“Body” and “confidence” are two words which most statistically appear on the cover of women’s magazines more than almost any others, bar perhaps “diet” and “sex”.
We are obsessed with who has it, who doesn’t, why we don’t have more, and who should have a bit less. If that last clause sounds a little bitchy, just consider it for a second: the people who appear to be the most body confident often elicit the most negative response from others. How often have you heard, or thought, some variation on: “Well, she’s very con dent… for a big girl.” “She’s brave to wear that, all things considered.”
We live in a society that more often than not implies that body confidence should be limited to Victoria’s Secret models and David Gandy in his pants. Plus, vanity has never sat well on Irish shoulders, and for some reason we equate confidence in our physical appearance with that particular deadly sin. But change the wording to something like “being happy in our own skin”, and we would gladly embrace it and think we deserve it. The Spanish have an expression, to have “el guapo subido”, which can’t really be translated literally, but means something along the lines of to look radiant or be at one’s best. They use it on the days when you have an unquantifiable spring in your step and a glint in your eye. We all have those days (at different levels of frequency) in our lives, when all is good with the world. They are those wonderful days when we feel most comfortable in our clothes, our make-up seems to glide on, hair (despite being unwashed) sits better than it did the day before, we walk that little bit taller, people seem to smile at us, and everything just feels a bit easier.
Confidence of any kind is unquestionably linked with happiness, and a lack of it is often down to insecurity. I think of my teenage years, when I would leave the house in handmade hotpants and a crop top (yes, really… and there are photos that no one will ever see), feeling like the cock of the walk, but it would take only one sideways glance or eye roll from a stranger to make me turn on my platform heel and run for home, wanting nothing more than my dressing gown and the safety of my bedroom. We often confuse attention seeking with body confidence – those who genuinely have the latter usually don’t have much of the former. Whereas others whose clothes, demeanor and lifestyle scream “Look at me and love me!!” are the ones who crumble at the first hint of criticism.
Body confidence is not about being beach ready, having a six pack or no cellulite. Hell – we live in Ireland, where we never know when the sun will appear. Once it does, if we have any sort of body at all, it’s beach ready – and on those days, the only six pack we’ll need is one with six ring pulls. Who wants to miss out on one of only four nice days of the year because they don’t have legs like the woman in the lady-shave ad? No way! We might only have a few hours’ notice that it’s going to be a “Brittas Bay Day” on a random Wednesday, so our main concern is not how we’ll look in the emergency threadbare togs we’ve dug out, but how to put on the right “I’m too sick to come in today” voice to our bosses. Anyway, we’ve all seen what Kim Kardashian’s arse really looks like in natural light, and she has more body confidence than all the rest of the people in the world put together.
Truth be told, like many women, I have never been completely comfortable with my physical appearance. I’m too short, too hippy, not busty enough, too pale… the list is long, but with every year that goes by, I care less; or maybe it’s that I care more about other things, I’m not sure which. But it’s why when men and women say they are finally happy with themselves at an age when trashy magazines imply they shouldn’t be, I believe it. I used to think they were protesting too much, but now I know it to be true, as my own body confidence increases with age in direct proportion to how the media tells me my physical appeal is decreasing.
I direct you to Susan Sarandon at the Cannes Festival last month. Standing alongside dewy-skinned twentysomethings, who were all awkward pouts and wardrobe malfunctions, she stole the show with her great big smile, immeasurable sexiness and frankly astonishing cleavage.
Of course, we’d all secretly love the wisdom of 70 and the thighs of 17, but that would just be weird (and would ruin Topshop’s demographic entirely). Look around you this summer and pick out those who look the happiest; I guarantee they won’t always be the ones who might be chosen to model underwear. Because here’s the biggest secret about body confidence: it’s actually a by product of happiness, and not the other way around.
Be more Sarandon.