I believe that a positive self-concept has the potential to impact the person you become and how you show up in the world. Being someone who managed to build a successful career around my physical appearance, I was constantly under scrutiny for how I look and how I’m expected to fit into the world. The concept of body positivity is defined as a social movement rooted in the belief that all human beings should have a positive body image while challenging the ways in which society presents and views the physical body. The goal of the movement is to address unrealistic beauty standards and to build the confidence of oneself and others.
As a young girl, I remember being body shamed and left feeling like I wasn’t good enough to be who I am as I was. When you are thin and the tallest girl amongst your peers, you are bound to get bullied and made to feel like you don’t belong in the group. Some parts of your personality start to identify with those suggested characteristics being projected onto you. I remember a moment where I got teased so much, I told myself that I will use the perceived awkwardness to better myself, I became a model. Fast forward to a couple of years later, I’ve been a working model for the past 20 years.
Modeling has been a great learning platform where I’ve had to personally challenge some of the unrealistic beauty and body standards within the industry whilst having to deal with the fierce competition amongst the models. At some stage, I was told and thought to be “fat” to be a model based on their size zero standard. Other times, I wasn’t tall enough to do ramp (runway) and my skin complexion was neither dark or fair enough to match the required standards of the cappuccino complexion also known as being a “yellow bone”. And then let’s not forget to mention the debate around natural hair, at the time a weave was the only acceptable hairstyle for black women in the modeling industry and I was bald.
“Even if you’re just getting into shape for aesthetics, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that because beauty can also be a source of confidence. When you look good, you feel good and vice versa.”
This part of my becoming is the reason why I want to see women being empowered by the ability to pivot and choose a positive concept for themselves. In a world where the standards of beauty are ever-changing, it’s important for us women to instill truthful ideas about ourselves and not handover that power to a group of individuals or society. As women, we have been socially conditioned to identify so much of who we are with our physical appearance and those limiting beliefs have subconsciously had an adverse effect on our self-esteem, confidence and the kind of relationships we build in our lives. Our bodies go through many changes at different growth stages, we have to assume the responsibility of identifying with the body and ourselves in a positive and loving manner. By creating self-imposed standards that will lead to a better version of who we truly are.
Question: Who do you think you are? Then, that’s who you are. You are what you believe yourself to be.
My modeling experience has taught me the power of having the right perspective about myself during contradicting situations. It has allowed me to become someone that’s not consumed by other people’s opinions of who and what they think I should be. This is especially crucial because people tend to project how they feel about themselves based on their life experiences and the social conditioning of their environment. It would be regretful to go through your life identifying yourself through someone else’s distorted opinion.
You will have to change your mind about how you see and think of yourself in order to become the person you aspire to be. Having said that, I can acknowledge the moments where I entertained limiting beliefs and fell into the trap of wanting to fit in by seeking external validation. In actual fact, I’ve had many experiences when I had dishonored myself with unhealthy eating and lifestyle habits that only lead to a downward spiral.
By asking one of the most critical questions in life, who am I? The answer came from a place that’s never changed since the beginning of time. When God called His creation good it meant that I was good and you are also good. When faced with self-doubt and lack of self-acceptance, recognise that feeling as an opportunity to heal and reaffirm yourself by choosing to see yourself as God sees you. Don’t become someone that looks to the world for identity, when you are made in the image of God.
On that faithful day, I chose myself by setting an intention to love, irrespective of the negative circumstances of being bullied and body shamed. I made a life-affirming decision that would set the course for a career choice. Very much like the process of starting your fitness journey and focusing on your health and wellness. Your approach has to come from love (self-love) and a healing point of view. Even if you’re just to getting into shape for aesthetics, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that because beauty can also be a source of confidence. When you look good, you feel good and vice versa.
Embrace your individuality by not comparing yourself with anyone, we are all different (look, shape and size) no one can do you as you do you, so be beautiful like you. When you have people that are your body goals, be inspired but always hold space for yourself in honoring who you are.
So, how do you take your power back? By remembering who you are and redefining the standards of beauty according to your own self-concept. Some thoughts won’t always feel good, but a momentary thought cannot change the principal. When you become aware of how you feel, change your mind and love yourself through it. You are made in the image of God, that’s who you are.