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Be confident. That’s what people tell us now. Fat people can be beautiful, you just have to be confident! Confidence is the new pretty. You can achieve anything as long as you’re confident. But while we’re being told this is the key to loving ourselves, we’re being accosted with language and images that tell us otherwise. Be confident in your body *diet pill commercial plays on the radio*! Love yourself *the store you’re in doesn’t sell your size*! Everyone is beautiful *the thin model on tv says*! How the hell does anyone expect us to just wake up and be confident in a world that tells us not to be every day? And what exactly is this confidence thing that everyone is talking about?
The problem with all the confidence rhetoric is that it doesn’t give people a true picture of what confidence looks like, or how it is gained. By definition, confidence is the belief in one’s abilities. Let’s pause to just think about what that says. Confidence is not looking fly as hell on instagram. It is not walking around with your head held high. It is not an aura that someone exudes. Confidence is the belief that you are capable.
Well, when we put it that way it becomes a bit more clear why people have such a hard time with it. Believing you are a capable human being can get fucked up pretty much anywhere along the way in your life. And once it’s fucked up, it’s pretty hard to fix it. So let’s get real about what loving yourself and your body is going to look like. Let’s quit talking about confidence as the goal. That’s not to say it won’t happen, but damn it’s a pretty tall order if you ask me. Don’t worry, though. Feeling confident and believing you are capable becomes a bit easier as you make your way to loving yourself. You’ll see yourself achieving small goals, and it will help tons with believing in your abilities. The goal is not confidence, the goal is to love ourselves wholly and completely. Because when that happens, confidence will come.
First and foremost, we have to speak kindly to ourselves. When my best friend’s son was about 2 he went through a mild rebellious phase, and my best friend bore the brunt of that phase. Now we all know that children mean no harm and it takes them some time to learn boundaries, but it was still painful for my friend. One day he said something hurtful to her and I saw tears well up in her eyes. Before I could catch myself I looked right at him and said “don’t talk to my friend like that!!!!”. He looked a bit shocked, and proceeded to apologize to his mom. I couldn’t believe I just said that to a 2 year old. A damn 2 year old. He didn’t know what he was saying had that kind of impact! Well, that voice inside your head doesn’t know it’s impact either. That voice inside your head has only been hearing and speaking cruel things for as long as it can remember, and you’re going to have to set some boundaries with it. Several years ago I started saying to that voice in my head “don’t talk to my friend like that!” every time I had a nasty thought about myself. It didn’t always stop the nasty thoughts, but it almost always slowed them down… and made me giggle a little bit.
Once you slow down your thoughts you’ve got to start doing a little fact checking. It turns out that we’re told a lot of bullshit for a lot of years, so you’ve got to start asking yourself “why the hell do I think that?”. If you see your thighs in the mirror and think they have too much cellulite, try asking yourself “why?”. What constitutes “too much”? Is there a scale on which you’re measuring the amount of cellulite on your legs? Or maybe, do you think there’s too much cellulite on your thighs because some butt head kid made a joke about cottage cheese legs back when you were 15? Does that kid get to decide how you feel about your body? No way!
It’s important to remember that some times we find out someone we really care about may have pre-disposed us to a belief about our bodies that isn’t nice. It’s ok to be upset about that, and it’s ok to address it with that person. There’s no need for it to hold you back, though. You do not have to have every issue with every person who ever hurt you solved before you get to love yourself.
Lastly, stop judging others. Here’s the thing, you don’t need to stop judging others for some greater good or because it’s nice. You’ve got to do it because every time you judge someone you store that judgement in a little vault. And on your worst days, you unlock that vault and you let those judgements pour out onto yourself. Practicing love and non-judgement for others is a great way to build self love. Some times we like to act like we are judging people because we just care about them. Judging someone and masking it as “concern” is condescending and unnecessary. Unsolicited advice is never good advice. Remind yourself that your opinion about others does not make it a fact. You are not more informed on another person’s life than they are. Once you slow down with your judgements of other’s your judgements of yourself will naturally follow suit.
So that’s it! You’re magically going to love yourself now, right?
Well, not exactly. You’ve got to remember that society has been ingraining these bullshit ideas in our head for our whole lives. It’s going to take a little bit of time to unlearn them and start accepting ourselves. It’s not going to be easy, in fact it will be hard some times. That’s ok. You can cope with difficult. You are capable of unlearning the crap we’ve been taught. See what I did there? You are capable. You are so incredibly capable.
And that’s where we gain confidence. In the experience of unlearning what we’ve been taught and finding ourselves. Our most true selves. It’s a wild ride, but it is so incredibly worth it.
All illustrations and paintings used in this post are by the lovely Alex Dehoff, you can check out more of her work at https://www.etsy.com/shop/alexdehoff