What is Body Confidence?

So what is body confidence, exactly? And how do I get it?

I don’t know exactly when I first heard the phrase, “body confidence.” But lately, I can’t get it out of my mind.

What does it mean to have body confidence? What does it feel like? What does it look like?

 And more importantly . . .  Do I even have body confidence?

I’m 38 years old. I’ve been working out and playing sports consistently all of my life. I’m healthy. I’m not overweight. I eat well. I feel good, overall. Yet, I still have a hard time looking at myself naked in the mirror. Or rather, I avoid looking at myself altogether. Sadly, I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t have body confidence at all. I have a body. And I have confidence. But I don’t have the ability to put them together.

Why? When this lack of confidence start, exactly? When did my body shame begin?

When I was in grade school, I never thought about my body. I was as thin as a stick and flat-chested. I could boldly walk onto the grassy field alongside the playground and play tackle football with my brothers and their friends, and no one thought a thing about it, least of all me. I could strap pads to my legs and be the all-time goalie as we played street hockey, or hit the basketball court in the middle of the summer and drip sweat with the boys all over the blacktop. My body was a tool then, and outlet for participating in the sports I loved and gender didn’t apply.

Then it all changed abruptly. Once I hit seventh grade, my body began to change. I got hips. I gained weight. And my breasts grew. And grew. And grew. Before I knew it, I was well endowed on top and not quite sure how to use my new body the same way I had before. The boys noticed my new body. I felt their stare. I felt exposed. I felt different. The cocky tomboy that I once knew slowly started to slip into the background. That’s when it happened. That’s when the shame started to creep in. I became unsteady, unsure and uncomfortable in my own skin.

I navigated the confusing and sometimes rough waters of high school, and I remember feeling as if I hardly knew my body. It wasn’t as asset to me like it was in grade school. It was a nuisance. My breasts were larger and slowed me down. My hips, too. I wasn’t as fast as I used to be. I had gained weight in my thighs. It took a little while to figure out how to use my new body on the soccer field and basketball court. As for that grassy field where I used to play football with the boys while my friends sat on the wooden fence and watched, well I played less and less. Then one day, I stopped playing completely.

Looking back, I can see the connection clearly.  And even though I am an adult now, I know am still looking at my body through the eyes of a 13-year-old girl who isn’t quite sure what to do with it. I have breasts, thighs, hips and a soft belly. That’s my body. How do I turn that into body confidence?

Naturally, I threw the question out to Facebook. I asked simply, what does body confidence mean to you? How does that phrase play in your world?

The responses I got were varied, based upon individual experience. But overall, there is one prevailing theme—acceptance. Body confidence isn’t really confidence at all. It’s acceptance. Body acceptance. It’s looking in the mirror and accepting my breasts, my hips, my thighs and my shape as they are. Because once you have acceptance, confidence is second nature. It just happens.

When my body changed on me all those years ago, it caught me by surprise. I never accepted it. I scolded it. I tried to hide from it. I even hated it for a while. But what I’ve come to realize is this: I can’t change it.

So, the next time I stand naked in front of the mirror, I won’t look away.  I’ll stop. I’ll stare. Maybe, I’ll even crack a smile. I might laugh a little at how silly I’ve been all these years, fretting over something I have no control over. This is the body I was given, and I’m going to live in it to the fullest extent.

To me, that’s body confidence.

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