Can you truly love your body, flaws and all? Let’s talk about self-love and body acceptance...
What is body acceptance? It’s accepting your body no matter what imperfections you think you have. This is a mindset that needs to be learned and practised over time. It’s about self-love, challenging negativity, and living comfortably and confidently in your own body.
For 24-year-old Mary Victor (founder of The Body Within) and 38-year-old Paula Kenneally (founder of UBU Swimwear), who met and connected on social media, this is what they’re passionate about. The desire to see more diversity and inclusion in fashion is what drove them to make a change – starting with debuting #youbeyou, a body acceptance initiative spotlighting women of all shapes, sizes and colours.
“We came at this campaign from completely different backgrounds and reasons, but this is something we feel very passionately about. It’s been empowering: creating awareness, sharing the many stories we’ve read, and helping women realise they aren’t alone in this! We believe this is a great first step in being kinder to ourselves.”
Paula Kenneally’s story
Swimwear has always been an ordeal for me. Trying to find swimwear that looks good, fits right and provides enough support and coverage seems like an impossible task. I’d always end up wearing swimwear I wasn’t comfortable in – it just didn’t fit right. Rather than enjoying myself, I spent time feeling awkward and self-conscious.
One time, I wore bikini bottoms and a sports bra. I had a great time until one of the girls made fun of me for it – even now, I strongly feel the shame she made me feel for that. So wrong.
For a long time, I thought it was just me. Something had to be wrong with me because finding swimwear couldn’t be that hard, right?! But the more I talked about it, the more I heard my friends – all of us different sizes, shapes and ages – complain of the same issues.
Wearing swimwear should mean fun and happy times. It shouldn’t be something that upsets you or stresses you out. But for too many women it means just that. I find that sad. Life’s much too short for that. So rather than complain, I decided to do something. Two things, in fact.
Work on my confidence
Growing up, “fat” was always the easy insult thrown at me. And I just believed it. But I’m learning to not care what other people think. It doesn’t matter! How I feel matters. I do the things that help my mind and body feel good. I’ve cut out negativity, I’m healthy, I exercise, I have amazing family and friends. These things are different for everyone; you just need to find what works for you. Body acceptance isn’t an overnight thing. It’s a journey and that’s okay because we have lots to learn and appreciate along the way!
Start my own swimwear label
UBU focuses on sustainable swimwear that’s ethically and responsibly produced and helps women feel great. I’ve met so many women who said they’d need to lose weight before buying a swimsuit. Or they don’t wear swimwear because they don’t like something about their body. It really saddened me.
UBU isn’t just named YOU BE YOU by coincidence. Part of the reason behind the name is that I wanted to provide swimwear you can be comfortable enough in to enjoy yourself. To just be you. ‘Cos we all know when we feel good, we feel confident. That’s where amazing things can happen.
Being confident and accepting your body for what it is may sound tough but let’s break it down into small steps.
My advice on how to accept your body:
1. Your health and happiness are of top priority
What someone else thinks or how someone tells us we should look isn’t important. We aren’t all born to be or look the same. Embrace your differences because they make you who you are.
2. Find your tribe
Surround yourself with people who support you and make you feel comfortable. You don’t need negativity!
3. You’re your harshest critic
No one looks at you like you look at yourself or judges you as harshly as you judge yourself. Everyone’s caught up in their own thing. If someone is judging you, they aren’t who you need in your life.
4. Wear what you feel comfortable and confident in.
And have fun. Do whatever it is you love doing. Life’s too short!
These realisations and small steps really helped me. I still have moments of self-doubt but I refuse to waste time and energy worrying about it. I love my work, I’m out there enjoying myself and making the most of life – those are my priorities!
Mary Victor’s story
Growing up from my pre-teens to teens was a rollercoaster ride. I had so much self-hatred, low confidence and self-doubt; I was bullied for my size and colour, which also made me unable to focus on school. So I over-exercised and under-ate and tried so many different diets till I had food poisoning. I even purged out my food and had suicidal thoughts.
I was afraid to share my struggles with anyone, not even my family, because I was always pressured to lose weight. People told me I’d look prettier if I was skinny, so I knew my family wouldn’t help much. Ultimately, I dealt with a lot of the pain myself.
When I found my passion for makeup, I felt like I was healing. Making others look beautiful made me feel so good and now it’s my job. I love it so much! With time, I became more confident and hated myself less. Meditation helped me with my healing journey and I recommend this to anyone who’s looking to heal the relationship they have with themselves!
My perspective now isn’t to care about what others think of me. If I think something is amazing and helpful for women, I’ll just do it. It’s inspiring and wonderful to see women standing up and embracing their true selves. It’s empowering!
I’ve got experience dealing with body image as the founder of #TheBodyWithin, a body neutrality movement. I believe body neutrality is a more realistic way to practise body acceptance. This isn’t about how you look physically but how you mentally feel about yourself. It’s about appreciating how much your body does for you on a daily basis and listening to yourself. Basically, it’s taking care of your mental health and accepting that it’s okay to have positive or negative feelings. It’s about realising those feelings. That’s important!
Here are my tips to practise body acceptance:
1. Have a self-care routine
Try something like meditating to begin healing. It’s a great way to turn over a new leaf and have a better perspective of yourself! Even five minutes of daily self-reflection to realise the feelings you have towards yourself can be life-changing.
2. Find a great support system
This can help you when you’re feeling down about yourself. We might be shy to talk about topics with our insecurities and feelings but these are the first steps to healing and growing. So practise sharing your feelings with someone close to you!
3. Write a gratitude list about your body
It’ll help you find parts of your body you’re grateful for. Sure, it might sound silly but this is a great way to start your healing process.
4. Find a community and know you’re not alone
Go at your own pace. People who advocate for you can help you on your way to healing.
Here’s to supporting one another on our journey towards body acceptance!
Words by Mary Victor and Paula Kenneally
Mary Victor is the founder of The Body Within, a professional makeup artist and coach. She started makeup when she was 16, and seven years later, she’s coaching aspiring makeup artists. She created The Body Within movement in an effort to help spread awareness on body image issues in Singapore and Asia.
Paula Kenneally. Founder of UBU Swimwear. Irish. Lived in New Zealand for six years before moving to Singapore. Lover of the outdoors, doing, planning and relentlessly asking why. You’ll most likely find her in activewear or beachwear.