chick – is an Australian blogger and style mentor for over 35’s who is on a mission to encourage women everywhere to live their most colourful and confident life. Colour guru and wardrobe wiz, Penny can help you discover the colours and styles that love you, so you never have to wonder “does this look ok?”.  She believes dressing with confidence comes from seeing and appreciating your perfect uniqueness without comparing yourself to society’s impossible ideal – you don’t have to change a thing about yourself!

Perfect

Body image – You are perfect right now!

You are perfect right now, without having to change yourself. Without having to be younger, or slimmer or wealthier. You are unique and you are beautiful, just as you are.

How do you feel when I say that? Do you believe it wholeheartedly? Or does it sit uncomfortably – make you squirm?

In my business I regularly encounter women with hangs ups about the way they look. Throughout their session they apologise for themselves, comment about the extra weight they’re carrying, feel the need to point out their ‘flaws’ (which are invisible to me but so disturbing to them), lament they can’t wear certain kinds of clothes because they have “gross ankles” or some other reason and they visibly cringe at the “before” photo I’ve just taken.

Perfection

The majority of women I talk to – even those who seem to have nothing to worry about – have body image issues that stem from seeking perfection. But what is perfection?

When you think about it, perfection doesn’t exist. It’s driven by the media and marketing departments to make money. Making people feel inadequate is a very profitable business. They need us to feel ugly, fat, hairy, flabby and frumpy so we buy their stuff that will supposedly make us feel the opposite. Did you know a staggering 95% of human images we’re bombarded with in the media have been digitally altered? We will never be able to meet such impossible expectations! It’s a set up, and we’ve all fallen for it!

Finding yourself

I love this quote from Emily McDowell:

“Your true self is right there, buried under cultural conditioning, other people’s opinions and inaccurate conclusions you drew…that became your beliefs about who you are. ”Finding yourself” is…an unlearning,…a remembering who you were before the world got its hands on you”

Emily perfectly describes what society has created. Pretty twisted, right? The thing is, we aren’t born with body image issues. They creep in over time, often formed when we’re at our most vulnerable – when we start school, during adolescence, when expecting a baby or going through something challenging. We’ve all had someone pass judgement on our appearance – a family member, teacher, doctor, coach, friend or boy in class – that has stuck with us. We can carry that crap around for years and years, letting the self-consciousness we feel about our bodies rob us of the freedom to experience life to the full.

We have a choice

This relentless scrutiny, the toxic judgement we project on each other, the self-loathing and body shaming has become rampant. But we do have a choice. We can participate in this sad game, or we can choose something different. We can broaden the definition of beauty and empower each other to believe we are all beautiful just as we are. We can choose to value and celebrate people for who they are and all the things they do.

To be honest, hating your body is just too much hard work! Bullying ourselves with hateful words, not leaving the house in fear of what others will think of us, not buying nice clothes until we lose weight, turning down invitations because nothing looks good on us, avoiding being seen in a swimsuit at all costs. We’re missing out on a whole heap of fun!

Let’s choose acceptance

So how can we truly love and accept ourselves? Free ourselves from the negative chatter in our head and lift the burden of self-doubt and embarrassment that weighs on us so heavily?

There are three things we can do right now to start to shift our confidence, energy and the ability to feel more comfortable in our own skin.

  1. Accept others

Judge OTHERS less and love OTHERS more and something magical happens – you begin to accept yourself too.

It’s not easy. Being critical is ingrained in us because it’s what we’ve experienced so often ourselves. But we can unlearn that. When we catch ourselves thinking negative thoughts about someone’s body, dress or appearance, we can think of something positive instead.

Practice looking for beauty beyond society’s small view of what people “should” look like. Instead of glaring at the young girl with the tummy-revealing top and the rainbow hair, give her a smile. Rather than giggle under our breath at the elderly lady with the unusual hat, admire her guts to stand out.

Seeking out the positives has a powerful effect on the way we see beauty. If we do it often enough, we redefine and expand our idea of what is beautiful. By being less critical and more caring and nurturing of those around us (I call it giving out invisible love bombs 💜), we begin to shift our mindset and our relationship with our own bodies.

As author and stylist Rachel Nachmias says, “One day, you will wake up and look at yourself through these new compassionate eyes you have moulded by all that practice on everyone else.”

  1. Blame the clothes not your body

It can be truly soul-destroying to try on clothes you bring so hopefully to the dressing room—only to find they neither fit nor flatter. I know, I’ve been there. It’s so discouraging, and you walk out feeling terrible about yourself, blaming your body and planning your next diet. It’s all too easy to shame yourself for being too fat, too thin, too short, too tall, flat-chested, big-busted, too old, too muscly, too flabby…the list goes on.

Well, guess what—the problem isn’t you; it’s the clothes. Really, it is. The way clothes are manufactured is baffling. There seems to be no consideration for differences in physical design, and the sizing – don’t even get me started! It makes me wonder if they are designing for actual real-life humans! As frustrating as it is, there is a way.

  • Ignore the size label altogether and buy clothes that fit you right now. The size on the label doesn’t matter – cut it off if you’re worried by it. I have clothes in my wardrobe from size 12 to 20 and they all fit me just the way I like them to.
  • Try on different kinds of clothes and use the experience to build your analytical shopping muscle to figure out what works and what doesn’t – and why. This is the most important skill to develop as a shopper!
  • Get to know the stores and brands that cater to your physical features and preferences – and a good dressmaker who can make alterations.
  • Learn about the colours and design features that work for you not against you – I can help with this!
  • If you’re feeling awful and down on yourself, walk away. There is no need to come home with something every shopping trip. You can shop another day. But please, don’t give up. Believe it or not, the perfect clothes for you are out there. Hold out for the pieces that you truly love and that actually do something for you – YOU are worth it.

“Opening up your closet should be like arriving at a really good party where everyone you see is someone you like.” – Amy Collins

  1. See yourself as a whole person rather than a series of flaws

When you look in the mirror, do you hear that voice? The one that points out the tummy rolls, stretch marks, acne scars, pointy nose, bony knees, small breasts, large breasts, crooked teeth and all the parts of yourself you wish were different?  The constant playlist of critical remarks in your head is so pointless – it HAS to stop. You don’t talk to anyone else like that, right?

I want you to be able to look at your reflection in the mirror and speak to her as kindly as you would your daughter or a friend you love very much. Instead of picking yourself apart, think about the characteristics that make you a remarkable individual – your humour, your kindness, your strength, your heart, your integrity, your achievements, your dreams, your connections with others.

Thank your body for all that it is capable of and everything it allows you to do in your life. Arms that can hug, legs that can take you across the globe, a tummy that perhaps carried babies, breasts that might have provided thousands of meals, a face that means the whole world to someone. When you see your body as something to be grateful for, you begin to give it the love and respect it deserves.

Let’s celebrate

Our bodies truly are incredible and we don’t often appreciate them until they fail us through injury, age or ill-health. Stop defining your whole self by the “parts” you think don’t measure up. Worrying about these things, my friend, is a waste of time, energy and your precious life.

You have been gifted with characteristics that belong to you and no-one else. Celebrate that! Believe you are perfect just as you are, right now, without having to change yourself. Don’t wait around until your body fits someone else’s standards of what a woman should be – go live your life!

Make peace with the body you have. Life’s way too precious not to.

Wrap-up

You are perfect right now, without having to change yourself. Without having to be younger, or slimmer or wealthier. You are unique and you are beautiful, just as you are.

I’ll leave you with the words of positive body image hero, and maker of Embrace, the documentary, Taryn Brumfitt.

“Darling girl, don’t waste a single day of your life being at war with your body. Just EMBRACE IT!”

 

Penny invites you to visit her website www.cheerfulchick.com for more body image positivity, free Style Files, and help to understand your unique physical design so you can work with it (not against it) to look and feel wonderful every day.

 

Thank you for reading! For more of my articles, browse my blog at www.agelifebalance.com to find out  more.