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25th Aug 2021

Learning to love the body that got me through a pandemic

Kat O'Connor

Do you know that scene in The Princess Diaries where Paolo unveils a beaming, shiny-haired Mia who is oozing with joy and confidence?

I’ve longed to have that confidence since I first watched the movie as a kid, but like most women, I struggle with accepting how I look.

My hair is too frizzy, my skin too pale and my stomach is now resembling Winnie The Pooh’s. I read the positive self-acceptance quotes and try to shake off my insecurities but after a year of living in leggings and baggy jumpers, I feel like my confidence has fallen down the back of the wardrobe with the old socks and tattered Christmas jumpers. 

The impact lockdown has had on our mental health is an issue that has seeped into all areas of our lives, especially when it comes to self-confidence. We were stripped of the opportunity to wear the half a dozen Zara dresses in our wardrobes, our roots grew and we suffered from mask acne. Our regular trips to the hairdresser and nail salon became a distant memory. We stopped treating our bodies with the TLC they deserve and now we barely recognise them at all.

All of the time spent isolating, worrying, and listening to bad news has seriously knocked our mental health to the curb. As we approach a new, and hopefully happier, phase of life with Covid, we need to start to mend our minds. We’ve sanitised, kept our distance, and wore masks to protect ourselves from Covid, so now it’s time to take care of our minds. Seeking professional help is key, but there are so many little things we can do to care for our bodies and brains.

In an interview with Cosmopolitan UK, Sirin Atçeken said: “This lockdown has been hard for everyone, and it has exacerbated mental health issues. It can be dangerous when we associate health with weight, and also when we try to lose weight in a short amount of time. We can do more harm than good to our body, and it can lead to eating disorders.”

After the turmoil of the past year and a bit, do we need to be fretting about whether we’re bikini body ready or not? Spoiler alert, we don’t because all you need to do is put a bikini on your body to be ‘bikini body ready.’ Our bodies have changed and that is perfectly fine. They cannot stay the same way they were when we were 19.

A lot of us are now struggling to accept the skin we’re in, but can’t we give our bodies a little credit? They got us through a global pandemic and protected us from this horrifying virus. Shouldn’t we focus on that rather than the fact that our ASOS jeans are feeling a little more snug than usual? 

I reached out to some of our readers about the impact the pandemic has had on their body confidence and if you’re feeling a little low, you’re not alone. A lot of women are struggling to find what works and what they feel good in now. Their favourite dresses are no longer making them feel confident so why hold on to them? “Working from home means hardly leaving the house so I have no reason to make an effort,” one woman said. Another added, “I forget what I like, how to dress, what suits me, and how to shop! I have such a lack of confidence.”

“I feel uncomfortable in everything that isn’t gym gear. It’s so hard to wear a wired bra,” one reader quipped. Our wardrobes no longer represent the people we are. Isn’t it time to update our style and start wearing stuff we feel good in rather than having presses full of clothes that make us feel poorly about ourselves?

If you had a pair of shoes that didn’t fit would you keep them and force your feet into them? No! So why do we hold onto clothes that make our bodies feel worthless? 

The New York Times came up with the word ‘hate-wear’ to describe the lockdown fashion trend taking over our world. Hate-wear has been described as clothes that aren’t “stylish nor particularly comfortable, yet constantly in rotation.” They’re practical, but they don’t bring us any joy. As lockdown progressed I started to turn to dull colours, heavy jumpers, misshapen, lazy outfits and frumpy tracksuit bottoms because I felt low and had no desire to dress up. They really mean it when they say your mood impacts your style. I moped around the house as Covid cases rose and my colourful dresses gathered dust in the wardrobe.

My body shape changed and my confidence plummeted. Clothes that once made me feel like a million dollars now made me feel like welling up, so I took matters into my own hands. I grabbed my tote bags and filled them to the brim with every item of clothing that no longer fit or the ones that I simply didn’t love anymore. I donated them to my local NCBI shop and decided to rebuild my wardrobe for the post-lockdown me. There is no better time to press reset and find a new sense of style, right?

I bought clothes that felt comfortable and that boosted my confidence, rather than ones that clung to my skin and made me feel less than. I stopped punishing my body for not looking a certain way and started to dress it in clothes that were comfortable and that matched my style. 

Lockdown was a living nightmare but it granted us time to reflect and many readers used that time to work on self-healing, which is beyond inspiring. One used the downtime to focus on self-love, “Lockdown made me realise no one else’s opinion mattered but yours. Feck it, wear the shorts.”

“I took the time to process how I really felt about my body and why I was having issues. I worked really hard on inner healing and self-love and it’s starting to pay off,” another said.

“I’m trying to be kinder to myself about my body. Dealing with the fallout of the pandemic is enough,” one shared and we couldn’t agree more.

Accepting your body isn’t easy, especially for those of us who grew up seeing magazines insult and critique perfectly beautiful actresses. We were told that Bridget Jones was overweight when she was actually completely healthy. Natalie in Love Actually was mocked over her perfectly normal-looking thighs, so no wonder we’re constantly concerned over how we look. Society hasn’t made it easy on us, but we have the power to boost our confidence.

We all deserve to feel good in our skin after all.

Women like Lottie Drynan of the Tummy Diaries are helping people accept their bodies just as they are. Her Instagram is a complete haven for people who are struggling to deal with society’s standard of beauty. It’s taken time but Lottie said she is finally learning to love her body, “Over the years I’ve realised that this standard of beauty I’ve spent so much of my time obsessing over was all lies. Defining beauty and worth by a flat stomach and a flat stomach only is a completely false definition that our fatphobic society has fed us all these years.”

“Our clothes should serve our bodies,” she stressed.

Our bodies are ever-changing, but their sole purpose isn’t to look good. Realising that your body is there to protect you, to keep your heart beating, to fill your lungs with air, to communicate, to smile, to laugh, and to move is one thing that has helped me accept my new post-lockdown body.

It feels and looks different and there are days when I feel down, but then I remember that it got me through the past 18 months and that’s far greater than being able to fit into that size 10 Topshop dress I never wore anyway.


body month,Life