As the weather starts to get warmer, it is a given that many women will be showing more skin and more of their real body shape, which may have been hidden away in the Winter months.
During 2020 and 2021, the UK has been stuck in various national lockdowns, forcing us to stay at home for long periods of time. Due to this, many women have wanted to cover up their bodies, or have not been able to look in the mirror, because of such low self esteem. From a national report on self esteem, “98% of girls feel there is an immense pressure from external sources to look a certain way”. Along with the Dove campaign showing that “92% of teen girls would like to change something about the way they look, with body weight ranking the highest”. These results are shocking, and explain why now is a crucial time to improve women’s confidence.
Many women are beginning to share kind words and posts to encourage others to feel confident within their bodies, no matter their look, shape or size.
Quotes like these have been circulating around social media a lot, especially after the term ‘hot girl Summer’ came about recently. This term originates from rapper, Megan Thee Stallion – which means feeling confident in who you are, having fun and looking good while doing it. Although some women define this term to mean ‘being single’ and doing what you want, it’s become clear that all women can be involved, and should feel confident within themselves as the weather warms up.
As everyone has different bodies, some women find it easier than others to accept themselves and adjust to the changes their body may have gone through, whether that may be weight fluctuation, stretch marks or a different figure. I spoke to young mum Jada Brittain from Wadebridge, who at 19 has only recently become a mother. In her experience she has realised, that “it’s important to learn to love yourself, I know that more than ever after having a baby,” with such massive changes to how her body would usually look, she tries to remind herself that her body’s “been through an incredible journey”. The pressure from social media and the abundance of ‘picture perfect’ girls seen frequently online, Jada said can be “disheartening”, so she steers clear of it as much as possible, to help manage the pressure she can sometimes feel.
The topic of social media is often brought up when referring to why women can feel so low, in terms of self esteem and confidence. Where it can help to promote body positivity and acceptance, on the other hand, the amount of people you are exposed to who would be defined as having ‘the perfect body’, can be detrimental to women’s mental health. Rhiannon Griffith, a student from the University of Bristol, can relate to this perception of ‘popular beauty standards’ which she compared herself to during her time at school. She said “I definitely struggled with my confidence, when I was a teenager especially”, “both in person and on social media”. Research by the charity Girlguiding, found: 35% of girls aged 11-21 said their biggest worry online was comparing themselves to others” (The Guardian). Now 19 years old, Rhiannon has found that she has more “self confidence” and no longer relies on “society’s ideals of what you should look like”. This improvement demonstrates that although everyone is different, the whole concept of school and popularity can have a harsh effect on those who aren’t considered as most popular. After leaving school, this fixed ‘ideology’ tends to fade and people feel as though they no longer need to fit into boxes in the same way.
During lockdown, it has given women time to feel both positively and negatively about themselves. At the beginning of the first UK lockdown, after leaving sixth form, Zoe Witts from Polzeath decided on creating her own photography business based in her little studio at home. Her ethos behind ‘Sundown Studios’ was to make people “feel comfortable”, as well as to help clients “become more confident throughout the shoots and feel themselves”. Setting up a portrait photography business during such a tough time for everyone in the UK, gave those who needed it a good boost, that they could book to have beautiful photos taken, after lockdown was over. Although this is something which isn’t within everyone’s comfort zone, Zoe’s friendly personality and encouraging words for those who choose to go to her studio, have enabled women to feel safe and comfortable, with Zoe reminding them to “always do your thing”. At just 19 years old, Zoe has overcome confidence issues herself, and has pushed herself to setup the business she dreamed of, to help others create amazing memories.
Now approaching Summer 2021, we have experienced three lockdowns and it is safe to say that women have come out stronger than ever, battled mental health issues, body confidence struggles and constant comparison to other women’s bodies. But the clear message which is being shared massively, is the acceptance of others. It is a new year, a year for change, whether this is mentally, physically or both. With the important thing being, change is okay and it is something to be embraced.