Self-love as Bravery

pretty but tough

This comment has been rolling around in my brain since the moment I read it:

It’s much less socially acceptable for those of us who love our bodies to express it than it is for women with body image issues to do so. It’s easy for female friends to commiserate about their body image issues. If a girl wants to diet, though she probably doesn’t need to, her friends will sympathize and support her. If a girl genuinely loves herself the way she is, she is probably viewed with spite, derision, or at least suspicion. I guarantee there are more body-loving women around you than you realize, and they keep it to themselves because they feel the negative body image crowd will view it as bragging or doesn’t want to hear it.

Initially, I thought, “Nah, that can’t be right. I’m sure the women in my life would feel comfortable speaking up if they felt awesome about their bodies.”

And then I thought, “Well, OK, maybe they would around ME because they know that body image is kind of my deal … but would they feel comfortable lauding their own bodily awesomeness to other women? Coworkers, family members, acquaintances?”

And then I thought, “Hell, would I feel comfortable talking about how good I’ve come to feel about my figure to anyone besides my absolute inner circle of girlfriends?”

I’m not sure I would.

I work hard to make this a positive space, filled with support and inspiring messages. But I am still fluent in the language of self-deprecation, and comfortable with the rituals of body image commiseration. I can chat with a total stranger in a department store about frustratingly unflattering trends, or styles that work better on other body types. I feel endless sympathy when I hear women express frustration with their bodies, and boundless compassion for women who struggle to accept themselves. You can BET that I’ll be the first one to cheer when I hear a woman expressing pride over a hard-won battle with weight-related anxiety, or recovery from an eating disorder, or some other intentional shift in self-perception. And although a proclamation of body-love with no mention of overcoming body-obstacles might not prompt the spiteful response that the commenter described above … it would certainly stir up a little jealousy.

Admitting that to myself was difficult.

Admitting it to you is also difficult.

However, it’s one of those lazy, knee-jerk responses that I know I can mindfully adjust merely by recognizing its roots and cultivating awareness.

I have struggled with my body image since I was 11 years old, and although I’ve made great progress, I struggle with it still. So I relate easily to those who also struggle, and feel disconnected from those who don’t struggle. But instead of allowing that disconnect to perpetuate, I can CHOOSE to view those who don’t struggle as beacons of hope.

A woman who has learned to love herself – or who never gave in to self-doubt in the first place – is a woman to be admired and emulated, not derided and mistrusted. A woman who has learned to love herself has beaten back strong, unseen forces that attempt to gnaw at her confident core, or has wisely dismissed those forces as fabricated and unworthy of her acknowledgment. A woman who has learned to love herself could provide an uplifting example to those of us who still struggle, and I’d hate to think of that example being snuffed out by fear and negativity.

We mistrust open declarations of self-confidence and body-love because they are so rare. But they are so rare because social acceptance of self-focused body-snarking makes many women who love their own bodies reluctant to express themselves.

But it doesn’t have to stay like that.

Wouldn’t you love to hear more women talking about their amazing legs, fabulous shoulders, and flawless skin? Wouldn’t you feel empowered by overhearing a pack of ladies lauding their superior strength and sensual curves and undeniable grace? If such talk were commonplace, wouldn’t you eventually feel comfortable contributing a comment or two about your own body? We can encourage such talk by supporting women who come forth to praise their own awesome bodies, and by talking openly about our own bodies with tenderness and pride.

A woman who loves and accepts herself should never fear being ostracized for her acceptance. And a woman who struggles to love herself should never see a woman who already loves herself as a threat.

I constantly ask women to cast off their self-focused negativity and accept their own beauty. But it would be equally beneficial to encourage women who have ALREADY accepted themselves as gorgeous beings to say so. Aloud. Declarations of self-admiration and bodily-love are brave and inspirational acts, not indicators of conceit. And we who struggle should acknowledge them as such.

So if you’re proud of your body, speak up. If you’ve cast off doubt in favor of confidence, share your story. If you feel comfortable and radiant in your own skin, tell us about it.

We’re listening.

Image source

Originally posted 2009-04-22 06:08:00.

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61 Responses to “Self-love as Bravery”

  1. Christina Lee

    I think that comment might be pretty true, unfotunately! But I get it and I get why it happens! Amen to the rest of your wise words!

  2. chic

    Great post! I know I had a hard time making that list of things I love about myself for our Proportions module, not because I don’t know what those things are, but because you do feel self-conscious admitting to the world that you love certain parts about yourself – it’s hard not to feel like it’s being boastful and narcissistic because our culture emphasizes modesty and self-deprecation so much. Just look at comedies and sit-coms – they’re all about self-deprecating remarks and jokes. But it’s good to remember the positive and to have the “audacity” to publicly announce and praise those aspects of oneself. And I love that your post today is encouraging that! S.

  3. Frances Joy

    Beautifully written.
    I’ll have to go out and celebrate my nice, round, Puerto Rican booty today.

  4. Winnie

    I would love to hear about women talking about bits of their body that they love…but we’re far too used to focussing on the negative issues. We all do it but it can be really hard to see the bigger picture and it can be hard to spot just one good thing about yourself. Just like when people compliment you, it’s so easy to shrug it off and say they’re wrong. I think sometimes we should step up and say, actually YES I do have good skin etc etc. Thanks Sal!

  5. Audi

    Sal, you’ve hit another home run with this one. I have to admit that sometimes I feel like an outsider in these discussions because I really and truly do love the body I’ve got. Not that it’s perfect, I just love it the way it is and think that despite not being perfect, it looks pretty damn great. But your blog does help me to appreciate the beauty of OTHERS that I might otherwise overlook, and that’s why I love reading it so. It also helps to connect me in a more meaningful way to my own readers, many of whom may not share that self love.

    I’m so glad you’ve thrown some light on this, because I think the reason a lot of people are suspicious of women who love themselves is that they assume those women are applying some sort of unfair scrutiny to other body types. Not true! I love the look of a curvy lass, and I love the fact that they can rock all sorts of looks that I can’t. Hooray for diversity! I love my own bod, but it sure as heck doesn’t mean that I don’t love ones that are different from mine.

  6. Christine

    This was an awesome post. I love my body. Even when I still had all my baby weight to loose, I loved my nice full breasts, and that tummy bulge was a badge of honor because that's where my precious baby had grown.

    I lost about 25 lbs last year, and even before loosing weight I liked my curves, however, I knew that being more active & eating healthier would be good for me.

    As I thought about this post, I realized that even though I love my shape, when talking with other women, I'll say something like, "Yeah, my shoulders are pretty broad" and I'll say it in a tone of voice that makes it sound bad, or make another comment about how it's sometimes hard to find shirts that fit properly. When really, I like those broad shoulders. It means never having to wear shoulder pads. They help balance my curvy lower half and make me look thinner. And I also love that curvy lower half, even if I speak disparaging about it because it makes finding pants that fit properly difficult. Those curves are sexy!!

    Let us all start speaking of our bodies in postive ways. I think the more women do this, the more it gives 'permission' to others to do the same. We can start a revolution!!!

  7. fashion herald

    I wonder if this isn’t a culture thing? I know I’ve inherited a self-deprecating sense of humor from my Irish ancestors. And perhaps our American Puritan background encourages false modesty over confidence and pride.

  8. oh lady e

    AGH, OMG, I had a whole, thought-out, long-winded response here, and then the server at work crashed, and I lost it. Perhaps a sign that I shouldn’t be cruising blogs at work…?

    Anyway, let me try and recall what I had written previously. My mind’s been a bit of a leaky pot lately, so it likely won’t be as thorough…

    To start off, this brings to mind a particular episode of ‘Sex and the City’ I saw while channel-surfing aimlessly one night.

    The four ladies of the show were gathered for some girls’ night in activity, complete with wine (yes!) and Chinese food (yummy!). Then suddenly they start moaning about their “physical flaws”.

    Samantha’s the only one who proudly proclaims that she loves her body, has always loved her body, and doesn’t feel the desire to change anything about it. The other three give her looks of utter disbelief, and then laugh rather derisively at her.

    This moment, although scripted, is SUCH an accurate portrayal of how we as women often treat each other. Instead of cheering wholeheartedly for another, we constantly put each other down when other women have issues with jobs, relationships, body image, children, etc. etc.

    Unfortunately, this hurtful attitude towards other women is one of those things that is passed down through generations. I’m sure every single woman has seen their mother poke fun at another woman, or heard them complain about something over the phone to a friend.

    I suspect this is a way of “levelling the playing field” in a way. We all have issues in our lives, and by pointing out these flaws in one another, we are gaging our relative “well-offness”. Sure, I might be out-of-shape, but SHE’S hideous – this thought has crossed many a female mind.

    I’m ashamed to admit I’ve thought this SO MANY TIMES as I encounter other women. I’m also ashamed to admit that I’ve done a lot of self-bashing in my time, when I should appreciate my good health and full use of limbs.

    While some may argue that this is how we’re wired, I think it’s safe to say that we’ve evolved past a point where we rely strictly on our instincts. We CAN learn how to appreciate other women, or at the very least be polite to one another.

    As for me, in the spirit of self-loving, I LOVE the fact that I’m so tall, and that I have broad shoulders. I used to struggle with these attributes so much as a teenager, simply because everyone told me that Korean women were supposed to be delicate and slender. Other Korean women constantly told me I looked like a boy.

    Bullshit, I say! While my figure doesn’t lend itself well to floaty little dresses and strapless doodads, I look and feel pretty damn imposing when I put on a suit or some equally sleek and powerful outfit. What I may lack in grace, I (hopefully) make up with strength and a big smile.

    And there’s nothing wrong with that!

  9. Kahnee

    This morning i was in the mirror with my panties and bra and thinking I am so vain! But you know what I have a pouch with stretch marks back fat, but I love my body! and I don’t think I looked all that bad. and I’m going to buy my first two peice swim suit since Vic Sec is having a 40% off sale. The older and flabbier I get the more I enjoy being in my own skin.

  10. lopi

    Well, if asked I would most certainly reply that, yes, I am comfortable with my body. And maybe that’s way I don’t see it as an issue I usually talk about. I just don’t have anything to say.

  11. Sheila

    Awesome post, Sal! Since I lost weight (60 pounds two years ago), I’ve felt that I had to be careful how I talked about my new fit, strong body. But I love that I am strong and athletic! And I love that I’m curvy and womanly too!

    I always try to stop my friends from saying deprecating remarks, from deflecting compliments – but I continue to do those things myself (I try not to, but you know how it goes).

    Thank you for articulating your thoughts on this. Love it!

  12. Becky

    Hey Sal! I’ve been reading your blog for about a month and a half now, and this is my first time commenting. I’ll just say, I love my hourglass proportions! It took me years to appreciate the fact that even though I am a “plus-size” woman, I still can look great and feel confident thanks to the great way my body distributes its weight. I actually made post yesterday with a picture of me in a bathing suit…no cover-ups or anything, and I realized that I have come a long, long way from the insecure girl I used to be. Thanks for this post! I found it to be inspirational and a great affirmation to my recent feelings of self-acceptance.

  13. ChristaLouWho

    Hooray Sal! Exploring this in such depth and giving us the chance to respond is bravery in itself.

    I haven’t always loved my body, and it took the work of wonderful friends to break me of self-deprecating habits that were terribly destructive on so many levels. Now I absolutely love my body, and I work pretty darn hard for it. I recognize what I would like to change but bask in the things that are just the way I like them, and I thoroughly appreciate hearing other women who have similar things to say about themselves! Thanks for giving us the opportunity.

  14. Chelsy Rae Abraham

    I LOVE MY BODY!!!! most of the time. I ahve struggled with body image since I was 12. I constantly worked out and always burned off what I ate. In college and my previous marriage I gained weight and was at my highest weight ever!! My family, who used to say I ate like a bird, started telling me I was not myself and bigger than I should be. After leaving my husband I put it all into gear and recaptured myself. Now I feel the best I have ever felt about myself, inside and out!!!!

  15. casey

    Wow. I have been “chewing” on this one for a good hour or so… loads of great, thought-provoking issues! I’m a bit jumbled in the thought department right now, but thank you again for saying it as it is! 🙂

  16. Kristin

    Thanks for this….
    It’s such a double standard that we tell women they should be comfortable in their own skin and then we criticize them in our minds if they are.
    There are too many women out there with body image issues because of this type of behavior. You’re absolutely right…we shouldn’t be ashamed to be comfortable with our body whether it’s up to the standards of others or not.
    I’m a bit plump. I’m fine with it. Hopefully, no one is double-guessing that in their mind right now. 🙂

  17. K.Line

    As always, you are pushing the buttons so insightfully, Sal! I quite like the way I look. I’m not perfect, natch, but I’m quite healthy and symmetrical and well-proportioned by my own standards. And I didn’t always feel this way. So I’m very grateful to have this perspective at this time.

  18. The Seeker

    Again a great post, dear!!!
    This made me think… I’ve been also struggled with my body image and though I’ve also made some progress, I still struggle with it.

    So, what would I do if I felt really comfortable about my body? Would I speak about it in a natural way?

    Well, food for thought!!!!!


  19. Laura.

    yay, this is great, thank you! i feel like this post and the comments are like a party! so i want to say hurrah! and that, although i have struggled with my body image since my hips and boobs popped out in the fourth grade, and i was taller than all the other girls, i really do LOVE MY BODY!
    i like being tall! i like my hair and my eyes, freckles, pale skin and strong shoulders. i also really love my hourglass figure. i have enormous thighs and seem to discover another spider vein every day, but i love my body and i love taking care of it, making it better and stronger.
    keep sharing, friends!

  20. The Budget Babe

    What a great topic, Sal, you said it all! I would just add that, while I have my bad days, for the most part, I love my body. It’s not vanity, it’s gratitude. I try my best to remind myself that I am healthy and fit and should be grateful for this able body I’ve been given rather than dwell on my shortcomings.

  21. Hammie

    Irish Women are completely floored by an undeflected compliment. If you are complimented here you are supposed to reply completely denigrating the part that has been praised, or bring attention to another fault.

    So someone says
    “hey, your hair looks great today”

    You are SUPPOSED to reply

    “Oh nooo, my hair is desperate I wish it would fall out so I could wear a wig”

    or, “Jeysus no, oh I wish I had your slim waist, I feel like such a Heifer”

    They are also masters of the barbed compliment which goes

    “Oh It’s you Hammie, I did’nt recognise you, you look so trendy”

    Taking or giving a genuine compliment is therefore very difficult and fraught with judgement.

    However, if you are slightly Autistic or Aspie; the barbs go over your head and you just ignore them or say “Thankyou” and it doesnt occur to you for several hours that someone was being bitchy!

    I think it would start a revolution if people started self praising.

    If you want to see or hear how this works, Listen and watch the Bollywood Stars being interviewed on the Extras, on DVDs.

    They are completely comfortable saying positive things about themselves “The Director wanted a Beautiful Girl for this part, so he came straight to me” – Karena Kapoor, Kabhi Kushi Kabhi Gham.

    I think the whole Jade Goody/Shilpa Shetty thing blew up in the Big Brother House because Shilpa would have been culturally conditioned to be self confident, which would not have sat well with the self depreciation expected by her Cockney House mates.


  22. kittyscreations

    Once again, another amazing post from Sal!
    I think I experienced what you’re talking about in this post last weekend. I was at a concert, and one band had a girl dancing on stage, dressed in a black corset, purple skirt and fishnets. She looked amazing, but what really struck me was her confidence. She knew that she looked fantastic, and she wasn’t afraid to get up on stage and strut her stuff. She wasn’t super-skinny, just average weight. But her confidence showed in her every move. I want to have confidence like that.

  23. Kelly

    I’m going to post my comment before I go read through others, because I don’t want what anyone else says to influence what I’m going to say!

    I love my body. I’ll say it when asked, although I never offer that information up to anyone. I don’t commiserate with other women when they complain about theirs. Sometimes I feel almost *guilty* about it. Like, what gives me the right to feel like I’m fine the just way I am, when clearly so many people don’t? I almost feel like a snob.

    There are certain things about my body that cause me frustration at times. I mean, when I’m totally naked, I’m happy with my body. But when I start putting on clothes, yeah, I’ll have an odd complaint here or there. My figure makes it hard to find clothes that fit correctly off-the-rack. But I don’t blame my body – I blame the clothes. I think I’ve always felt pretty happy in my own skin, save for one year in college when I gained 20 pounds and suddenly became the size I am today. But I got over that fairly quickly, and I don’t think it was so much that I didn’t like my new body as it was that I was unfamiliar with it.

    I’m not saying that my body is perfect to everyone outside of me, but I’ve always been very happy with it. And when other people I care about start complaining about flaws I cannot even see, it hurts to know that they aren’t happy too.

  24. La Belette Rouge

    I am not at the place with my body to be able to say much nice about it and mean it. But whenever I say anything good about myself, such as talents, qualities or abilities, I always feel the need to make disclaimers and make sure the listener understands that I am not bragging and be sure to clarify that I don’t think so much of myself.

  25. Nadine

    Thank you, Sal. This is great.

    You know, I have always thought I look great, pretty much all the time. It’s funny to look back at old photos and notice my weight fluctuations over time, because I rarely notice them when they happen. There are lots of things I love about my body, and other things that are less than aesthetically ideal, but I’m so used to dealing with those areas that I don’t really think about it any more.

    I find it helpful and healthy to think of my body as a whole, rather than a collection of disparate parts. My body is me – my mind and body are connected and together make up who I am. My body is not some separate entity.

    Culturally, I am ‘above-average’ in confidence for a NZer. We are not encouraged to be enthusiastic, outspoken or self-praising – I love Americans because they seem so fearless in this regard! Our culture places a high value on egalitarianism, and the idea of being no worse than anyone else has the flipside of not being any better than anyone else, either. So saying ‘Damn, I’m smokin’ hot!’ is not something that I’d do in general everyday public conversation. 😀

  26. Margaret

    Hey Sal, Great post! I agree that there is this odd bonding between strangers, say shopping for a swimsuit, where women bond over perceived flaws. I try NEVER to do that first because then I have to talk about some flaw and second because I would far rather lay any such negativity at the foot of the people who design clothes which make wonderful women feel bad. Also, as the mother of daughters, now 9, I just never say ANYTHING negative about my body, their bodies, or any bodies around. This is indeed different than saying “Mommy has an awesome bootay” or in other ways admiring myself out loud (I also have a 14 year old son, so there might be eyerolling) but this post makes me think that such out loud positivity is a great idea, for me and them!

  27. a cat of impossible colour

    This was a great post! I’m not sure what to say about it yet, though, so I’ll think about it for a while.

    A xx

  28. Kate Coveny Hood

    I love being around people who feel comfortable in their own skin and really embrace their body type for all of it’s pros and cons. I wish I was more like that – so I find it inspirational.

    But I will admit…when someone with a model perfect body talks about how much they like their body…okay – not so inspirational. Just depressing. I didn’t say it was fair – just true.

  29. rb

    I love my body for what it has done (created and nourished my gorgeous babies) but have not been able to appreciate it for what it looks like.

    An African American friend recently commented that she loves her booty. I had always thought of her booty as rather large, like mine, but when she described it as “nice and big” I felt envious of her being part of a culture that allows those two words to be used together unironically.

  30. Nisha Desai

    Probably your best post yet.

    I will always have issues with some part of myself, but I do love my body. I love my petiteness, my thick crazy hair, my big eyes.

    Another related-issue is the fact that women can’t seem to take a compliment. The answer to “You have great legs!” is often “No I don’t” or “That’s sweet, but my legs are like cottage cheese.”

    Women, take your compliment without apologies!

  31. Amanda

    This post makes me think of the scene in the movie Mean Girls where the popular girls are standing in front of a mirror complaining about their physical faults, and then they look to the new girl and expect her to do the same.
    It’s true that women feel much more comfortable complaining about their bodies and commiserating than celebrating them. I think on one hand it makes women feel equal to each other, to recognize we all have faults and since women tend to focus on their appearance, it makes sense that they would complain about how they look. Also I think women tend to judge confident women as snotty and stuck up, which is sad.
    I have struggled with body image issues my whole life and still do. I use to work with these two amazing confident, athletic women who never complained about their bodies. As a person who can’t relate, I felt in awe of them and admired them, but at the same time I felt like they were somehow better than me. I internalized their positive body love to mean that my negative body image made me less of a person somehow.
    I am able now to switch my focus to celebrating the women in my life who are confident in themselves, faults and all. I still admire them but I try very hard not to do the comparison thing.
    I think if we all tried to celebrate each other we would aspire to love ourselves more. Just my thoughts. Thanks for the great post!

  32. Cosmo

    So I was thinking about this and I think that it is true that women are uncomfortable being confident and proud in their appearance out loud to other women. When I was in middle school and high school my friends were mostly male and I was constantly talking about how much I loved my hands and my tiny waist and how I was so perfect. Then when I got into college I joined a sorority and was in a mostly female theatre department. I once said that I have never tweezed my eyebrows because I never needed it in makeup class. Another girl in class said that I was very lucky because I probably have to spend a lot of time applying eye makeup due to my short curly eyelashes. I stopped being so bold in public. Then I changed my major to fashion and it only got worse. I am trying to get better about being more complimentary to myself, but it has to be around my close friends. I think it would be great if women could say how great they are without feeling bad about it.

  33. Work With What You've Got

    There have totally been times on my blog when what I WANTED to say was “OMG, look smoking hot I am” and instead what I said was “This made me feel pretty”. The editing down of smoking hot to pretty is one thing. And the statement of fact that I AM smoking hot and that I only “feel’ pretty is another. I hate that I do it, but I do feel like people would judge me for saying what I mean.

  34. Sassy Molassy

    While my ass feels like a gigantic bubble on my body today, I have noticed how toned and strong my arms are feeling. With this sunny weather coming, those pushups are sure helping. As for wearing a bikini…eeks, I’m not quite ready for that.

    While I’m confident about parts of my body, I’m guilty of thinking particularly awful thoughts to other parts of my body that aren’t PERFECT.

    We women really need to loosen up. Always good to get the reminder.

  35. Skye

    I never have had proper body issues, I think I’m generally too oblivious to everything to take that stuff on board. I have never openly said positive things about it to anyone other than male lovers though. The men I have been with have always loved that kind of talk – they found it sexy for me to say “I have a great bum” or whatever.

    Women really police each other very hard to make sure we don’t get too big for our boots. In high school I had a “hot body” basically because I was in the surf all the time and was very fit and tanned. I wore a bikini one day for school sport (which was swimming at the local beach). It wasn’t anything super revealing or anything, but after a while a girl came to speak to me. She was a chubby greek girl, very covered up, and with lots of dark body hair. in other words, the opposite of the generally accepted “ideal” body type which was current in our little high school world.

    She told me in no uncertain terms that she and some of the other girls wanted me to not wear the bikini again, that I made them feel bad about themselves by wearing the bikini. That by wearing bikini I was making a statement about how much I “loved myself” (a very bad thing), and how I thought I was better than them.

    That’s a pretty strong message to get from your peer group, just by having a “good” body and wearing a bikini (which showed I was confident and comfortable in my body) I was making other people feel bad about themselves. As an adult I can see what was going on (and it still goes on, believe me, even though I don’t have that 15 year old body any more), but I didn’t get it back then. I just thought i was bad and wrong and hurting others somehow. The next week I wore a one piece swimsuit with a t-shirt over the top.

  36. ashlie elizabeth:

    My mother will never let me forget the time that she said “You look like you are losing weight!” and I blurted out “I have acne on my back.” I feel guilty taking compliments, and strangely I mistrust compliments from my husband or family MUCH more than ones from strangers.

    I want to love my body more than anything. My main goal is to demolish negative comments from my life before I have a daughter. Reading this blog is bringing me closer every day.

    I have a friend who recently commented that beyond aesthetics, she rejoices every day that her legs carry her, her arms let her write and type and hold her daughter, and in general she has a body that performs a function that most people for granted. I am lucky beyond my understanding to WORK the way I am supposed to.

  37. Iheartfashion

    Although I’m a lot more comfortable criticizing my body than praising it, I can honestly say that I’m happy with my relatively flat stomach and my long thin fingers. There. I’ve said it.

  38. Nina (femme rationale)

    i struggled with body image for a long time, too. growing up i was never thin and wiry like a lot of asian girls – i had hips and boobs (if you can believe i used to be a 34C) and what i now know as baby fat. as soon as i hit 18, i started shedding my weight and my 20’s were spent dealing with people asking me if i had an eating disorder (never did) or telling me i needed to eat more. i come from a culture where people feel the need to point out your “flaws” – if i lose or gain 5 lbs, i’d hear about it in a flash.

    now that i’m entering my 30’s, i feel like my body is finally settling down and so is my mind. i find myself more and more comfortable with my shape and these days i don’t even worry about my weight or think twice about rude remarks. i can confidently say that i am happy with my body finally. when i hear other girls complain about their weight or specific body parts, i am one of those that keep mum. i am actually the thinnest out of all my friends and i don’t want to seem like i’m arrogant about it or that i’m better than them cuz i’m not. it’s just who i am and who they are. i usually change the subject when the topic of weight comes up. but you’re right, i should feel confident enough to say i’m happy with what i have. i shouldn’t be embarrassed by it or ashamed. i’ll work on this but it’s hard when you’ve spent most of your life being a certain way. i guess that’s why life is always a work in progress.

  39. Kelly

    I think Skye makes a good point. Even if you ARE happy with your body, and even if you don’t have any genuine concerns or problems with it, if other people perceive your confidence as a threat, you kind of have to make a choice. You can continue to be openly happy with yourself and alienate potential friends (e.g. wearing a bikini even when it makes others feel inadequate, for whatever reason), or you can pretend to be less than thrilled with yourself in order to participate in a bonding experience and perhaps seem more approachable to other women. It’s awful that sometimes, you really do have to make the choice between being honest about your self-confidence, and making friends.

  40. Elisa

    I love my squishy curvy body. I think I commented on the post that inspired this post, and I felt a little funny saying I loved my body when no one else was. But while there are things I don’t love about my body, I still love it overall. Does that make sense? I wish I wasn’t losing my hair at 26, I wish my belly was a bit flatter, but I don’t really mind any of my ‘flaws’.

  41. Deja Pseu

    Wow, great post!

    I’m old enough to have grown up a time when what we now would regard as “healthy self-esteem” was considered “pride” and if not downright sinful was an undesireable trait, especially in girls. We were cautioned against “thinking too much of oneself.” In fact, “who do you think you are?” was the all-purpose leveller used by adults and peers to keep us in our place. Add to that the fact that I grew up in a fat-phobic family and was “the chubby one” and I consider it a victory that I’ve come to a place where I no longer loathe my body.

  42. AsianCajuns

    I love this post, Sal! Like you, when I read this comment I thought “that’s sooo not true.” But then I thought what would happen if I was with a woman who said she loved her body- I would probably turn green from jealousy instead of lauding her. I realized how hypocritical I’ve been. I went to a woman’s college and have always been against other women pulling each other down (back-stabbing comments, snide remarks, etc.)- but I realized that’s exactly what I would be doing to a woman who said “I love every part of me.” So your post was an eye-opener. The more supportive we are of each other, I think the less threatened we would be. Being able to give generously that way helps you build your own confidence.
    Thanks, Sal!

  43. Gillian

    I have to agree with Kelly. I often find myself almost competing with my friends over who’s body image issues are worse. Truthfully, I do love my body. I may not always LIKE it all the time, but I do LOVE it.

  44. Emm

    Recently discovered your blog via academichic and am really enjoying your posts.

    Maybe we can change the culture one tiny bit at a time. I grew up thinking that all compliments should be pshawed away. Now I’m living in a country where compliments aren’t given as freely as in the U.S., but when they are they’re sincere and the receiver would be seen as ungracious to disagree with the compliment. For instance, if I said your eyes are pretty, you’d be expected to say something along the order of thanks, they are a nice shade aren’t they? It was so foreign but so refreshing!

    Having two small daughters has also made me take a hard look at what I say about my body. Trite as it sounds, I want to be a good role model for them so I’ve banished negative comments about the way I look (not to say I don’t have negative thoughts). I want them to grow up being happy with the bodies they have, whatever shapes they may take as teens and adults.

  45. Kristen

    This made me cry. In a good way!

    It has always hurt me to hear my girlfriends slam themselves, and pretty ferociously too; to hear them talk you would think they were trolls living under a bridge! They refuse to hear any kind of compliments from me, either, usually twisting it so they can insult themselves about some other self-percieved lack.

    Whereas I have been comfortable in my own body for a while; I knew I needed to lose weight, and I have done so recently, but even before that I liked my body. But I felt uncomfortable expressing that out loud to anyone. I felt like I was egotistical and insensitive and that my friends were thinking that I was blind to my own flaws — because we could never have a real conversation about it; they couldn’t get past the first step of automatically insulting themseves. The idea of finding a genuine positive about their physical beings is like a foreign language to them. I find that heart-breaking.

  46. Imogen Lamport

    Interesting – many think vanity is a one of the seven deadly sins, so expressing any love for our bodies, especially if they are not like the ‘western ideal’ (young, super slim, no cellulite, everything pert), makes others think that maybe we are deluded.

    Interestingly I read a survey once that said that women who work out in some way or another are happiest with their bodies, as they see their body not just as something the exist in, but a vehicle that can actually ‘do things,and be strong’ for them.

    I’m much kinder to my body since I had kids, as I appreciate much more the miracles that are my children, that without my body, wouldn’t exist.

  47. Clare

    Well, I think everyone else has really nicely summed up how we all feel about you advocating for self-love, Sal. So I’m going to take a second and actually do some self-lovin’! I have great hair, sexy shoulders and back, sensual lips and beautiful eyes. And I don’t say it enough!

  48. saturdayjane

    I love this post. What a lovely sentiment!

    I think (or I hope) that most women have a balance of positivity and negativity in regards to their bodies. Wouldn’t be great if it was all positive?

    As for myself, I’m not fond of my tummy, but I have an absolutely DELICIOUS booty that I’m rather proud of. I feel like I have giant horse teeth, but I have beautiful green eyes and fantastic cheekbones. I think the real trick is remaining reasonable and focusing more on these positive aspects than the minor negatives.

    I tend to look on women who are completely proud of their bodies as totally magical in their own way. A woman who feels proud and in charge of her body seems to extend that pride to her entire life. A woman who struts her stuff and is proud of her shape looks to me like she’s proud of HERSELF, her LIFE, her CHOICES and brightens up the world around her with this joy. It’s intimidating but lovely. Possibly women who are unwilling to be totally proud of hteir body just feel they don’t deserve it? Being entirely happy with your skin maybe implies that you’re satisfied with the things in it and around it.

  49. lsaspacey

    I strongly agree with that comment. One of my most awkward situation memories is of a time I went outlet shopping with two friends. We decided to share this HUGE dressing room. I was the only one who liked my own body and each time they tried on something, not only did I hear them complain about thier bodies but they would then have to say something like,’ Well, at least you don’t have to worry about this because you’re SKINNY or FLAT-CHESTED or have NO THIGHS.’ All those things sounded like insults because you could feel the jealousy and veiled venom behind the words.

    Of course, I couldn’t keep trying things on, at least not if they had the nerve to look good or fit my body shape, because there was no joy in the experience. If I liked something, it seemed to them I was lording it over them. It might have helped alot if they had listened to me and tried on things in the right/larger size because there was nothing wrong with thier bodies except they kept trying to squeeze into something too small or that emphasized what they wanted hidden.

    The weird thing is I’m still friends with one of them (never went clothes shopping with either again!) and she still complains about her body constantly though now after giving birth a year ago, she compares it to her body then.

    Learn to love your body now!!!

  50. The Love Diaries

    Awesome, awesome post. We obsess over minor imperfections and forget about the beautiful aspects! It’s quite tragic actually.

  51. Missa

    Wonderful post Sal and SO beautifully articulated!

    As someone lucky enough to be happy with her body and never to have had any serious struggles with body issues, I found it fascinating to read your wonderfully honest take on girls like me… or should I say beacons of hope 😉

    I really enjoyed reading all the different perspectives in the comments too. Thanks for this thoughtful and thought provoking post!

  52. Penelope

    You are very right. I usually have days when i feel great and others when i feel the opposite, but on those opposite days i tend to tell my mind more then once that i am still beautiful the way i am!

  53. Paulina

    Hi Sal, thank you so much for this post. I’ve been working on my body image for a long time like you. One thing that I’m trying to really hold strongly in my heart is the knowledge that I am more than just a sum of my body parts. Although I like this or that part of my body, and might care less for another, I try to remind myself that my beauty, my grace, and my humanity is beyond all of those body parts.

    <3 Thank you for being a beacon of light to me Sal.