Often how we feel inside is impacted by how we feel about what’s on the outside. And if we lack confidence in our body (especially after having children) it can hold us back from success.
So what can we do about it? Body confidence coach Tora Cullip explains how our self-image can help or hinder our career or business prospects, and shares five steps to help you learn to love the way you look.
How I was judged for my clothes – not my presentation
Many years ago, while still working in a corporate job, I was on a four-person pitch team for the biggest new business opportunity our company had ever had. It was a multi-million pound contract and we were up against some stiff competition. We did out best to wow the potential client and then waited, with baited breath, to see if we’d be selected for the shortlist.
A couple of days later, my boss pulled me aside to pass on the clients’ feedback. I was dreading the news that my part of the presentation was boring or too waffly or not intelligent enough. However, I didn’t expect the feedback they did give: “Her skirt was too short”.
Once I’d picked my chin off the floor, I took a moment to reflect on what my male boss had just told me. Here was I – a slim, athletic woman wearing a designer suit that I’d bought especially for this presentation – being criticised for revealing too much leg; while my considerably overweight, long-haired male boss wearing motorbike boots was only told how impressed they were with his insights and knowledge.
If the feedback had been about what I was dreading – about being boring, waffly or unintelligent – I suspect it would have left quite a scar. These are the areas of confidence that are still my Achilles’ heel.
But because the focus was on the one thing that I had fought so hard to take control of – my body confidence – I was able to laugh it off within minutes.
I used to hate my body
I wasn’t always body confident – I used to be quite the opposite. I so detested my body that I tried to make it disappear with excessive weight loss, but by doing so I developed an eating disorder, anorexia nervosa. It took me many years of improving the relationship I had with food, my body and myself to be able to look my boss in the eye that day, and not feel mortified or ashamed.
However, I know that a lack of body confidence is many women’s greatest vulnerability. The other day I was discussing mentorship with a friend to help her progress toward a top management position.
She admitted that she was reluctant to do this until she had a more positive body image. How she felt about her physical body was quite literally holding her back from taking the next step toward career success.
Brené Brown, author of bestselling book Daring Greatly, says that of the 12 shame categories, the most universal and powerful shame trigger for women is how we look. She says: “After all of the consciousness-raising and critical awareness, we still feel the most shame about not being thin, young and beautiful enough”.
Five tips to help you feel happy with your body
So how can we stop a lack of body confidence from holding us back in our work and life? How can we feel comfortable in our skin so that we can wear whatever-the-heck we feel like wearing to a business meeting because we feel empowered, happy and content with our physical body?
Here are five steps to get you started.
1) Wear your love glasses
Having body confidence is a state of mind first. Rather than look at yourself in the mirror and start criticising all your wobbly bits, put on your metaphorical love glasses and be kind to yourself instead. You can choose whether you focus on the parts of your body you love, or the parts you wish were different.
2) Improve your posture
How many times were you told to “stand up straight” as a kid? Standing up tall makes you instantly look and feel more confident – remember, bottom in, chest out, tummy in and shoulders back! This is particularly useful to remember when you meet new clients – first impressions count!
3) Get your beauty sleep
We live in a sleep-deprived world, where it’s just as normal to be combating the effects of a bad night’s sleep as it is to wake up feeling refreshed and rested. The chances of you making poor food choices, skipping your exercise and beating yourself up about your bum, tum or thighs are hugely increased without a good night’s sleep.
4) Detox your wardrobe
Wearing clothes that suit your body shape and personal style does wonders for your confidence, so now’s the time to give those clothes away to charity that don’t make you feel good about yourself. Go on, be ruthless!
5) Reduce wheat in your diet
Most people would do anything for a flatter stomach, including 100s of sit-ups every day, but the truth is that it’s your diet and digestion that are the biggest culprits of a protruding tummy. Reducing or cutting out wheat products will often help with this – try a week with no bread and see your stomach shrink before your eyes.Tora Cullip