Do you see your body like a reflection in a hall of mirrors?

Do you see your body like a reflection in a hall of mirrors?I’ve written several articles on body image, and how we see ourselves over the last couple of years.

(If you want to check some of them out then have a look at the links below:

We know it’s an issue, we know that the media is playing a huge part in how we view ourselves, but we’re still not seeing clearly.

How do you see your body?

There are organisations and companies who are doing their bit to help women break the illusion that our bodies don’t look the way that they are supposed to…but ultimately the only thing that will make a difference is the eyes with which we view ourselves.

It’s like we have a pair of distorted glasses that are reserved only for looking at ourselves.  We see the bits that wobble, those that are bigger than we’d like, and those we’d tweak a little here or there if we could.

I’ve had a couple of experiences recently which really opened my eyes in respect to my own body image…and I wanted to share them with you, to help you take off your own distorted glasses and begin to see yourself clearly.

When you look at your body, do you love or hate your wobbly bits?

I’m quite lucky, I’ve done a lot of soul searching and work over the last few years with respect to how I view my own body.

At one point I had no body confidence at all.  I saw myself as plain, unattractive and I only noticed the bits that wobbled.

Now I love the wobbly bits! After all, I’m a woman, I’ve got a fabulous hourglass figure and without the bits that wobble, the hourglass wouldn’t be very shapely.

Don’t get me wrong, I like to look after my body, inside and out…but I also see it for the beautiful shape that it is…and I don’t want to change that.

I’ve gone on a journey with my own body to get to this point that has been a revelation.

If you’ve followed me for a while, you’ll have shared my experiences with doing a full nude portrait shoot and my first visit to an all natural hot springs in California, clothing optional.

The path hasn’t been easy…but I’m grateful for where it’s brought me.

Do you see your body the way that other people do?

Then earlier this week I was at a local spa enjoying the hydrotherapy pool when I saw a woman who I thought had a gorgeous figure.

I couldn’t see a single thing about her body that couldn’t be complimented.

…and I became curious as to whether she saw herself in the same way.

So, as random as it seemed at the time, when we were sat alone in the steam room together, my curiosity took over, and I asked her the question…

“Is there anything about your body that you don’t like…anything that when you look in the mirror that you wish was different”

“Yes”, she said, “my thighs are a bit too big”.

I was amazed.  Even someone who had a figure that I imagine a lot of women would be quite envious of, could find a fault…something that wasn’t quite ‘right’.

…and it reminded me of a conversation I’d had with friend I’ve known since school just recently.

To put the conversation into context, this friend of mine was always known as being one of the most popular and attractive girls at my school.  She got a lot of attention from the boys, she was someone all the girls wanted to be friends with and she was referred to for years by my own Grandmother as “Claire’s pretty friend” (…as opposed to what I’m not entirely sure!)

When we were at school I’d always wished I could look like her with her beautiful curly hair and lovely figure.

A few years later when boys were a much bigger part of our lives the guy who I’d had a crush on for the longest time told me how gorgeous he thought she was and wanted to know if she was seeing anyone, which just reinforced my belief that she was prettier than me.

It’s now many years later, we’re both a lot older, and in some ways much wiser too…so when she came round for dinner recently and the topic of conversation came up, I wanted to share my experience from when we were at school.

She was amazed to hear how I’d spent so many years wishing I could look more like her and thinking that she was so much prettier than me…

…because at the exact same time she’d been wishing she could look more like me!

We’d both spent much of our teenage years looking at the other and wishing that could be us…and not appreciating the natural beauty that we BOTH had.

Neither one of us is better or worse looking than the other…we’re just different, and beautifully so.

How dull would this world be if we all looked like Kate Moss or Beyonce or Eva Longoria?

It’s about time that we begin to celebrate our own unique brand of beauty.  Our own innate gorgeousness, in all of its glory.

We and we alone have the ability to change how we look at ourselves…so this week I invite you to take of your distortion glasses, and see yourself clearly for the first time.

Every morning this week I’d like you to look in the mirror and rather than focusing on the blemishes, the scars, or the bits that you’d rather didn’t wobble so much….this time focus on what’s beautiful.  Find what you’re proud of.  Look for what you like about yourself.

It could be that you have nice eyes, or a great smile….or it might be that you love some of the bits that wobble! 🙂

Look for your beauty, look for your uniqueness, look for what you love about yourself.

Take of the glasses…and allow yourself to see how beautiful you really are.

Stay Fabulous,

Claire x

What’s your naked truth?

NakedNaked.

Nude.

Bare.

Sans-clothing.

Starkers.

Birthday Suit.

Au Naturel.

In the Buff.

Skin to the wind.

There are so many words and phrases that we have to describe being completely free of any clothing or covering.

…and as soon as the topic of nudity comes up, there are also a whole lot of other words and phrases that come immediately to people’s minds. Depending on you and your life’s experiences these words can be very different.

Exciting.

Terrifying.

Elicit.

Freeing.

Mortifying.

Natural.

Vulnerable.

Empowering.

Uncomfortable.

Liberating.

Shame.

Beautiful.

These are just a handful of the many and varied reactions that people can have to the thought of being naked….either in private or in public.

For some people the idea of being completely and totally naked is exhilarating.

For others they would rather die than face being naked in public.

I was somewhere in between.

If you’ve been following the recent newsletters and blog posts, you’ll know that this is a topic that has been very present for me in the last few months.

During my photo shoot with Samjhana I took the opportunity to get completely back to nature by braving the elements and posing for a full nude.

…and for me it was liberating…but on that occasion it was also quite safe.

At the time there was only myself, Samjhana and one other person on the very deserted beach on the South coast of England…and my time in full nude probably only lasted around 20 minutes or so (before my toes began turning blue from being sat in the English Channel for too long!)

…and as a good friend of mine always says, when you think you’ve had some sort of breakthrough or learned a significant lesson, then shortly after there will always come a test to see if you’ve really got it.

…and boy, did my test come.

During my time here in San Francisco there were a few things that were on my ‘must do’ list. Seeing the Golden Gate Bridge (as the last time I visited, 10 years ago, I used up two rolls of film trying to get a single image of it in the dense fog that heralded my arrival (yes that was film, way before the time that I got my first digital camera!), spending time with my dear friend Christina and getting to hang out with the women from Tribal Truth (the women’s community that I’m a part of) that live in the San Francisco area were my top 3.

I’m happy to report that it has been glorious sunshine since I arrived here in San Fran…and that I actually have a crystal clear view of the Golden Gate Bridge as I’m typing this article. Number one on my list….check.

Christina and I have enjoyed spending the last couple of weeks indulging in various adventures in and around the San Francisco area….number two on my list…check.

…and the ladies from Tribal Truth proposed that we spend a day connecting and relaxing up at a local hot springs….number 3 on my list…check.

Little did I know that number 3 on my list was my test…in disguise.

So I made all the arrangements to meet the girls and a couple of days before our planned day of rest and relaxation I was finalizing a few details on the phone with one of them. I asked her what I needed to bring…towel, sun cream etc…and the conversation went something like this:

Me: “So what do I need to bring with me?”

Friend: “Well I can bring a towel for you, and we’ll have sunscreen with us and food for lunch. Apart from that there’s nothing I can think of. Oh…the girls did tell you it was clothing optional, right?”

Me: “Um…nope…that wasn’t mentioned…but I’ve done a full nude in the English Channel…I think I can handle a hot spring!”

It wasn’t until long after this conversation that I realised that the challenge for me wouldn’t be the temperature of the water…it would be the numerous people that I would be sharing the hot spring with.

You see, I’ve always been quite reserved when it comes to nudity. Don’t get me wrong, in the right time and place I’m all for it…but I’ve definitely been one to prefer being covered to uncovered when surrounded with other people.

But I’d moved past this, right?

I’d done a full nude on a beach in England, right?

This would be easy, right?

Wrong.

It wasn’t easy at all…but it was a revelation.

Check back next week to read the rest of my naked truth…and in the meantime I invite you to think about your own…

Stay Fabulous,

Claire x

Do you recognise your own beauty? I didn’t…

Mirror Mirror

Mirror Mirror...

When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

When you see photographs of yourself, what do you notice?

Do you see yourself as you are?

Or do you see what you believe is there?

The reason that I’m asking this is that for many many years I didn’t see what was there.

I saw what I thought was there.

You see, when I was much younger I got some very fixed ideas about my appearance.

At school I wasn’t one of the popular girls.  I didn’t get into makeup and hair very early on, and I certainly wasn’t obsessed with it as some of the people I went to school with were (the curse of an all-girls school I guess!)

I wasn’t one of the ‘popular crowd’, I wasn’t one of the girls that the boys were interested in or asked out…in fact I don’t think that many of them even noticed me.

Combine these facts with my grandmother’s insistence on describing one of my closest friends as ‘Claire’s Pretty Friend’ (…as opposed to…?) and my perception of my own personal appearance wasn’t very high.

…and, being perfectly honest, this perception stuck with me for a long time.

Even when boyfriends described me as ‘beautiful’ or ‘gorgeous’ I would often rationalise it by thinking that they were the exception to the rule, that they were talking about who I was on the inside or that they were saying that because ‘that’s what boyfriends are supposed to say’!

I spent years battling to be ‘skinnier’ than I was, trying diet after diet….I even tried the awful atkins and slimfast options at various points..  One word…yuk.

Taking on my ‘one of the boys’ mentality meant that I hid my body behind jeans and baggy jumpers for the most part.  I remember one ex boyfriend even commenting how surprised he was the first time he saw me in a dress…not just because I was wearing a dress, but he couldn’t believe how slim I was because he assumed my baggy tops were covering more weight than they were.

Over time I became more comfortable with how I looked, but I never saw myself as particularly attractive, and I certainly wouldn’t have used the word ‘beautiful’ to describe myself.

Over the last few years though, something shifted.

I started noticing some of the comments I was receiving…and how many positive remarks I was getting about my appearance.

Tweet from NelsonA random tweet from a friend I’d not seen in years introducing me to his followers as “One of the most beautiful woman I have ever met” really surprised me.

I have received so many lovely and humbling comments about photos that I’ve shared on Facebook and videos that I’ve shared…it got to the point that I couldn’t ignore what was being said to me anymore.

One day I realised that I wasn’t seeing myself as I was, or how anyone else was seeing me.  I was seeing myself as the plain, unpopular teenager who didn’t feel pretty next to her attractive friends.

…and I wasn’t the only one.

The mirror liesSo many women see something different to what’s really there.

Several years ago one of my favourite TV shows was called “How to look good naked”.  In it, the fabulous Gok Wan would take women who hated their bodies through a process to reconnect them with the beauty of their gorgeous real figures.

Part of the process was the “Gok Shock”, displaying images of their body somewhere agonisingly public and have people from the street comment on what they could see.

This video of the lovely Angela shows how drastically different a person’s perception of themselves can be from what other people see…she even manages to pick up a date along the way!

Another part of the process was to get the lady in question to do a line up with other women, looking at a particular area of her body that she disliked.  Gok would line up the other women from smallest to largest (of the body part in question) and then get her to position herself at the point in the line where she believed that she belonged.

Every time without exception the women would place themselves in the wrong place…always seeing themselves as larger than they actually were.  This video of the lovely Cindy shows that her perception of her tummy meant that she was walking around with an extra 2.5” of imagined weight on her waistline.

It’s no wonder with the bombardment of ‘perfect’ women in the media that we question our own appearance at times, but we need to see it for what it is…an illusion.  Almost every image we see is doctored, tweaked…or changed completely…it’s not real.

After all, in real life each and every one of us is perfectly imperfect…and that’s beautiful.

Love your reflectionSo I would like to invite you to take a good look in the mirror today, to release any past perceptions that you might have had…and to see yourself for the beautiful woman that you are.

Because it’s about time that we all recognise our own beauty…and start to celebrate it!

So smile, find three things that you love about your appearance and say them out loud….you deserve the compliments! 🙂

Stay Fabulous!

Claire x

Does my bum REALLY look big in this?

We’ve all been there.

Someone says to you “Have you lost weight?”, and you instantly respond “Oh no, if anything I’ve actually gained a few pounds”.

Now I’m not someone who tends to worry about my weight (as long as my clothes fit I’m happy!) but this has been my response for the last 6 months or so.

I hadn’t had the best diet in the world (especially over the last couple of months!), and I hadn’t been focusing on my exercise…so the assumption I made was that I had to have put a bit of weight on. Combine this with someone who was very close to me mentioning that I had gained some weight and this seemed like the only logical response to the “Have you lost weight?” question.

When I looked into the mirror it confirmed exactly what I expected to see. I wasn’t looking ‘bad’ at all…I just felt that I had a little extra cushioning around the edges 😉

So last week, after a bought of ill-health I decided that the best thing for me was to implement a much healthier diet and a regular routine of exercise to give my body the best chance of getting back to 100%.

As part of my preparation for this (as well as emptying any chocolate stashes from my desk drawers!) I decided to weigh myself so that I knew where I was starting from and so that I could see progress as I was going along.

Well you can imagine how astonished I was to discover that since the last time I’d weighed myself (about 7 months ago) not only had I not gained weight, I was actually 8lbs (over 3 ½ kilos if you’re metric) lighter!

I was absolutely stunned.

This was a really GREAT reminder.

How often in life do you:

  • See things as worse than they really are?
  • Listen to other people’s opinions without stopping to question whether they are actually based on fact?
  • See what you expect to see…as opposed to what’s really there?

So let my weight be a reminder to you that in any situation you want to SEE the situation clearly:

See things exactly as they are – It’s so important to see things in life as they are. Not worse than they are, not better than they are, but exactly as they are. If you want to make any changes to a situation you first need to understand where it is now, to know what (if any!) changes are the right ones. Being truly honest with yourself is the key.
Evaluate before you accept – It’s crucial that you listen to the facts and trust your own opinions first and foremost. When other people make comments to us, it’s only too easy to take them to heart and to take them as fact, when they are just someone else’s perception of a situation. Remember that they are looking at life through their own personal filters. If this happens ask yourself, “What are they basing this on?”, “Is there another way to see it?”, “What do I think?”
Eliminate your expectations – See the truth of the situation…not just what you expect to see! Our brains don’t like to make us ‘wrong’ or ‘liars’ so they have an uncanny habit of seeing what we expect to see…rather than what’s there.

The first time that you read this
this sentence you might find that
that you read what you expect to
to see not what’s really there.

The first time that most people see the above sentence (if they haven’t seen an example like this before!) they aren’t likely to notice that the words ‘this’, ‘that’ and ‘to’ are repeated…because the brain sees what it expects to see. So remember to always take a second look, remove your expectations and look for what’s really there.

As we all know, femininity is about being real.  It’s about authenticity and trusting ourselves.  To really connect with our femininity, we need to listen to and trust that little inner voice which knows the truth.

Learning that I’m actually lighter that I thought I was hasn’t put me off my healthy diet and exercise plan (my motives for that were mainly medicinal) but being able to SEE the reality clearly certainly did make me smile! 😀

So remember to SEE yourself exactly as you are, and remember to…

…Stay fabulous!

Claire x

perfectly-imperfect

Perfectly Imperfect.

I came across this video by the brilliant Jesse Rosten last week and I have to say that it struck a chord.

It reminded me of the Dove Evolution video below from a few years ago.

I love the different approaches that these two films have taken.

The Fotoshop by Adobé uses humour to poke fun at the beauty product ads which we are all too familiar with. The part about the “pro-pixel intensifying fauxtanical hydro-jargon microbead extract featuring nutritive volumizing technology” was pure genius.

The Dove Evolution film takes a more emotional, impactful approach. They use only a few words; they don’t need to use any more…the footage says it all.

The message from both of these videos is clear.

The media today is promoting a completely and totally unrealistic idea of beauty.

We know this.

But how often do we find ourselves buying into it?

How many times a day do we see some impossibly perfect woman and compare ourselves to her?

Magazines, Television ads, billboards…it’s relentless.

It’s all about perfection.

Or is it?

Because if you ask me, perfection is not about being flawless.

If life were ‘perfect’ by the media’s standards, how boring would it be?

There would be no contrast.

No light and dark.

You need the dark to appreciate the light.

The blemishes are what make us individual.

The imperfections are what make life interesting.

This scene from Desperate Housewives shows how important being imperfect can be:

None of us are perfect.

…and I am quite happy being perfectly imperfect.

My features aren’t perfectly symmetrical, I have bits that wobble, and I have scars that tell the stories of my past.

How about you?

Are you fed up of ‘fotoshop’ beauty?

How are you perfectly imperfect?

Stay fabulous!

Claire x

P.S. Remember to like this post if you agree that life is better when you’re perfectly imperfect! 🙂