Please can we stop with the body shaming? It feels like we can’t do anything these days without one group of people condemning another. At the moment people posting naked selfies across social media are getting the Stick of Condemnation waved in their direction. For years it has been told and reinforced that women have to be thin, flawless, and overtly sexualised in order to be acceptable and worthy. Yet when we try to fulfil this criteria, suddenly we are vain, attention-seeking, and worse. Chances are, a lot of the people posting naked selfies are incredibly body insecure and feel that they have to do this. Although they might sometimes hear the words ‘You don’t need to reveal everything to be beautiful and sexy’ they don’t believe it. Because the women applauded, celebrated, showcased, and put on a pedestal are the semi-clad.
Shaming these women and girls will only serve to make them feel even worse about themselves and cling on even more desperately to the magic ingredients they think will secure their happiness. Instead, show them empathy and compassion. Be kind, and gentle. Compliment them on their inner beauty or a non-physical attribute. Build them up rather than tear them down, and then they might not feel the need to share provocative nudes online.
But there is another side of the coin to this story.
For the past couple of years I have been on a journey of learning to love myself. After years of hating my body and being ashamed for every part of my being, I decided enough was enough. It is not an easy journey – every single day you have to recommit to looking inside you to realise your worth and find inner strength you didn’t know you had. Self love and body confidence is not about magically thinking you’re brilliant and believing you have the perfect body. It’s about deciding to take back the power and control. Wear what you like because YOU like it. Do what makes YOU happy. Follow the path that’s right for YOU. There are always going to be people ready to criticise and bring you down, so you have to make that commitment to ignore it best you can, and remember that you really can’t please everyone, so focus more on pleasing yourself. Try to let the negative comments wash over you rather than absorb them. The more you do it, the better you get at ignoring the negativity. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but it’s completely worth it.
If any of you follow my Instagram you will know that a big part of this self love journey has been using selfies as a tool to help appreciate my beauty. I used to hate posting selfies because I felt self-indulgent and was terrified of receiving negative feedback. I still worry about these things, but it no longer dominates. And now I go that one step further by posting semi-naked photos too.
It is something I thought I would never do, but I am doing it because it has taken me so long, and such hard work, to reach a point where I am genuinely comfortable with my body. Yes, I have super fat rolls, and humungous bingo wings, a large, wobbly tummy, and thunderous thighs, but I am still beautiful. You see, I have learned that I am good enough regardless of these minor details. I let them dominate my thoughts and my actions for so long, but a body is just a body; just a further extension of me. It has changed shape and appearance several times in my lifetime, and will continue to do so, and instead of me believing my self-worth will change with it, I now know that my worth remains the same, whatever shape or size I am.
My body is a far cry from the ideal portrayed in society, but it is a realistic one. It is flawed and unpolished, and that is okay too. So for me, posting selfies and nakey selfies is simply a way of celebrating my body and continuing to learn to love what I see. There is no need for me to post them online, but I do so because I no longer want to fear what people might say in response. I post them with pride.
Just the other day I received some fat hate on my Instagram account. They commented that I was lying to myself in saying that my body is beautiful. This kind of comment would have completely crushed me not so long ago. It still stings, of course, but now, more than anything, it angers me.
I’ve had a lifetime of being made to feel awful for who I am and what I look like. It’s led to depression, an eating disorder, crippling self-doubt, and non-existent self-belief. Here I am trying to feel better about myself, daring to love to myself, and people still want to tear me down. How dare you? You might not like what you see, and that’s okay, but it is not okay to make someone feel bad about themselves just because they don’t fit your idea of what is or isn’t beautiful. I exist for me, not you. I am so tired of all the hate and all the negativity. Let me do me, and you get on with being you.
It’s okay to post selfies (naked or otherwise) if that’s what feels right for you. It’s also okay not to post selfies. There are so many different people out there. We are all beautifully different and imperfect. It’s time to stop hating on each other. There is not one set way to be, not one right way to look, nor is there a wrong body to have. It’s okay to be kind to yourself. It’s okay to do things that make you feel better about yourself. It’s okay to look after yourself and nurture yourself. Loving yourself is not arrogant or self-indulgent; it is essential to wellbeing and happiness.