On International Women’s Day this year, over 100 women and one man (thank you Mr S.H.I.T.) came together to watch my screening of the documentary Embrace at the Richmond Odeon.
The film follows Tara Brumfitt’s quest to confront the harsh media pressure that is put on girls and women to look a certain way – to wear size 8 jeans, have perfect glossy, swishy hair, have perfect, smooth, glowing skin, amazing boobs and a thigh gap.
Tara travels across the world from her native Australia, meeting inspiring women who have battled with adversity because of the way they look, because they do not conform to the swishy, glowy, toned and very fake ideal that is put to us as ‘perfect.’
What I felt most proud about that evening was that these 130 women (and our one token man) came together because they really believe in positive body image.
We all do.
We all want to embrace who we are. To think more positively about ourselves and to guide our children to do the same.
We know we should love who we are. But knowing it’s right, and being able to do it, are two very different things.
It’s tough to change the way we, as women, view ourselves when we have been conditioned to zoom in on the negatives.
When I saw some photos of myself from that very night, I’d love to tell you I immediately thought, ‘Wow, well done, you look strong standing up there talking to all those people. What an achievement.’
But what I actually thought was ‘Ooh, my tum looks a bit big in that dress.’
I was disappointed by my knee jerk reaction towards myself. Sadly, it’s what I’ve automatically done for as long as I can remember – criticising, instead of celebrating myself.
And this is exactly what I don’t want my children to do.
My daughters are at an age when they’ve just started becoming aware of how they look. I started trying to stop them, by convincing them looks don’t matter at all. But that’s totally ridiculous and unrealistic.
I can’t stop them discovering their appearance, it’s what young girls have been doing for centuries. It’s part of growing up. What am I going to do, take down all the mirrors in the house?
It’s about teaching them to be proud of their bodies just the way they are, not avoid looking at them all together.
Of course, what’s on the inside matters so much more than the size of our arms, or how long our legs are, but I can’t stop my kids paying attention to what they look like.
What I can do is to teach them to accept that we are all different shapes and sizes, and no size or shape is right or wrong. The world would be an incredibly boring place if we all morphed into the same swishy haired, wasp waisted, perky breasted clone that the world of magazines and social media would have us believe is ‘perfect.’
I can educate them into realising that being healthy and looking after our bodies is important. Exercise and eating well makes us feel good and strong. I want them to understand that scales simply give you a numerical reflection of your bodyweight. That number does not measure talent, strength, kindness, possibility or love.
But as I’ve always said, I need to start with myself.
We all need to try to stop endlessly berating ourselves for not having the perfect tum, bum, hair, eyes, lips. A perfection that we know doesn’t actually exist, but we just can’t help ourselves think our lives would be just that little bit more perfect if we could attain that ‘perfect look.’
A few mother’s brought their teenage daughters with them to watch the film, having no idea how their girls would react. They weren’t sure if they would cringe, open up, or think it was all just a big waste of time. But it opened up discussions about body image afterwards, with the general consensus being that they’d like Embrace to be shown in their own schools.
If 2000 screenings take place in the UK, that is exactly what will happen – Embrace: The Union Project will bring this positive body image education into secondary schools across the UK for free, and they’re 878 away from their target.
So I just wanted to thank everyone who came to my screening, and for bringing the goal one screening closer.
And thank you everyone who helped spread the word to make the evening the success it was.
Here’s to embracing and loving who we are. I’m certainly trying each and every day.
For more information on how you can host a screening of Embrace, go to www.bodyimagemovement.com.