Embrace Your Uniqueness: How to be Happy with Your Self-image and Feel GOOD Enough

In the spirit of International Women’s Day, I decided that it was FINALLY time to write an article that’s been on my mind for a long time. Because this topic is pretty complex with multiple political movements and debates, I was a little hesitant. But I believe, as a woman and as a content creator, I should use my voice in this global conversation. Body image, body confidence, feeling good about yourself is a topic that is very close to my heart. While I know that both women and men can be severely affected by these topics, I’m focusing on my experiences as a woman. Not only do I want to help you achieve your goals, but I also want to help you FINALLY feel good about being you. 

I’m not here to be small, to compare, to judge (myself or you), to fit in or to be perfect. I’m here to grow, to learn, to love, to be human.

Sue Fitzmaurice

Criticism: The Barrier to Self-Esteem

It is not always easy to like yourself. Human brains have an impulse to criticise themselves. Regardless of receiving criticism from others, we may fall culprit to our self-criticism. Perhaps, the majority of criticism comes from ourselves rather than others. Self-judgement comes from a primal need to survive that once served as a purposeful tactic in hunting and gathering societies. In historical times, early humans assessing the situation, the judgement could mean the difference between life or death. For contemporary society, this primal instinct does not serve the same purpose. In our daily lives, self-criticism can be more detrimental than fundamental. To find out about the human instinct to criticise, I recommend Cheryl Rickman’s book ‘You Are Enough’. Ultimately, this idea of being ‘Good Enough’ often prevents us from living the life we want to and from being happy.

A small voice utters ‘We are Not Good Enough’ or ‘we are a failure’. People also tend to put themselves into boxes of being ‘too’ something. They call themselves Too much, too old, too shy, too proud etc. This may be to protect themselves from the disapproval of others. Or because they have convinced themselves, they are not enough. As a teenager, I wanted to do ballet. I convinced myself that you had to start when you were small. I was too tall, too old and not petite enough. Instead of taking it up as a hobby in a club, I danced in secret around my house. My passion for ballet died out as I became an adult. Yet a part of me regrets not taking lessons. 

It was the self-criticism voice in my head that stopped me. The same voice that told me I was not good enough to be a writer. The more we think negatively about ourselves, the more we start to doubt our worth and abilities. This will only prevent us from following our dreams, feeling unhappy and lacking in satisfaction.

Make criticism work with rather than against you.

Challenge the Voice

As I have said before, criticism can help you grow in some circumstances. For growth to be possible, you must deal with criticism in a healthy way. Instead of accepting the voice in your head or the opinions of others as truth, challenge it. Take a step back. What evidence is there to suggest that you are not good enough? Is there any? Or are you afraid of the unknown ‘What If’? The unknown outcomes of our actions sometimes terrify us so much that we refuse to try. For example, you may want to be in the public eye, but you are afraid that you don’t meet societal standards. You may have a lot of qualities to give, but your inner voice is holding you back. 

 Counteract the critical voice with reasons why you are enough. This may take practice. It may be a struggle to find any at first. This does not mean you don’t have any good qualities, talents or exceptional parts of your personality. Rather you lack the awareness to see the good in you, right now. So many of our qualities and capabilities are hidden, waiting to be revealed. The more you remind yourself of the reasons you are enough, the more you will start to believe in your abilities. The more resilient you will become. If you struggle with recognising the good qualities in yourself, I recommend a gratitude journal or wellbeing workbook. Or a self-confidence building class. Once you can challenge the negative thought patterns, this self-critical voice will lose a lot of its worth. 

One rule for you, a different one for others?

The next time you criticise yourself, ask yourself if you would walk up to a stranger and say the same thing to them? Negative comments are used as a form of bullying. Think about the impact that one comment could have on the stranger. Then ask yourself, why is it acceptable to continuously self-sabotage your day? Live by the rule, treat yourself how you would like to be treated by others. You deserve to be shown just as much kindness by yourself.

Increase your Self-Image and Love your Body

There are numerous movements to help us feel empowered in our bodies and celebrate our differences. The relationship we have with our bodies can be very complex. Various issues may affect people when trying to improve self-esteem and body image. Arguably, no one method fits all when improving body confidence. Humans are unique in who they are. Therefore, ways to improve confidence are subjective too. Because of the subjectivity, while I can offer some suggestions on how to feel more confident and love your body, improving your self-esteem is a very personal journey. Below are some methods that I hope will help:

Gratitude for your Body

Our bodies go through a lot and are very durable. Without the body we have, we simply could not do all the things we like to do. Our bodies get us from A to B. We have to live our whole lives with the body we are given. Bodies help us overcome disease, illness and they help us produce the next generation. Bodies help us regulate emotions and establish connections. They help us run, lift, engage in sports. We don’t always give them the credit they deserve. We can be focused on faults and fail to see how amazing our bodies can be. Simply being grateful that your body keeps you alive is a step in becoming more at peace with your body image. 

Think about three things you are grateful for about your body. This does not have to do with the way your body looks but can be how your body functions.

Keeping Active 

I find that having an active lifestyle makes such a difference when it comes to being happy in your skin and confident. The times that I feel less body confident is when my activity levels significantly decrease. Walking to work, spending more time on my feet and taking regular breaks from sitting helps me feel fitter, younger and increases my endorphins. My body enjoys movement and feels stiff without it. Keeping active comes in all sorts of forms, so I recommend finding a fitness method you enjoy. This will be subjective to you. It could be walking, swimming, dance videos on youtube, boxercise. Exercise and keeping active should be catered for your needs and interests.

Now when active, my focus is not to look a specific way, but to be strong and feel fit. I am also respectful of giving my body rest when it needs to, allowing for recovery.

Fuelling my Body

Just as I need to keep active, I recognise how important it is to fuel my body. I don’t restrict myself. I listen to what my body needs and change what I eat depending on each situation. I allow myself for a good balance of meals and know that I need to fuel my body so that I have the energy, concentration and health to do my daily tasks. 

Take Pictures

Now this one may seem a little bit strange. But once upon a time, I would never let anybody take my photograph. I would cry if I saw a photograph of me and was overly critical each time. I realised I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life being scared to take my photograph. It was actually through having photographs taken of me regularly that I gained confidence in myself. Not every photograph you take will be your favourite. But pictures are truly magical because they help us capture not only ourselves at an age we can never return to, but so many memories too. When you’re looking back on life, you will be grateful to have so many photographs to look at. 

Focus on other hobbies and passions

A big part of feeling confident in yourself is making sure your needs are being met. If you have goals and ambitions but are yet to engage in your hobby, then I suggest you take the plunge. Having a focus that is not solely about your body will help you feel confident in your abilities in other parts of your life. You will increase your skills and have something else to focus on besides your body. Spending time doing a hobby you are passionate about will also help increase your happiness overall. If you are doing something that you love, then you are more likely to find pleasure in life.

Get help if needed

My final piece of advice is that if you are really struggling with body image and confidence, reach out for help. I know that taking any action to get help may seem scary, but it is important to know that there are a number of resources available to you. Having the right support network can make all the difference to your mental health.

Here are some links to access support:

Mind Charity: https://www.mind.org.uk/need-urgent-help/using-this-tool

BEAT Eating Disorder Charity: https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/

Anxiety UK: https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk/

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