Earlier this year, I shared a photo of me wearing a two-piece swimsuit while travelling through Montenegro. I received a private thank you message from a girl I met while travelling, on a topic that I didn’t use to give much thought to.
“Vanessa, I am so grateful that you posted this photo without editing it and just the way you are. Your body positivity gives me confidence. All thumbs up for your courage.”
Courage? Body positivity? Until I received these kind words of affirmation from her, I didn’t really think much about such things. If I like the way a photo looks, I post it. If I don’t, then I don’t. I use editing software to adjust colours and lighting and keep my feed consistent, but certainly not software to “nip and tuck”. But her comment made me think that she must have encountered others who do.
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With the prominence of social media, like no other generation before, we are bombarded with the “highlight reel” of the lives of other people, which causes us to be dissatisfied with our own “behind the scenes”. This type of comparison can be destructive to our own sense of self-worth and confidence — but what can we do to manage how we feel?
Don’t Compare Yourself to Someone Else’s Highlight Reel
I was at the bookstore this week and came across a book titled: Unfiltered: How to Be As Happy as You Look on Social Media. The fact that someone had to go out of their way to write and publish a book addressing how technology affects our happiness is really a sign of our times.
When Facebook first launched, one of my classmates from university casually called it her personal PR platform. She’s not too far from the truth — with a little bit of marketing know-how, social media allows us to portray ourselves in any way we want: be it edited photos of how we look, carefully crafting captions to support our personal brand, or taking a hundred shots of ourselves until we look just right. I constantly have to remind myself that social media only shows you someone else’s highlight reel — we don’t know don’t what goes on in their real life or how much someone has chosen to show or hide.
Lesson Learned? Don’t fall into the trap of comparing your own behind the scenes to someone else’s highlight reel — what they show is not always reality.
Be Confident in Your Natural Beauty
Bobbi Brown is one of the pioneers of using making to enhance your natural beauty, not cover it. When she started her career as a make-up artist in the 80’s, the norm was to have your makeup be seen…think: blue eyeshadow, and bright red lipstick. When she launched her Bobbi Brown cosmetics line, it was this exact clown-face makeup trend that she wanted to go against, launching a cosmetics line with products and shades formulated to highlight one’s best features, not cover them.
“How I feel about myself is more important than how I look. Feeling confident, being comfortable in your skin – that’s what really makes you beautiful.” — Bobbi Brown
Lesson Learned: Natural beauty is something everyone has…it’s just a matter of knowing how to bring yours to the surface and understanding that beauty comes in all colours, shapes, and sizes.
Be Comfortable in Your Own Skin
When I started my first office job, I needed to buy a pair of dress pants to fit the business casual dress code. It was my first time shopping for any sort of professional outfit, so I went to Banana Republic with my mom. My mom, being a working professional herself, had had good experiences with the “Martin” fit of trousers at Banana Republic, so, based on her recommendation, I tried on the same pair. Guess what? I hated the way they fit. They were too tight at the waist, and too loose every where else.
“But how could that be?” asked my mom. “These fit well on me. You just need to get used to them. They are supposed to be like that”.
I still remember the tightness of the waistband and how constricted I felt — if you can’t physically FEEL comfortable, you can’t be confident. Even though my mom, with her best intentions, introduced me to a brand and style which worked for her, that fit just wasn’t for me. I left Banana Republic empty-handed that day with mixed feelings. How could something that looked good and felt good for someone else, make me feel so uncomfortable? What was I doing wrong?
Lesson Learned: In the years after this incidence, I learned that being comfortable in your own body doesn’t mean fitting yourself into situations that just “aren’t you” — it’s about knowing yourself, knowing what fits, and knowing your limits. That’s how you begin to become more comfortable in your own skin.
By the way, if you are looking for a comfortable Canadian brand to support, Knix is an ultra-comfy, Toronto-based intimates brand that is a big, public supporter of body confidence and demolishing the impossible ideals that traditional lingerie brands have set upon us.
Support Other Women
I recently read an article that my friend wrote about demystifying global beauty standards. One of her key takeaways was: “Appreciating another woman’s beauty doesn’t take anything away from your own.“
Too often, we structure our standards of life and beauty as a competition — who is skinnier, prettier, or taller? Who is more successful, or more stylish? Who has the better job, the bigger engagement ring, or the more lavish wedding? There’s no end to the traits that can be compared between women — or people in general. A jab at someone else might provide a short-lived boost of self-esteem, but will overall be detrimental to our own wellbeing. If we spend too much time judging others, we will only be paranoid that others will do the same to us. And that’s not a good feeling to live with.
Lesson Learned: Treat others with kindness and resist the temptation to fuel your short-term self esteem by putting someone else down. Only when we are more supportive of others, will we boost the confidence and positivity of those we encounter, and in turn, ourselves.