Laura Henshaw: My body confidence mantra
Pressing ‘mute’ on social media and valuing your accomplishments can go a long way to feeling good about yourself, writes Laura Henshaw.
Laura Henshaw is a student, entrepreneur and model with a keen focus on mental and physical wellbeing.All articles
Comparing yourself to others is natural. But it’s not always great for your self-confidence. If how you feel about yourself is totally defined by others, you lose control of your own image. And for me, the biggest trigger is being on social media.
The comparison trap
When we look in the mirror, the first thing a lot of us do is think of the negatives. We concentrate on our physical appearance, not the things we love about ourselves. The same thing happens when we’re scrolling through our social feeds.
I know when I get into a trap of comparing myself with others, it’s because of accounts I’ve started following, or by spending too much time online. I used to set unrealistic goals for myself that I couldn’t meet. I was aspiring to look like people completely different to me – and in some cases, people who’d edited their photos so heavily they no longer looked like themselves.
You have to be really careful with what you take on, and what you let yourself be influenced by. A lot of people on social media say they eat a certain way, but it might not be true. And that can be damaging. Because of what I was following, I had a specific goal weight that I worked to get to, and when I got to that weight, it brought me no happiness. It just made me realise that nothing physical about yourself – no goal weight or other transformation – is ever going to make you happy.
People share the best five per cent of their lives online, and if you’re not careful you compare 100 per cent of your life to that. You’re aspiring to something that’s not real, and you can lose self-confidence along the way. You’re setting yourself up for failure.
Taking control of social media
Social media is part of my job, but now I try to limit it. Sometimes you do need to remember that you are in control of who you follow and how much time you spend on there! Every now and then, I take time to clean up my social media to make sure my feed is a source of inspiration – not feelings of inadequacy.
I also try to limit unproductive screen time, like aimlessly scrolling. It’s hard – sometimes I switch off, but then work stuff will come up and I just can't. I’ve decided that's just the way it is. I control it where I can. And if I can't, I try and make it work. I’ve enabled the pop-up screen time notification on my phone, which I think is really great. And I do my best to make sure that if I'm out with friends or having dinner with my partner, I'm totally off my phone.
There is a positive role for social media to play in body image. Through what we do at Keep It Cleaner, we've been able to reach out to tens of thousands of women and inspire them to exercise and to feel good. I think it's a really good tool for inspiration, as long as it doesn't cross the line of comparison.
When you think about it, the people in your life who you spend the most time with will have the greatest influence. And if you spend a lot of time on your phone, it's exactly the same thing. Are you spending time following people who don't make you feel good and don't have a lot of purpose? They're going to influence you. Why not choose to follow women who are doing amazing things in science, in politics? Spend some time with them, instead.
Make your #onechange
Try a social media audit: unfollow any accounts that make you feel bad, and seek out positive influencers for enrichment and inspiration.
Find value in who you really are
For me, body confidence means valuing yourself beyond just a number on the scale. Eat well out of respect for yourself, not as a punishment. Exercise because of how it will make you feel, not how it will make you look. Get strong, get empowered, get confident. Measure yourself by things you can control – your studies, your career, your relationships – not the things that are out of your control.
It’s important to remember how you feel on your good days, because you’re going to have bad days, too – everybody does. No one feels 100 per cent confident all of the time; we all have our doubts about ourselves.
If I’m having one of those days, I get off my phone – that’s my number one rule. Social media is usually the reason that I’m not feeling good about myself, so I shut it down. I go back to the reasons that I do value myself – things that have nothing to do with physical appearance. I remind myself of my value. I spend time with my friends – they always make me feel good. I take a self-care day – treat myself to a nice breakfast, go to the movies or go for a run if I feel like it. Anything that makes me feel good.
There’s an exercise for people who are struggling with their self-confidence: write down three things that you love about yourself physically, and three things that you love about yourself non-physically. I have mine written out at home, and I look at it when I feel down. At first, I had to repeat it so many times. But it really helps. When you look in the mirror, instead of thinking negatively, you go to your positive thoughts because you’ve reinforced them in your mind.
We can spend our lives thinking that looking a certain way or eating a certain diet or following a certain fitness regime is going to make us happy. But happiness is not a destination. It’s the journey. Life goes up and down – you’ll have good days and bad. Find value in yourself and you’ll be able to navigate through it all.
Laura Henshaw is a student, entrepreneur and model with a keen focus on mental and physical wellbeing. She co-founded Keep It Cleaner, an online health and fitness program, and will soon publish a book designed to encourage young women to live their best lives. The information in this article is general information only and is not intended as medical, health, nutritional or other advice. You should obtain professional advice from a medical or health practitioner in relation to your own personal circumstances.
The information in this article is general information only and is not intended as financial, medical, health, nutritional, tax or other advice. It does not take into account any individual’s personal situation or needs. You should consider obtaining professional advice from a financial adviser and/or tax specialist, or medical or health practitioner, in relation to your own circumstances and before acting on this information.