As an image coach and body positive advocate, I work with women to help them find outfit inspiration, figure out what colours they suit and help them keep a well-oiled wardrobe, as it were. But more much more than that, I help them learn how to be body positive.
And I’ve been there. So many of us have. Where I’ve felt fat and ugly. Felt my body has let me down. Not really known who I was or how the world viewed me. When you feel like that, it’s not much fun.
Believe me, I know. But through a bucketload of training and personal development I’ve learnt how to retrain my brain. My professional kit bag doesn’t just contain fabric swatches and colour charts. It contains lots of stuff you can’t see, all the tools and skills that can help women get to a good place in terms of how they view themselves.
The dance of shame
For me, my misgivings began when I was about 12. I was in the gym at my school’s annual torture, Christmas country dancing. Just what every 12 year old wants to do in the middle of winter, right?
Made so much worse that girls were on one side and boys the other, with all the ‘popular’ kids pairing off first. Me the straggler at the end, while the remaining boys picked with equal embarrassment and shame. It was one of those dances where you swap partners a lot and towards the end I was partnered with Mr Popular.
Who proceeded to tell everyone within earshot he didn’t want to get too close in case he caught ‘ugly disease’. Right there and then my already-fragile self confidence curled up and died. I could hear the whispers, see the pointing fingers.
I felt a horrible, sad void opening up inside me. Which stayed there for oh around 18 years. Thanks to some added extras like acne, lack of boyfriends, inevitable body changes. Looking back it’s easy to wonder why I let one idiot set me on that path. But there isn’t a lot of room for ‘shrugging it off’ at that age. And my lack of belief soon snowballed into a very miserable vision of how the world saw me.
For most of us, life comes with ups and downs. But instead of seeing the balance, we focus on the bad stuff and let it poison us.
A positive change
My turning point was when I was 35 and just on maternity leave with my second child. Drowning in nappies and housework and domestic drudgery. Well, it wasn’t, it was a wonderful time of love with my family. But that was my viewpoint then. I decided it was time to do something for myself.
Time to tell those inner voices to shut the hell up and sit down. Instead of going back to my civil engineering job, I wanted to boost my body confidence and in turn help others do the same.
I started off training as a colour consultant, moving on to become a fully fledged image coach. A few years ago I also added NLP to my list, providing a coaching aspect to what I do and helping people from the inside out. I work with wonderful people and I love the powerful effects positive psychology can have.
My own personal experience helps me spark confidence in others. It’s not about dressing you up. It’s about giving you an inner glow and the courage to express yourself.
Remember, it really is important to stop sometimes. Listen to your positive inner voice and learn to ignore those other niggly voices. Enjoy your lot and look at what you have, not what you don’t.
Like everything, a little practice goes a long way. Once you start being nicer to yourself, saying kinder things, appreciating yourself more, you’ll start to notice the crappy stuff gets a lot quieter.