Five women reveal how they learned to love their imperfections as survey uncovers body confidence crisis


With nearly half of us feeling depressed about our weight and one in five insisting on lights-off sex, our survey reveals we’re in the grip of a body confidence crisis.

But why – and what can we do about it?

 These ladies reveal how they grew to love their imperfections

These ladies reveal how they grew to love their imperfections

Last month, we asked you to tell us how confident you felt about your bodies, and we hate to say it, but the results are pretty depressing.

Nearly three-quarters of you confess to having a negative body image, while more than 40% have felt sad when looking in the mirror.

On top of that, four out of 10 admitted in our survey with online beauty brand that you’ve become less body confident as you’ve got older.

At a time when we’re encouraged to love the skin we’re in, why are we having such crippling self-doubt?

Of course, we can’t ignore the impact of social media, with 68% of you revealing it has a negative effect on the way you see your body. And almost 70% said you feel inadequate about your looks while watching reality TV, with Love Island the biggest culprit.

“With the average adult checking their phone 30 times a day – rising to 157 times for millennials – women are subjected to around 400 images in 24 hours,” explains Mel Wells, psychologist and author of The Goddess Revolution.

 Don't let your insecurities about your body get the better of you

Don’t let your insecurities about your body get the better of you

“Adverts featuring ‘perfect’ women aren’t just exclusive to billboards or TV – they saturate social media platforms, too, so there’s no escape. Reality TV shows, meanwhile, play on our insecurities. We look at women and compare their bodies to ours.”

According to Mel, the root of the problem is that we’re not taught to love ourselves from an early age.

“We spend years studying maths, science and English, but don’t get a single lesson that really encourages us to feel confident about the way we look, flaws and all. The school system needs to change if we want women to grow up secure in themselves.”

So how can we boost our body confidence? Seventy per cent of you say all it takes is a compliment – but there’s more we can do to help ourselves long-term.

“We should remember to praise women for their efforts, successes and intelligence rather than their appearance,” adds Mel.

To prove the point, here five women reveal how they embraced their imperfections.



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‘Every stretch mark and scar is what makes me me’

 Jeanie Marsh, 60, is an Airbnb host. She lives in west London with her husband Stephen, 59, and daughter Amber, 23

Jeanie Marsh, 60, is an Airbnb host. She lives in west London with her husband Stephen, 59, and daughter Amber, 23

“I’ve had body confidence for most of my life. At 10st 7lb and a size 12-14, I’ve never been overweight or skinny – but I grew up in a generation that wasn’t surrounded 24/7 by completely unattainable ideals.

“When I was a kid, there were mean girls at school, but you came home and they didn’t bother you. Now you can be tracked on social media all the time.

“If you lack confidence, you can spend hours looking at women who you deem to be prettier, sexier, slimmer and taller than you.

“When I was in my 40s, I hit the perimenopause and my confidence plummeted. My body seemed old and tired, and I had stretch marks from pregnancy.

“Rather than embrace them, for a decade I loathed the toll life had taken on my body. I now know it was all down to hormones, but at the time I thought you hit 40 and became invisible.

“But reaching 50 was like a rebirth for me. I started looking at myself in a whole new light. Every single stretch mark or scar on my body is what makes me ‘me’.

“They tell a story of the life I’ve led and the journey I’m on. I’ve even started wearing bikinis again – something I haven’t done since my 30s.

“I’ve raised my daughters Charlie, 32, and Amber, 23, constantly telling them they are intelligent and beautiful, but neither of them has ended up with strong body confidence and it breaks my heart.

“Girls need more positive older role models. I don’t want my daughters to think ageing is awful. It’s liberating and enlightening.”

  • 45% would change your tummy if you could.
  • 31% sometimes feel depressed about your body.
  • 1in3 confess to negative body thoughts a few times a day.
  • 63% of you are a size 12+, although 40% think size 10 is the healthiest.
  • 67% of you consider yourself overweight, despite your average weight being around 11st.
  • 50% frequently think about your appearance.
  • 58% would consider cosmetic surgery, with almost half saying you would opt for liposuction.

‘You should always please yourself’

 Annelisa Count is 87 and lives in Ely, Cambridgeshire

Annelisa Count is 87 and lives in Ely, Cambridgeshire

“I’ve noticed that women these days try so hard to stay looking younger for longer. It’s not a criticism, though – I love it.

“When I was young, women in their 60s were considered ancient and wore old, shapeless clothes. But these days, women of that age look at least 20 years younger.

“Even though I’ll be 90 in a couple of years, I still shop at Fat Face and Dorothy Perkins – the same stores as my daughter Emma, 52, and granddaughter Susi, 20.

“For me, the essence of body confidence should always be to please yourself. Wear what you want, look the way you want, colour your hair how you want and you’ll feel confident.

“There’s no point in me wishing I was 5ft 8in with a 26in waist. If looking at other women makes you miserable, don’t look.

“It’s been amazing to watch how women’s body ideals have changed over the years, from tiny waists and curves to the longer, leaner look in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Now women are obsessed with having big bottoms!

“But after almost nine decades, I’ve always done it my way. I’ve drunk, I’ve smoked, I’ve loved my life, and while my waistline isn’t what it was, I’ve never yielded to anyone else’s ideals, and I don’t intend to start now.”

‘I refuse to cover up’

 Cherie Collins, 30, is a stay-at-home mum and lives in east London with her four-week-old daughter Niamiah

Cherie Collins, 30, is a stay-at-home mum and lives in east London with her four-week-old daughter Niamiah

“If people stare at me when I’m out, I say: ‘What?’ in a loud voice. It’s usually enough to make them look away. I never mind people coming up and asking me about my skin, but staring is just rude.

“I’ve lived with vitiligo for eight years. It started with a white spot on my boob when I was 18. My GP said it was a pigment patch, but when I was 22 I got another one on my neck.

“Within months it had spread to my boobs, hands, pelvic area and face. At first I was worried it was going to make me completely white, but I refused to let it panic me, as there was little

I could do to stop it.

“A biopsy confirmed vitiligo. I was given cream and tablets and referred to the Royal London Hospital, where for two months I had laser treatment to even out my skin tone.

“But it didn’t seem to work, and taking regular time off from my job in the leisure industry became harder to justify.

“There’s no magic cure for vitiligo. I’m the type of person who just gets on with things, and that’s how I live with it. I suppose I’m lucky it didn’t appear when I was at school, because kids can be unkind. But I’ve never been upset about my diagnosis. What does annoy me is when I’m compared to Winnie Harlow.

“It may seem flattering, but it’s ignorant – Winnie’s black and I’m mixed race. We look nothing alike.

“I know some people with vitiligo cover up with camouflage make-up, but I made the decision from the start not to hide it. It’s part of me and who I am.”

‘I used to weigh 19st’

 Petra Hammond, 43, is a personal trainer. She lives in Godalming, Surrey, with her daughter Maya, 12

Petra Hammond, 43, is a personal trainer. She lives in Godalming, Surrey, with her daughter Maya, 12

“I spent most of my teens and 20s hating the way I looked. I’ve always been a comfort eater, and was a size 24 and 19st by the time I was 20.

“My weight fluctuated over the next 10 years, but when Maya was born in 2005, I was back up to 19st and desperate to shift the excess pounds. I tried the gym, but I didn’t last long as it felt like everyone was staring at me.

“But when Maya started nursery, I had more free time and decided to hire a personal trainer. Initially, I worried she would judge me for being so fat, but she was amazing, and within a year I was down to 13st and a size 12.

“I felt so inspired, I gave up my job in customer service to train as a PT myself. It took a year, and by 2009 I’d set up my own business Confident Fitness.

“As well as working as a trainer I was offering spin, aqua and core classes, plus virtual personal training for people who don’t like a gym setting.

“I know some people think I can’t teach fitness because of my size. I once walked in to my spin class and heard someone whisper: ‘This should be easy.’

“But I know I can push them just as well as a size-8 trainer. To me, body confidence isn’t about dress size, it’s the strength and fitness of your body.

“I’m raising Maya to have the confidence I never had. Only change for you, not because of how you measure up alongside others.”

‘With age comes acceptance’

 Louisa Sherwood, 51, is an office manager and lives in Leicester with her son Dan, 14

Louisa Sherwood, 51, is an office manager and lives in Leicester with her son Dan, 14

“Since turning 50 last year, I’m more body confident than ever. It’s a consequence of feeling the happiest I’ve been in a long time. Just last week I was chatted up in the supermarket – that would never have happened a decade ago!

“Growing up, I was a late developer. Over the years my weight yo-yoed from as low as 6st 13lb when I tried to slim down at uni to 12st and a size 16 by the time I graduated.

“It wasn’t until I hit 30 and met my son Dan’s father that it stabilised. At 5ft 2in, I weighed between 9st 7lb and 10st, but I never felt content with my body – I always wanted to be slimmer.

“In 2010, I split up with Dan’s father. It was hard, but it also made me realise I’d spent too long dwelling on what I didn’t look like rather than embracing what I had.

“It was time to start focusing on myself and be happy with who I am. It’s taken time, but acceptance has come with age.

“I’ve been through life experiences, loved, lost and had my son, and all that has given me perspective to appreciate my achievements.

“These days, I wear fitted clothes that suit my figure, and I’m getting the most attention from men I’ve ever had.

“I’ve got my son, fantastic friends, and I love my job. How I feel about my life has given me the confidence I longed for.”



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