“Well it’s easy for you to be confident when you look like that.”
I’ve heard variations of this sentence from several different people recently. Mostly from friends, so it’s probably meant as a compliment. But if you look closer there are some not so good things about it.
Firstly, I want to look at what these people didn’t actually say out loud. The unspoken second sentence, which sounds a little like “But what hope have I got?”.
Of course I used to do this. I used to hand out compliments like “your hair is so much better than mine” and “I wish I had your legs” all the time. Every possible variation of ‘you are worthy and I am not’.
I was so entrenched in society’s belief that I was not good enough, so afraid of being seen as cocky or arrogant, that I could even repurpose compliments as fuel for my own self-loathing. This is what we are trained to do, from so early an age that I didn’t even realise I was doing it.
Until I did.
And then I stopped. Because there are more than enough things in the world trying to tell me how unworthy I am; they really don’t need my help. Because there is nothing arrogant about not hating your own body. But mostly because what’s the point of making one person feel good just to bring another person down?
If you’re going to compliment me, thanks! We should absolutely build each other up every chance we get! But only if it builds you up as well, or at the very least doesn’t attack you. If I had to choose between a compliment that put somebody else down and no compliment at all, I would choose no compliment. Every time. You deserve so much better.
Secondly, the suggestion that body confidence is easy for anybody, especially women, in our culture is quite frankly ridiculous.
Billions and billions of pounds are spent on telling us that those with straight hair must want it to curl and the curly-haired must want it straight. Dark skin must want to be lighter, and lighter skin darker. Fat must strive to be thin, and thin must do everything in their power to stay that way. Every woman must aspire to walk that line, as thin as a razor blade, of being both slim and curvy. No matter what we do our bodies will never, never be enough.
All so that we will buy things. Products to control our hair, plastic surgery, diet books, gym membership, pills, weird vibrating belt things, ANYTHING that could possibly help us become what we are not. It’s a lucrative, well-honed business, and it’s everywhere.
So no, it was not easy to become this confident. It’s taken years and years of fighting the unceasing negative thoughts about myself, learning to walk away from harmful body image conversations, ignoring adverts telling me how I could be ‘better’, telling myself that I’m worthy and enough even when it seemed the least believable thing in the world.
I’ve worn tight or revealing clothes that I loved, while believing it would make people explode through sheer disgust. I’ve shouted that my body is beautiful while crying because I can’t stand the sight of it. I’ve spent hours smacking down snipey comments about my appearance, trying to ignore the voice in my head that whispers “they’re right”.
How dare you tell me it was easy.
In this society, just deciding to not hate your body (especially if it’s fat) is a radical, divisive, and difficult decision. But it is so entirely worth it.
I wish everyone could experience that amazing moment when I realised I am enough. I wish everyone could know how it feels to look in the mirror and not start listing the things they would change if only they could. To actually like what they see. To feel self-love, which is a love like nothing else I’ve ever felt.
It’s a long, hard process, but you could begin right now by deciding to pay positive-only compliments.
Replace “your hair is better than mine” with “I love your hair today”. Say “your legs are so toned” instead of “I wish I had your legs”. See what a difference it makes just removing some negativity from your life.
Or you could jump straight to the master level and try to positive-only compliment people on anything other than their physical appearance. Because we are all so much more than just the way we look.
It’s not easy, but you won’t be disappointed. Give it a try : )