Do you see your body as something you have to live with rather than something you love? Do you actively dislike your body? You are not alone. Over 80% of women in the western world never look at their bodies in the a full length mirror because the dislike what they (might) see.
Most of us compare ourselves to the “perfect” images we see everyday and find ourselves falling very short of the “ideal”. In 1997, the Social Issues Research Centre said:
Women are continually bombarded with images of the ‘ideal’ face and figure – what Naomi Woolf calls ‘The Official Body’. Constant exposure to idealised images of female beauty on TV, magazines and billboards makes exceptional good looks seem normal and anything short of perfection seem abnormal and ugly. It has been estimated that young women now see more images of outstandingly beautiful women in one day than our mothers saw throughout their entire adolescence.
Also, most women are trying to achieve the impossible: standards of female beauty have in fact become progressively more unrealistic during the 20th century. In 1917, the physically perfect woman was about 5ft 4in tall and weighed nearly 10 stone. Even 25 years ago, top models and beauty queens weighed only 8% less than the average woman, now they weigh 23% less. The current media ideal for women is achievable by less than 5% of the female population – and that’s just in terms of weight and size. If you want the ideal shape, face etc., it’s probably more like 1%.
“Body image” is a mental picture we concoct which often has little basis in reality. Overheard comments from your mother, snide remarks from siblings and classmates, imagined slights from colleagues, teasing remarks from lovers – it can all add up to an imagined body image which is far removed from what we actually see in the mirror (if we ever look!). Recent studies in US found that the average U.S. woman is 5’4” and weighs 140 pounds whereas the average U.S. model is 5’11” and weighs 117 pounds and the “ideal” woman – portrayed by models, Miss America, Barbie dolls, and screen actresses – is 5’5, weighs 100 pounds and wears a size 2. When asked about our ideal shape, 30% of women chose a body shape that is 20% underweight and an additional 44% chose an ideal body shape that is 10% underweight. You might be surprised to hear that women overestimate the size of their hips by 16% and their waists by 25%. All this helps explain why so many of us have a difficult relationship with our body.
Learning to love your body is possibly the most important lesson as you get older. The body you have today is the one you must treasure. Forget about the one you used to have or the one you’d like to have; the body you have today is all that matters. If you can learn to look at your body, become familiar with it and treat it as your friend, you have the most important tool for becoming truly stylish.
To become Style Confident, you must start with the bottom layer – your body. Get to know your body and stop seeing it as a problem. Style Confidence is dressing in a way that pleases you, that expresses your personality and your values. It means understanding and accepting your body shape and size, your proportions, your curves, your skinny bits and your flabby bits. Notice the way it moves, what makes it lovely, how it reacts to different textures and colours. Consider which aspects make you most proud and you would like to show off and which you prefer to minimise. Instead of hiding your bottom because it’s not as pert as it was 20 years ago, you can focus on showing off your shapely waist. Forget hiding your big bust under a baggy top which makes you look fat and short – go for a gorgeous cleavage. Stop being ashamed of your skinny legs or big thighs and learn how to make the most of them with the right trouser shape.
Remember that what you see in the mirror is very different from how others see you. Focus on the “big picture”, the overall package. Your smile, your generosity, your personality – that;s what people notice. Of course you want to dress nicely too, but you’ll notice this much more than others do.