body image 101 // the steps to self love

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The first thing I do when I wake up in the morning, all doe-eyed and out-of-it, is look in the mirror and every single day, through my sleepy eyes, the image changes. Some days I see an eloquent and intelligent young woman with a beautiful body and face who is ready to take on the world. And other days, I see an unattractive girl who is worthless and not good enough. This habit is unhealthy and not something you would expect from a personal style blogger who regularly has pictures of herself taken and published on the world wide web – but it’s the reality for me, and millions of other women across the globe. I am Maria, and I am a sixteen year old who is insecure about her body. I constantly compare myself to other girls, and have an unrealistic image in my head of what I should look like, but I want to change. I want to stop. I want to be happy with my body, appreciate what it can do and promote positive body image in myself and others. I want to try my very best to make a change. 

Today I've taken the first step in promoting and taking on a new perspective that will influence the way I love and respect my body. The reason I included pictures in this post of myself in a swimsuit (this is something I never thought I would have the courage to do) is because I want to take the first step in body confidence. This is who I am, this is what my body looks like and I am going to start loving it, nurturing it and setting a good example. I may not be society's definition of beautiful but what I see in these pictures is a girl with courage and confidence who is going to change the way she cares for her body. 

True beauty really does come from within. The first step to self love and developing positive body image is to be healthy mentally. I'm talking about starting with your inner self, because without creating a healthy mind, heart and soul, it can be hard to be healthy from the outside. 

A quote by Roald Dahl sums up the point of this post perfectly: A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts it will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”

― Roald Dahl, The Twits

This quote really makes me smile. If you think good thoughts, you will glow with happiness and there is nothing more beautiful than someone with a genuinely happy smile on their face. And plus, people are attracted to happy people. Happiness is contagious and positivity is amazing to be around. My friends are all incredible and hanging out with them makes me feel wonderful. Surround yourself with a positive environment and it'll have an effect on you as well. 

Here are a few things I like to do when I feel down about my body (or for when I just want to feel good!): 
  • Eat something filling, and healthy (perhaps a smoothie?)
  • Go for an intense twenty minute run to get the blood pumping through my body (exercise makes you feel wonderful! It gives your skin a lovely and healthy glow and helps you sleep better at night!)
  • Write some of your favourite things about yourself down on some paper and, as cliché as it sounds, pin it up somewhere, to remind yourself.
  • Wear a pretty outfit and get dressed up!
  • Head out to have tea with a friend. 
  • Go for a nature walk and bring along your camera
  • Listen to some awesome and uplifting music and dance around your bedroom! (Anyone for Pretty Girl Rock by Keri Hilson?)
  • Send someone a nice message, telling them how beautiful they are. It's always nice to receive a surprise message, you'll probably make their day! And it will give you the warm fuzzies too.
  • Read a book that takes you away and changes your perspective of the world and makes you think.
  • Bake! Bake a cake! And eat it!
  • Go for a little shopping trip and buy yourself a present. Maybe a book, or a pair of earrings or a lovely smelling body wash.
  • Think about how lucky you are! Write down all of the things that you feel lucky and blessed to have. Gratitude is another key to happiness. 
  • Spend time with someone from another generation... like your Grandparents. Their outlook on life is often simple and inspiring and can really give you the boost you need. I'm not really sure what I would do without my Grandparents today. And I wish I had spent more time with my Nana before she died a few years ago. She was an incredible, lovely woman and I can't wait to see her in heaven one day. 

It’s just a fact of life now – bashing your appearance is now the social norm in friendship groups and in general everyday life. Women bond over their hatred for certain aspects of their bodies. It’s never really the other way around either; we don’t sit together and talk about the body parts that we love. Hearing something along the lines of: “I think I have a great waist! This dress really shows it off!”, is a rarity and if it is heard, it’s almost mistaken for being conceited. I think it’s really sad that instead of hearing a positive self-loving comment, instead we hear things like, “I hate my tummy. I can’t wear a bikini”. 

It doesn't help either that you can’t line up at the grocery store without magazine headlines screaming that the latest diet will give you unwritten permission to wear a bikini or that fitted dress for the holiday season. It doesn't help that instead of praising women for having a natural and healthy body that is being looked after, brands and magazines are promoting cosmetic surgery and alteration as solutions. It doesn't help that instead of a message that promotes the beauty of all women of all shapes and sizes as perfect, we are bombarded with the message that you have to look a certain way to be beautiful. 
I have a challenge for all of you starting from today: when you find yourself thinking or saying something negative about yourself; stop. Think the opposite. For example; if you find yourself feeling negative about your legs - wear the jeans that make them look freaking amazing! Fight it, and be fierce. Love your body and it’ll show. You’ll glow like a sunbeam and you’ll look beautiful without even trying. Don't do it because you want to look like a Victoria's Secret model, do it because it makes you feel good. It makes you feel beautiful. It makes you love your body. 

I’m starting here and now. I think I look great in these photos. And I know you’re not really supposed to say that but I don’t care! I’m pleased with the way I look in my new navy blue bathing suit! I think it flatters my bust, and gives my body a fabulous 1950s shape! When I see these photos, I see a happy girl who is thinking lovely thoughts... and that's what matters. And tomorrow, I'm going to go for a 3km run (because oh my gosh, they feel wonderful afterwards), and feel GREAT when I get home. Then I might have a fudge brownie and watch Hart of Dixie with my Mum and sisters. 

I know this whole "revolution" is going to be hard, but I'm going to do my best do stop hating on the human body. We're all guilty of it, but now is the time to finally make a positive difference.
As a conclusion, I want to encourage you all to make a change too. Write a post about what you love about yourself! Go out of your comfort zone and share a picture of yourself that you think you look great in. Write a status about three things that make you special and unique. Or comment below with your favourite features (inside and out). I'd love to read and hear all of them... because we all deserve to feel wonderful and confident and beautiful in our bodies. 
Lots of love xo


Unknown said...

Maria you are so lovely and inspiring! I agree with you; you look like a 1950s pin up model in these photos. And with a smile like that, I just know you're thinking beautiful things.

I've been on a similar journey, learning to love my body, since last year and it has done a world of good! Instead of moaning about how short I am, I embrace my petite figure. Instead of agonizing over what I used to perceive to be 'chunky' legs, I became thankful for how strong they are. It's all a matter of perspective, and once you chose to be positive, there's no turning back :)

xx Carina

Unknown said...

Love this post Maria, you look like a very happy, and confident girl on those pictures (and I assume this is true), and you are a beauty!

I remember this summer after I went on a trip, and when I got back some people told me "you are skinnier, how did you do!", and I remember it felt very wrong, I didn't do any diets so I wasn't expected that, and I felt bad about it. But you are so right, we need to accept our body the way it is and not care about people and headlines! Thank you Maria, you are such an inspiring person!

Sandrine xx

Rachel, Cold Knees said...

What a great post Maria- so nice to see so much positivity!! I also really hate the way that having any sort of body confidence as a woman comes across as conceit, when it should really be applauded.
Anyway you look great in that bathing suit, it's very flattering on you :)
I really need to get in to running or something like you mentioned seems like a great way to get fit but also feel good.
Well done again! xx

Verity said...

Bravo Maria! This is so lovely. Just like you! I am so proud of you for coming to this at such a young age, despite our culture which is constantly pushing us to look like something other than ourselves. It has taken me a lot longer. Way to stand up for normal, healthy womanhood! Three cheers! Or four! Or five!

Anonymous said...

This is a beautiful post Maria! You look absolutely radiant in those photos! I'm so happy you decided to post this. I'm right along with you! I'll be looking forward to more posts like this.

I've had trouble all my life with my self-image, even though people have tried to build me up. I'm very small (110lbs) at 5ft 9in. Little comments that people make just get to me. I know they shouldn't, but I'm only human, and they get to me!

I know I can look good at times, and I'm working on figuring out what's best for my body. I could do a lot better than I am right now at caring for it, but live and learn, eh?

So, you said three things I enjoy about myself. I guess I can do that much for you! I actually really enjoy my eyes. They're a beautiful light blue and everyone always compliments them.
I used to be straight as a stick up until I was fourteen or so, so I really enjoy my hips. Not in a swimsuit or anything, but in jeans my hips look very nice.
Lastly, I love that people can come to me and trust me when they're having trouble. I'm an amazing listener and advice giver. It's amazing to know that people trust me enough and want to know what I have to say. Then they go and do it! That gives me a lot of power, but I would never use it the wrong way.

Thanks again, love!
-XO Abbigayle Rashae

Britney @ Scout and Company said...

This is such a wonderful post Maria and such a great one to send out to all of your readers! I am so happy for you for finding this new approach and respect for your body. Because its the only body you have. And its pretty amazing! The human body is just so incredible when you get to thinking about it. I mean, look, you are breathing right now and you didn't even realise it!
Lots of love

Jana K said...

Maria, this post made me want to give you a big hug. It is so encouraging and inspiring to see a beautiful young woman like you speaking out about body image in such a positive and mature way. About three years ago I thought I needed to go on a diet, and it spiraled out of control and into anorexia. Thankfully I am now recovered, but loving my body is still an everyday struggle. I think I've realized though, that every girl has something about their body that they have a difficult time accepting.
Thank you for posting this, you look drop dead gorgeous <3

Unknown said...

Hi Maria!
This post is perfect, such an important topic. Having body confidence is so difficult when we have magazines and television and advertisements etc constantly critiquing women's figures. PLUS everyone has been brainwashed by said media so criticizing bodies is the norm and has become so ingrained in our everyday conversations its almost unnoticeable.I know your post will help a lot of people and its one that really stuck with me x

Grace said...

Hi Maria!
Thank you so much for posting this, you are incredibly brave and much wiser than I was at sixteen (which was only two+ years ago actually). I feel the same way as you- sometimes when I look in the mirror I'm like "hell yeah", but at other times it's more "like hell". It's hard when you're surrounded by stick thin friends, but I understand being stick thin has its problems too, so I'm going to try appreciating every body for its flaws and virtues. For example, stick thin people can pull off the 90s minimalist grunge look well, but definitely not the 50s vintage vibe! (Case in point: lovely swimsuit you got there!)
Like someone else said earlier, I also love another non-physical aspect of me: that people always feel comfortable coming up to me and sharing their problems and worries, even though we don't know each other well. It makes me feel secure in the fact that even if I don't succeed materially in life, I will always be surrounded by the love of family and friends, and always have someone to reach out to.
Have a lovely week ahead!

OrigamiGirl said...

First of all -I love that you put that Roald Dahl quotation in this post. It's a little silly but I've always loved that one.

I think that one of the sad things is that we're taught so much NOT to be proud of oursevles. I think women are taught humility before happiness. As though we should be ashamed to look good. It's why people use the word slutty when they mean sexy. We're taught to be pretty, but never too pretty. And there's some stupid pop song that echoes that (can't think who by) goes on about 'you're pretty because you don't know you are'. I hate that idea. It shouldn't be low self-esteem that is hot.
So yes. Basically I agree. Take a moment to look at yourself and love your outfits. Say 'I look damn awesome' when you leave the house. Because you do. This post is awesome.
Also, I really like the way you put the flower pictures behind the pictures of you. It looks really editorial. She says with Project Runway voices in my head now.

Unknown said...

Thank you for being so inspiring Maria, it's good to see someone who talks positively about body image! I think you look gorgeous and womanly in these pictures and by the way, I love your swimming suit, it suits you very well! Lots of love from Maylis xx

Unknown said...

This is so amazing! So inspirational. You look absolutely gorgeous and your advice is fantastic :)

Stay beautiful xx


Isabella said...

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

dunia kecil indi said...

this is inspiring, you're beautiful. and i love that you add some roald dalh quote. he's my idol! :)

Sammi said...

Maria, this is such a beautiful and inspiring post. What you said about feeling accepting and radiant on some days and not on others is so familiar to me. You look absolutely gorgeous in these photos, and your beauty (both inside and out) is so evident! Thank you for posting this!

xox Sammi

Tanja S. said...

This is such an important topic to talk about, especially when girls at such a young age start thinking about what they look like. I have been having the same issues like you all my life and you're right, I totally need to change something. I desperately try to loose some pounds - but I can't stay away from chocolate - that's why I decided to just life. I hope other people won't define me by how I (or my legs) look like. I still believe there is hope for people minds to be changed - not everybody having size 0 is truly beautiful. Our generation can change that and I'm proud you are taking this big step towards a better world. Truly hope I'll have the same courage as you one day. xx

M + K said...

You've put this so perfectly Maria! We all compare ourselves to others, and constantly put ourselves down, but as our parents have always told us, you have to love your self before any one else can love you. As women, we should all embrace and celebrate the fact that we are all different in our own special ways

Unknown said...

You go, girl! You are such an inspiration! I'm so proud that you have come to this conclusion at 16. I wish 16 year old me would have had this courage - maybe I wouldn't have let other people tell me that I wasn't good enough, because I could have told them they were wrong. Keep on being your awesome self! By the way, your swimsuit is adorable!


Ebony Arwen said...

You are beautiful. I could say that based simply on your words but damn girl! Your skin, your hair, your smile. You seriously are a stunning creature. I think it's great that you are putting yourself out there and standing up with positivity. I don't think I've put myself down in the past 5 years... It's habit to think positive for me :) As long as my clothes fit and I'm healthy, I'm good to go. I think it's a real shame we all bond over negative and I call people on it all the time. And now I'm bopping to 'pretty girl rock' :D Thank you!!!!

Courtney D said...

This was so inspiring & lovely! Made my day~ I love my smile, my calves that are too big for my slim legs, and my fluffy hair :)

Gracie Rose said...

This post has inspired me to stop being so self conscious about myself, and how I look like. I can not thank you enough. You are a beautiful human being, we need more people like you in this world. I absolutely love your blog.
Gracie Rose

Unknown said...

A beautiful, strong message filled with inspiration and self-acceptance. Made me smile so much that someone so obviously wonderful has that sort of love for herself. And such lovely pictures too. Great post! Bravo!

Yasmin said...

Maria this is so so brave of you!! I'm so inspired by this. You are truly amazing x

Elizabeth said...

Thankyou for this post most of all - I have always felt horrible in swimsuits (I believe in the concept of flatter not flaunt so I've never worn bikinis). I guess put simply being a 12/14 with larger than average thighs(working on them through training)can make this side of fashion difficult.

Thankyou for being so brave Maria in a world that says bikini bodies and size 6/8 are the way to go, I really appreciate it.

Eda G said...

It's so nice to see that down-to-earth people do still exist, thanks a lot for that! You are beautiful, honest, don't care about what others say, what the society wants. Your resolution is amazing, and I think more people should be confident enough to take a step like you did! You inspired me, thanks once again :)
Have a great one!