5 Tips to Make you Feel More Confident, Right Now
Don’t let them see you sweat. Here’s how to project confidence like a boss.
I was in seventh grade when my friend Rachel told me, a prepubescent 13-year-old, that I had love handles. I was probably 4-foot-seven and 75 lbs of bones—small for my age—but the feeling I got when Rachel pinched the skin that stuck out over the back of my low-rise jeans never left me. Up until that point, I had a pretty anticlimactic relationship with food: I ate when I was hungry, snacked when I got home from school, and binged on Fruit Roll Ups when my mom wasn’t looking. I can’t remember ever stepping foot onto a scale outside of the doctor’s office before the age of 14.
That all changed throughout high school and college, where I’d developed a not-so-healthy relationship with my changing body. Even though I was still technically underweight—and would remain that way for most of my life—I welcomed two-a-days as part of my grueling field hockey regimen. I also began restricting what I ate to keep my body from developing and even worked out on off days, sometimes pushing myself to do 1000 sit ups or run a six-minute mile. No matter what I did, my hips continued to widen and my stomach, once stretched taut, began to soften by my own impossible standards.
By the time I hit my early twenties, I’d been in a six-year battle with my body, something that started to feel more exhausting and pedestrian by the day. By 30, I remember looking in the mirror and thinking I was too old to still be comparing my body to those on TV—or worse, on the internet. The body positivity movement had just taken hold, and the idea that you could and should love your body and its imperfections was radical and provocative enough to start a movement, mostly among my plus-size peers. But I didn’t love my body, and any time some talking head told me I just had to stare in the mirror and tell my cellulite or love handles—which, though small, were something I still worked hard to hide with high-waisted jeans and ruched skirts—that I’m grateful for them felt disingenuous at best. I was glad to have friends that would post videos of themselves proclaiming their love for their stomach or stretch marks or thighs, but I never really identified with those sentiments.
Then, a friend told me about the body neutrality movement, which takes off the pressure of cultivating a loving, all-accepting relationship with your body and instead encourages you to appreciate your body for what it does for you, no matter its size. With little effort, it helps me walk from my apartment to a nearby coffee shop. It digests my food and keeps my blood clean and allows me to laugh and cry and otherwise emote in ways that I don’t put a ton of active thought behind. I love that it can deadlift more than half my weight or climb a mountain that’s more than 1,500 feet above sea level. I still don’t love it, though.
And that’s okay! It took me nearly a year to reframe my mindset from one that forces me to look at perceived imperfections and proclaim my forced love for them. When I look in the mirror, I don’t feel compelled to chant mantras or even force myself to associate with it positively. I instead look in the mirror to see a reflection of myself that’s neither good nor bad. To stop perpetuating a cycle of guilt, I stopped assigning morality to foods or behaviors. Working out isn’t good, and eating a cookie isn’t bad or naughty. I also don’t let myself or my friends say things like “I’m so fat” or “I look disgusting”—phrases that I and my friends of varying sizes uttered with alarming regularity just years ago. (Once you start to do all of this, you’ll notice how many conflicting messages are forced upon you from things like TV, Instagram, and even food packaging or menus.)
The stretch marks across my hips, the dimples on my butt, and the way my boobs sag without a bra due to a decade of unhealthy yo-yo dieting are probably not things I’ll ever love. But the same way that I don’t really think much about the burn mark on my arm that I got from a curling iron while getting ready for homecoming—or the tiny bumps I get on my legs when I shave them for the first time in a while—is how I’m approaching the rest of my body. I don’t have to love every bit, but gratitude goes a long way.