Self Image - Confidence

I just watched the BBC Three documentary 'Odd One Out', which tells the heartbreaking story of the relentless cyberbullying Jesy Nelson received after winning X Factor as one of the members of Little Mix. It just shows how evil the world of social media can be, until recently celebrities got scrutinised in magazines, but now it's 24/7 via social media, and now not just celebrities, anyone can be sucked into this hideous world of anonymous scrutiny and abuse from online trolls. (If you've not seen it, I'd recommend it).

Now that Instagram, Photoshop and filters have become so normal, it's put even more pressure on so many people to look perfect, but that perfection we're seeing isn't always real, I've seen selfies of people I know, and don't even know it's them! Spending hours putting make up on, getting the perfect angle, and perfect lighting just isn't real, so why have we got so obsessed with it!

How can we look at Jesy and say that she's fat at all, she's not as thin as the other band members, but she's far from being fat! I'd be pretty happy with her figure! And even if she was, how does that affect her ability to be in a band!!! She received daily abuse from trolls saying things like "Miss Piggy", "fat ugly one", "shouldn't be in the band", and "kill yourself". This just made me so unbelievably sad! She says that when she won X Factor she went from being confident to a vulnerable emotional wreck overnight. She fulfilled her dreams, and trolls tortured her.

Eventually it got too much for her and so she decided she wanted to end it all. What she has been through just leaves me speechless, but I'm just glad her attempt didn't work out, and she's come out of the other side of it to tell this story to help others.

The reason I felt the need to write about it is because I see women on a daily basis who look in the mirror in their wedding dress and criticise themselves in a way that they would never criticise a friend, and when I point out that the thing they're worrying about is normal, or not even there (i.e. tummy sticking out, bingo wings) they think I'm just trying to be nice, they can't believe me that I'm actually telling the truth. I've met a lot of ladies, who are excited about their big day, but at the same time highly anxious about how they look.

It just makes me so sad how many people these days lack self confidence because of the way they look, when they just look totally normal. I feel so grateful that I grew up before the days of internet and social media, as I'm pretty sure this would have affected me too.

Similarly I was also shocked when I recently saw an interview with Emily Atack, who first became famous when she played Charlotte Hinchcliffe, the girl every boy fancied in The Inbetweeners.

She looked great then, but although she looks even more amazing now that she's gone from being a girl to a woman, because she's a few pounds heavier she's also had endless abuse online, saying that she's "piled it on" etc... On what planet does she not look amazing with her feminine curves?! She accepts now that she looks great, but for a while she says the online abuse really got her down! I don't know about you, but I'd be pretty happy to look like Emily!!!

When we just had magazines and newspapers it created unrealistic ideals, but social media has created a nightmare, it's got out of control!

Do you remember this photo of Cindy Crawford from 2015, a supposedly un-airbrushed photo that was leaked?

This photo went viral, and pleased so many women, that even the beautiful Cindy Crawford didn't look so perfect without a bit of re-touching. But although the photo on the right has been re-touched, the photo on the left is not the original either, but a photo re-touched to make her look more 'real' than a 'supermodel'. At the time it put Cindy in a difficult position, she didn't like the fact this photo had been published and gone viral, as this is not how she really looks, but at the same time she knew how happy it made so many women, so chose to not speak about it either way.

But is it any wonder why this would cheer up so many women who might not be happy with the ageing process or their post baby tummy! We're so used to seeing photos of women looking perfect, however unless you're very young and / or have perfect lighting and a professional airbrusher, chances are you're not going to look magazine perfect!

Talking of magazine perfect, do you remember this GQ cover from 2003? I'd be pretty happy to look this good, funnily enough Kate Winslett said exactly the same thing about her photo.

With the amount of airbrushing and manipulating that was done to this image she said they may as well have just cut and pasted her head on a different woman's body, as this picture didn't reflect how she looked at all. Kate has since been very conscious of airbrushing and has been known to ask for wrinkles to be put back if they're removed, she says she'd "rather look older than stoned!" reading this comment reminded me of this photo of Cameron Diaz below (Elle Magazine).

Why would you airbrush a naturally beautiful woman to look like this? To me, they've just made her look a bit strange! This is a definite case of airbrushing making someone look worse! And to use Kate's words, 'a bit stoned!' She also looks very long, has her back been elongated too?

And so now for a bit of positivity, this is model Candice Huffine. The photo has obviously been touched up, but it's been done well, it would have been really easy to slim down her tummy, or airbrush out her love handles, but how refreshing to see how flesh really looks when we bend! Wouldn't it be nice to go a step further and do no airbrushing at all!

So I guess what I'm really saying is. Wouldn't it just be great if we could all be confident in our bodies / faces.

Who better than Adele to show an example of a lady who looks fantastic and refuses to listen to the abuse directed at her for being 'big'.

She once said “I’ve never wanted to look like models on the cover of magazines. I represent the majority of women and I’m very proud of that.” She should be proud, she looks amazing!

So do I practice what I preach? Well it's easier said than done!

One thing I'm certainly very conscious of is ageing, I'm now 43 and the wrinkles seem to be appearing more and more, for a while it bothered me, I debated cutting a fringe to cover my forehead as I refuse to give in to Botox, but eventually I just admitted to myself that at 43 its pretty normal to have wrinkles and that I just need to accept it. So now I just try to notice my nice dress when I look in the mirror, and ignore the wrinkles that grace my forehead. But why do I think of these wrinkles as making me look 'old', why can't I think of them as 'experience' or lots of 'laughter lines'. I'm working on that!!

I really want to end this blog with three women I really admire, for although they look 'different', they choose to still be in the public eye, I wonder if I'd ever have their confidence, I'm pretty sure they've all struggled at times, but I love that they've continued to do the work they love.

Winnie Harlow has vitiligi, meaning her skin loses pigment, it would be very easy to be self conscious, but her modelling confirms that she's most definitely beautiful.

Gail Porter suffered with alopecia and lost all of her hair over a matter of weeks in 2005. She obviously had the option of wearing a wig, but instead chose to be bald, good for her. She hates being described as brave, so lets call her awesome instead.

And what better lady to end on than Katie Piper. I think anyone who has had to endure what Katie has is unbelievable. What an amazing woman to be in the pubic eye like she has, and to now help others who have scars or illnesses that make them look 'different'. She is the absolute epitome of an amazing beautiful confident woman.

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