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I recently did some talks on the Ideal Woman catwalk at the Ideal Home show about dressing to make the most of your body. It was in a similar vein to what I did at BNTM Live – I concentrated on my belief that we need to stop looking at our bodies and seeing a series of flaws and ‘problem areas’, but we should pick out the good bits instead, in order to start on a positive note. It sounds obvious, but I’ve met plenty of women who struggle to pick even one thing they really like about themselves, and I think that’s a terrible shame.
I think so often we’re raised to think being happy and confident in ourselves (even if we don’t look like models) is somehow arrogant, egotistical or just plan wrong. We’re constantly talking ourselves down. When you’re a teenager, no matter what your body is like, you end up believing it could be improved upon. Remember the Mean Girls scene where the impossibly gorgeous Amanda Seyfried moans about how her nail beds are ‘icky’?
There you are, at an impressionable age, believing you’re too fat or too skinny or too tall or too short or your boobs aren’t big / small / perky enough. And as much as we think we’ve grown up, I’ve seen so many examples of these fixations continuing into adulthood. I still hate my ankles because I developed a fixation on them as a teen. Who looks at people’s ankles, anyway?
A few years ago I was exactly the kind of girl who would put pictures of slim celebrities on my fridge as if it would be some kind of incentive for me to not fill said fridge with wine and pizza. I was also the kind of girl who’d buy a pair of jeans a size (or two sizes) smaller than I actually needed, hoping that having them hanging in the wardrobe would help me ‘make better choices’.
The better choice, of course, would have been to just not buy things that are too small for me in the first place. Those jeans (yes, I really did buy them) hung in my wardrobe for years, taunting me. What I learned was that with all the will in the world you can promise yourself you’ll fit into those ‘incentive’ items one day, but keeping them and seeing them every day will just make you miserable. Eventually you have to accept that your body has changed (and that is ok – better even) and go and buy something lovely that fits you NOW that you can enjoy.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying everyone should wave goodbye to the idea of losing weight if they want to (or need to for some reason). It goes without saying that we should all strive to live as healthy a lifestyle as possible. But health and weight are not intrinsically linked! You’re not a bad person because the things that fit you at 18 don’t fit you 10 years later. Punishing ourselves unnecessarily to fit an ideal that is ridiculous for most average people is just as bad as eating our way to an early grave.
It’s taken me a long time to come to the realisation that the people who have the best relationship with their bodies are the ones who don’t worry about them too much. Tall or short, slim or voluptuous, they just don’t stress out about it.
Why am I saying all of this now?
Because those jeans? They fit. Six years after I bought them. And the irony, of course, is that they’re not even that nice. I probably won’t even wear them.
I really shouldn’t have bought them all those years ago. ‘Incentive’ clothing ends up being a noose around your neck. Those jeans were my holy grail. I thought once I fit into them, I’d somehow be a better person; slimmer, happier, more confident, more loved.
The truth is, the only way I could ever GET myself into those jeans was by getting all those things first. By realising that the only person I have to answer to is myself, and by learning to have a slightly better relationship with my body in the process.
We need to stop fooling ourselves into thinking that being a certain size and fitting into certain items of clothing will make us ‘better’. We are wonderful already. It’s easy to fixate on the past, when we used to be size X, Y or Z, and idealise that time. But the truth is, we were the same person then as we are now.
It doesn’t matter what you were, or what you may be in the future. The important thing is to start living for the NOW.
So throw out the incentive jeans and go out and buy something that fits now, looks wonderful and makes you feel like a million quid!