If you’ve ever felt self-conscious or exposed, you’re not alone. Most of us are familiar with that voice in our heads. You know the one that starts as a spiteful whisper and can develop into a full-scale scrutinisation of our poor, unassuming bodies.
But have you ever stopped to think about WHY we put some much pressure on ourselves to look a particular way? Or why – whether we’re scrolling our Insta feeds or strolling the beach on holiday – we’re always so quick to compare ourselves with others?
We caught up with body acceptance coach, author of You Are Enough, and generally excellent human being, Harri Rose to ask how we can all start to rebel against the the beauty rules put on us by society. Here’s her advice for transforming that critical voice inside our heads into one that’s a little kinder…
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We’re surrounded by diet culture, which basically says that to be thin is the most important thing you can be. Well, right now the beauty standard says that we should be thin with a big Kardashian bum! The goal posts are always changing, and we’re always expected to try and meet the beauty standard. If we don’t, then we’re failing.
Add to that, our social feeds are packed with planned poses and ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos. These trick us into thinking that it’s easy to change our bodies, that it’s actually applauded! Diet companies are exploiting our insecurities (though hats off to Instagram for recently banning diet-related adverts!) and every message we see in the media is holding up an unrealistic standard of beauty.
We’re sold the idea that if we can just get our ‘dream body’ then we’ll be happy. Achieve that and we’ll have the perfect job, the perfect relationships and everything will just… fall into place.
My role as a body acceptance coach is to help you cut through some of this BS. I work mainly with people on their own personal journeys – those who are sick of dieting and loathing themselves. They’ve tried everything and they’re ready to let go of these negative feelings and learn to just accept themselves. Sound familiar?
I help to educate others about intuitive eating (more on this below!) and I do lots of self-compassion work. This is a journey that can take months, or even years. I also do workshops, online and offline and I co-created the Anti-Diet Riot Club – a rebel community fighting diet culture together.
I’ve dedicated my work as a body acceptance coach to helping people be more self-compassionate. Some of us have wasted whole months and years of our lives putting off doing things, because we think we’ll do them at this ‘mythical point in the future’ when we’ve lost 10lbs or dropped a dress size. Enough! We can be doing all of those things. Right. Now.
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So, how do we start being kinder to ourselves? Here’s my tried-and-tested advice (no BS here!)...
1. Ever heard of ‘body neutrality’?
There’s a growing conversation around body confidence, self-love and intuitive eating but this can all be a bit intimidating. What I wanted to create with Your Are Enough was a book that’s really accessible, relatable and ultimately breaks down the ideas of ‘body neutrality’ and acceptance in a useful way.
I wanted to acknowledge that there’s a big difference between loving ourselves and accepting ourselves – it’s quite a step to go from disliking yourself to full on self-love. So, body neutrality is a journey that starts with believing that you can like your body, even if you don’t know how. If you’re thinking that you’re a 2/10, it’s possible to get to a 5/10. It’s that shift in mindset that can ease some of the pressure and help us develop a healthier attitude towards ourselves.
2. Curate your own body-diverse Insta feed
A really easy thing to do is seek out Instagram accounts that have a positive rather than negative effect on your mood. It’s where a lot of us hang out, so it’s a key space where we can control what we’re looking at. Try unfollowing ‘fitspo’ accounts that you think are motivating but actually make you feel a bit crap about your body. Or brands that are selling you products that are trying to get you to change your body.
Basically, we can curate Instagram to be this amazing place of body diversity, with people celebrating their bodies, rather than just skinny white women doing handstands and holding avocados. You don’t have to look like that to deserve happiness and all of life’s pleasures – there are SO many more different bodies! In fact, studies have proven that looking at people who are the same size as you or bigger, can actually boost your body esteem.
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3. Start saying ‘no’ to your inner critic
The next thing to do is try and nurture a kinder inner dialogue. This one’s a tough one. We all carry around this inner critic, so at first just try to notice and acknowledge that voice – that it’s part of us so we can’t counter it with further bullying. Then, when it starts piping up about your insecurities, try just firmly saying: ‘no, I don’t have to listen to you’. Try instead saying: ‘I’m okay today.’ That might be a huge positive step.
4. Embrace the idea of ‘intuitive eating’
The critical voice is ruled by perfectionism, right? That there’s this perfect body, the perfect way to exercise, the perfect way to eat. Well, introducing the idea of intuitive eating to your life can definitely help here. This is about realising there’s no perfect way to eat – that what you eat is different to what I eat; that what you eat will be different every day depending on your mood, and that it’s good to eat what makes you feel well.
We’re these emotional creatures and diets allow no space for emotions, it’s literally the same things day in day out, regardless of what’s happening in your life or season. Normal eating looks different every day and that means that we can give ourselves a break!
There’s such a big misconception that when you make peace with food and let go of the rules, that that’s giving up. We have this idea that it’s like ‘letting yourself go’. When in reality, it’s so freeing to find out what makes you feel good and to eat in a way that makes you feel good – imagine the collective energy if we all just stopped obsessing about our bodies and ate what we wanted!
So, what do you have to gain?
Trying these things – at your own pace – will help to give you the mental freedom to live your life in exactly the way you want to. Finally, we can stop living in the future and start realising that we have everything we need right now. If you can start treating yourself like a best friend and not an enemy, really is such a kinder place to be.
Learning to say no to the voice, no to the media messaging and focusing on yourself is a rebellious act. Be a rebel. Have more adventures, take more risks, laugh more, lick the spoon more, LIVE MORE. You have so much to gain.
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Want to learn more? Sign up to Harri’s mailing list for more advice and tips, plus the chance to download a free mini love your body e-book. Or check out the book: You Are Enough: How to love the skin you’re in & embrace your awesomeness (Aster, £9.99).