How to Broadcast Body Confidence

body love acceptance

In a culture that encourages women to engage in trash talk about their own bodies, in which body confidence is an act of bravery, it can be daunting to consider broadcasting pride in your own physical form. But you CAN do it, even in the face of an oppressive environment, reluctant peers, and your own hesitation. I swear! It’s true! Because broadcasting body confidence doesn’t have to mean wearing an “I Love My Body” tee shirt or responding to every compliment by say, “Oh, I know.” There are a million tiny ways that you can tell the world you love your body, just as it is. And in doing so, you may just encourage other women to follow suit.

Watch your posture

Posture and pride are visually linked, no question about it, and walking tall is the simplest, quickest way to show anyone who observes you that you are confident and self-assured. Of course, good posture can convey pride about any number of personal traits, many of them non-physical. But it stands to reason that being mindful of your body‘s position as a means of expressing self-confidence will be linked, at least in part, with valuing that same body.

Smile

Telling women to smile is a controversial action, so let me be clear: I’m not telling you to smile. I’m telling you that choosing to smile is one way to broadcast your confidence. Body confidence can certainly be of the fierce, aggressive sort, but many folks who’ve worked hard to accumulate some self-love feel serene and grateful. Smiling at others shows them that serenity and gratitude. Sure, it’s incredibly indirect and the vast majority of onlookers won’t immediately think, “That woman must be smiling because she loves her body!” And yet, in many cases, those who are locked in constant battle with self-loathing are less likely to smile directly at others. Some days suck and some people piss us off, so I’m not advocating big, fake smiles 24/7. Just consider the powerful messages of calm confidence that are broadcast in a simple smile.

Give compliments

What now? You’re asking how telling OTHERS that they look fabulous will prove that you feel fabulous yourself? Well, I’ll tell ya. Jealousy is often borne of a fear of shortage: You envy what someone else has because hey, if they’ve got it, how could there possibly be enough to go around? By showing your lack of jealousy, you exude self-confidence. Indirectly, you’re saying, “I’m genuinely happy for you! Also, not threatened because I’m aware of my own self-worth!” Giving compliments not only spreads good karma and boosts the self-confidence of others, but – albeit indirectly – it shows observers that your generosity of spirit stems from personal pride.

Accept – and append – compliments

This is a more advanced technique, but I’m throwing it out there regardless. When someone compliments you, do NOT deflect. At the very least, respond with a heartfelt, “Thanks!” And once you’re feeling a bit bolder, try appending your responses. If a friend tells you she likes your dress, say, “Thanks! I just adore how it makes my legs look.” If a peer tells you she loves your shoes, say, “Oh thanks, lady! I feel so gorgeous and powerful in these … like I could take over the world!” If a friend tells you your hair looks amazing, say, “You are so sweet! I feel like my hair is one of my best features. Thanks for noticing!”

Don’t engage in body bashing

We women spend a lot of time and energy talking about how much we wish our acne would clear up, our upper arms would get firmer, our wrinkles would vanish. In this day and age, we do it without thinking. Those thoughts, emotions, and words flow forth from us like breaths the moment we’re among friendly comrades. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

One of the best ways to curb trash talk is to have some sit-down talks with your closest friends and tell them you want it to stop. It may be most effective to couch it all in terms of your own feelings: “I worry about how it affects us,” or “I feel like this kind of talk erodes my self-confidence,” or “I’m just exhausted by going over these issues so constantly.” Try to actively avoid body bashing when you gather with your besties.

If that’s not possible, work on your traffic cop skills: Re-route the conversation whenever it turns to negative body talk. “Girls, do we REALLY need to go there? No, we don’t. Let me tell you about the movie I saw last night …” Or just, “Blah, blah, whatever. Hey, did you hear about the new Mexican restaurant that just opened?”

And, perhaps most importantly, don’t take the bait. As difficult as it will be, do not cave and bash your own body when you get verbally set up to do so. You know the drill. Your girlfriend says, “Ugh, I feel so fat and gross. If only I had thin calves like yours.” And you’re supposed to say, “No way! I hate my calves. I wish I had your gorgeous hair …” Yes, there are some compliments floating around in there, but they’re encased in sentiments of self-loathing and jealousy. Not good. When your buddy starts the ball rolling, be blunt. Say, “Stop. We’re both gorgeous, luminous, worthy women. Just look at us!” And move the conversation onward and upward.

Dress confidently

This will mean something different to each of you, but regardless of how it manifests it is definitely a best practice. As always, this is no mandate: Some days require hide-inside clothes, comfy clothes, or no clothes at all. But as often as you can, dress in clothing that makes you feel amazing. Colors that bring out the highlights in your hair, styles that highlight what YOU love best about your figure, shoes that make you walk proudly and confidently. The clothing we wear can be a powerful tool for broadcasting body confidence.

You won’t love your body every single day. You won’t have the confidence and energy to engage all of these tactics every single day. But if you can try them out even a few times a week, they will make a difference. They will build upon themselves and help you nurture that vital seed of body confidence into a gorgeous bloom, and they will subtly show your peers that self-worth isn’t threatening or conceited or abnormal. Do what you can to broadcast body confidence, and you’ll be helping yourself while helping others; The best kind of  goodwill you can possibly spread.

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  • I would tell anyone who wants to project body confidence to start taking dance classes and doing student performances. I learned to dance as an adult, starting with belly dance, which you’d think would be soul-crushing (so many pretty people to compare yourself to) but it’s completely the opposite. Except if you’re trying to be a paid performer at the highest levels, belly dance has a very welcoming, non body-shaming culture. Since then I have taken West African dance, salsa, tango, American ballroom dance, and lately a lot of Zumba (which incorporates Latin and hip hop styles). I love going to belly dance workshops because what you see is hundreds of women with different body types and styles and they are all walking around like they own the world — shoulders back, head held high, core engaged, stepping like princesses. Taking and now teaching dance classes has done loads for my presence. It’s more than just posture — it’s knowing where to place your face when you’re in front of an audience or camera, how to use your eyes. Even my voice has gotten a workout — I can project through a chattering crowd in a large open space without sounding like I’m yelling. I try to bring what I’ve learned from dance into my regular classroom, too.

    • anne

      It’s true, dance IS a good welcoming culture. I dance tango, it was so important to learn to be present in the embrace, to answer his energy with an equal energy saying, I’m here and I know what I’m doing!

    • Anonymous

      have to agree with you. I have always had bad body image. Only time I felt good was when goggling my body at the mirrors and doing dance (the modern for me). Whatever the body shape or perception dance is always beautiful.

  • Courtney

    Love it! You know how people’s faces usually this one expression that’s their neutral? Years ago I realized that smiling made me happier, and I started cultivating a little tiny Mona Lisa smile as my neutral face expression. Practiced in the mirror and everything. People now comment on how happy I seem 🙂

  • Very good advice, and worth heeding! I do try to practice shoulders back, head high every day. It gives a feeling of calm and confidence, even if the world (the office, the store, etc) is going crazy around me. And Just Say No to body criticism – it’s a habit that hurts.

  • Love this post. I definitely need to work on the body bashing elimination, which is hard for everyone but even harder I think when you have very real issues, either current or past, with your body. I was horribly obese as a child and young adult and it is very hard to see my body as it is. Positive self talk goes a long way however.

  • Laurel

    I still have a really hard time with maintaining good posture. I was really self-conscious about my chest as a teenager, and developed horrible posture. I’m a lot happier with my body now, but it’s hard to stand up straight, shoulders back, without feeling like I’m leading with my boobs. Do other large-breasted women feel the same way?

    • KathyG

      What’s wrong with leading with your boobs?! I have a large chest and don’t have a problem with it! Although some times I mitigate their presence with a jacket or sweater if feeling not so confident.

    • Michelle

      I pretty much am leading with my boobs, and I don’t have a problem with it these days.

      I used to wear clothing MANY sizes too large to try to hide my breasts, though, so I’m right there with you on the self-consciousness. Being exposed to the culture of “modesty” in some conservative Christian culture has been useful to me in some unexpected ways–I can’t control other people’s thoughts. Nor should I want to.

      And I certainly should not be ashamed of my own body because of thoughts that may or may not run through other people’s minds!
      🙂

    • I know what you mean. I’m a 32DD… not huge, but big enough to cause problems. I tend to hunch my back and roll my shoulders forward to minimize my chest (and also to make the drape of my clothing less tent-like). When I try to stand up straight I look like I’m going to take someone’s eye out and my clothes swoop off my chest and make my whole body look huge. I guess if were taller, had bigger hips, etc it wouldn’t look so obvious, but the rest of me is kinda small so I look like I’m all chest.

      It’s also easier to hunch when your boobs are heavy. Sitting up straight pinches my back. Sometimes when we’re lounging on the couch I make my boyfriend sit behind me and hold my boobs up, haha. It feels so amazing just to have somebody else’s muscles support them for a few minutes!

      • Eleanorjane

        Lead with your boobs! Don’t be ashamed of what your momma gave you!

        There are fashion fixes for tent-like clothes (I’m sure Sal can give you many – in fact, I think I remember a post about dealing with a boobalicious body).

        And what about some strengthening exercises for the back (i.e. yoga, pilates or whatever?). I’ve been doing yoga once a week for the past year and it’s helped my posture quite a bit by strengthening my muscles and making me more aware of my body.

      • Michelle

        You know, I forgot to mention–

        Someone showed me a picture they took of me earlier this year. In it, I was slouched over. I noticed that seemed to just make my boobs look even *bigger*! Not hide them…

        That’s funny about having your boyfriend hold your boobs up: I know what you mean! 🙂

    • Shaye

      Some advice from someone who once got outright accused of leading with my boobs (in middle school), and didn’t let it ruin my good posture:

      Try envisioning your posture as a product of where you position your torso in relation to your hips, combined with the curvature of your spine, rather than having to do with your shoulders. Ideally, your spine should have a curve right above the backside, and your torso should be aligned with your hips, not slightly in front of. Also, your arms, when held at your sides, should hang even with your hips, not slightly in front of. It’s still possible to roll your shoulders forward when you’re carrying yourself this way, but it’s not comfortable. And hopefully if you’re concentrating on your core and spine, you won’t be as self-conscious of the girls. 🙂

      Do also note that there IS a big difference between standing up straight, and sticking out your boobs. Your upper back should not feel hunched or curved inward between the shoulder blades when you are “standing up straight.” Sure, that does look a little more alert, but it’s just as artificial/bad for you as slumping, and it IS actually leading with your boobs! Your shoulders should also be aligned with your hips, not behind them. Ideally, your shoulders will not look like they’re raised at all.

      I think it’s even MORE important for us large-of-breast women to have good posture, because slumping kind of makes our boobs all blend in with our bellies/hips/what have you.

    • Lydia

      I so know that feeling — I started hunching more and more in high school, as my boobs got bigger — even today, I try and stop myself, but it is the weight of them as well as size (I buy a new bra every six months – the older ones still look great, but elastic not longer supports as it should).

      It helps me to stretch my arms and shoulder muscles, to ‘reset’ my posture throuout the day. Also, a top which some stretch that holds shape (not tent like), but that still skims the torso — strangely a slight heel –even a small wedge helps me stand up straigter.

  • All great ideas. I know that I, for one feel better when I dress for myself – and when I feel better, I smile. Appending compliments though, now that would be tough. I considered it a breakthrough when I was able to just say thank you without adding a “but…”

  • Jamie

    Lol – “Oh, I know.” Seriously though, I love this post and wholeheartedly agree with the tips. Also love Cynthia’s comment – I also dance, and there is nothing like it for body awareness and appreciation.

  • Anat

    Even though I have body issues like (sadly) almost every woman in Western culture, I never indulge in body bashing.

    However, I don’t think I would feel comfortable appending to compliments as you suggest. I hope I accept complements gracefully, most often with a wide smile and a heartfelt thank you, but adding on to that still feels too much like bragging to me. And I don’t know if I would feel comfortable hearing this from other women I compliment.

  • Posture is so important! And it’s something I’m constantly struggling with. I’m the worst sloucher. Maybe I could start a new trend of walking around with a book on my head as a hat? 🙂

  • I struggle with self-image every once in a while, and your tips make a difference! I’ll try smiling more often now, so thanks!

  • Julie

    Love this post–thank you for writing it! You make my internet world a nicer place.

  • Agreed! I decided to commit a couple months ago to smiling more when out and about, and it has been a rewarding experience. I feel good when I do it. I’ve also noticed that it’s often quite infectious.

  • Sharesa

    Love the post! I am a new reader and must say, I love your blog!! One thing I would love to see is your closet!!! How do you organize all of your pieces of clothing, shoes and accessories? I find myself at times forgetting about certain pieces because I am so not organized. If you have done a post about this please point me in the right direction! 🙂

  • Mel

    Everyday on the way into work I have to walk thru the smokers hanging by the door. One particular woman, every stinkin’ day, will call out to me about how sweet I look today, or adorable, or whatever, about how she LOVES my outfit, and LOVES my shoes, and LOVES my haircut, in this disgustingly sugary tone of voice.

    Every day I hear this. Some days I just want to say to her, “Shut up!” Guess that’s not the kind of response you were looking for us to make, eh?

    • Shaye

      For some bizarre reason, I often get purportedly positive comments on my appearance from homeless people. (Not exactly the same thing, but roll with me on this one.)

      My response is always, without slowing down, to call out, “Thank you!” as if I am actually grateful for the compliment and keep on movin’.

      • Kate

        Geez, maybe you guys should examine why you feel this way – especially the comment about pretending like you’re “actually grateful” to get a compliment from a homeless person. maybe it’s just me, but that sounds incredibly condescending and dehumanizing…

        I mean I’m not saying you need to stop and chat, and I think what you *do* seems very appropriate. but what’s with the condescending attitude?? I live in NYC and sometimes get compliments on the street from various kinds of people – and unless they are aggressive or creepy, i AM grateful for them – they brighten my day!

        • I don’t think it’s condescending. I can see how you would read it that way, but I don’t think it’s a case of “eww, a HOMELESS person tried to talk to me!” It seems like maybe these compliments *are* aggressive and that’s why these women feel the way they do. The smoker might be coming off (intentionally or not) as sarcastic and harassy, and the homeless people might seem disruptive and attention-seeking, especially if they’re men. We’ve all run into some dude who walks around like he owns the street, thinking he has a right to ogle and harass any woman in his path and when rebuffed, the woman is automatically “a bitch who can’t take a compliment.”

        • Shaye

          Hm. I understand where you’re coming from, but this comment assumes that the receiver of the “compliment” (sincere or not) thinks it’s okay for strangers to call out comments about one’s appearance in public.

          On the other hand, I commented with the assumption that being called out to by strangers in public is nearly always invasive/aggressive/uncomfortable/creepy. (Thinking of cat calls, for instance.) A comment made by a person with non-threatening body language standing close enough relay a compliment at a standard volume is completely different. I’m talking specifically about a person raising their voice so that they, you, and the people around you can all hear what is said.

          In general, I’m NOT grateful for “compliments” given this way. For one thing, they smack far too much of Schrodinger’s rapist (or his more- or less-threatening cousins, Schrodinger’s serial kill and Schrodinger’s total jerk). However, given that the homeless are, for many reasons, often unable to express themselves in a less fraught/more socially acceptable manner, I’m more inclined to give them a pass – smiling and thanking them, rather than scowling and remaining silent but watchful as I’d do if, say, a dude in a suit acted in the same way.

          Most people are already on guard to people or situations that look threatening in some way. For better or worse, that often includes people like the homeless. (Especially when the cat-caller is in a group and I’m alone.) Responding to the compliment as if it were sincere (ie, as if I were “actually grateful”) can diffuse the situation, in particular when it’s difficult to determine whether it’s sincere or not. I believe that the same principle can be applied to the original commenter’s experience of being made uncomfortable by the daily trek past a group that seems to come off as vaguely threatening. Hypothetical Suit Dude, on the other hand, only alerts me that he may be threatening by calling out to me on the street, which is one of the reasons why he doesn’t get the free pass.

          This is not to say that I go around my city feeling constantly under threat. But in general, people respect the personal bubble while in public, and I think it makes sense to have a strategy for dealing with it when they don’t. Projecting body confidence – projecting confidence, period – not only makes me feel better about myself, it makes me feel safer.

          I didn’t intend for my first comment on this thread to sound dismissive of the homeless, and I apologize that it did. Brevity is the soul of wit – but not, it appears, clarity.

  • Heather

    Love it! Trying it! Thanks!

  • Posts like this one are helping me change the way I see and treat myself. My ‘redesign project’ started out as a wardrobe thing but because of wonderful bloggers like you, my whole life is being redesigned. I’m loving it! 🙂

  • the paragraphs on compliments gave me pause. I know how to give them better than I receive them in face to face situations. I like what Cynthia had to say.

  • Shaye

    Sal, I love your suggestions! However, I’m wondering about one teeny little subheading – “Smile.”

    As one of the millions of sufferers of Chronic Bitchface (just stumbled across this illustration, and I love it), I’ve been told many times by what I’m sure were well-meaning strangers, acquaintances and family members to “smile.” It’s the best form of reverse psychology there is, because it never does anything but make me want to break out the fiercest scowl in my arsenal.

    Which is why, as I’m reading your post, nodding my head, I’m brought up short by “Smile.” It feels immediately like that dude at the bus stop/my great aunt/the annoyingly chipper coworker directing me, unsolicited, to smile, when this is just how my face looks. However, I recognize that this is not what you mean! Still, given that, as you say, seeing a smiling person does not automatically make people think of body confidence, I’m interested in how one might negotiate the difference between advising people to smile for confidence’s sake, and the murky societal waters where women are expected to smile nice and look pretty all the time.

    • Sal

      Ahhh, I know just what you mean, Shaye. Not a Chronic Bitchface sufferer myself, but I can tell you that every single time I’ve been in a foul mood and been instructed to “smile,” I’ve had to restrain myself from acts of bloody murder.

      I’ll have to give more thought to how one might negotiate the relationship between smiling for oneself and smiling to please and appease the general populace and uphold the women-as-pleasant-objects expectation. Very good point.

      • Shaye

        Thanks, Sal. I’ve been giving this a little thought myself, and I realize that one thing I do to project confidence is to not be afraid to smile at people I’m passing as I walk along if I meet their eye. It actually feels a little weird, but I’ve had to train myself to understand that giving someone a smile and then looking away in passing isn’t necessarily weird or invasive, and it signals to them that whatever expression was on my face previously wasn’t directed at them. Even if I am feeling perfectly happy, my default state isn’t to smile.

    • I have chronic bitchface too! I get the “smile” thing all the time and it makes me want to yell at people. It’s so presumptuous of people to think that they are *entitled* to a smile.

  • julie

    OMG!!! i know the woman in the photo! She is tall and beautiful and happens to be a kick-ass hair stylist who I have been going to for the past few months. I am so distracted by seeing her on your blog, that I haven’t actually read the post, and coincidentally I cheated on her today, I got my hair cut and coloured by someone else, not because I wanted to necessarily, but because my hair was desperate, state of emergency bad and I have to travel a long distance to see her and that isn’t happening for another two weeks.
    I am curious to where you got her photo?

  • Great post! I follow all of these rules, though I do have to get better at giving compliments. I probably only give out about three compliments a week. My new goal is to give out one sincere compliment every day. Spread the love! 🙂

    Oh and I’m also guilty of being self deprecating when I’m around other woman. I’ll make jokes about my lack of breasts to seem more down-to-earth, as horrible as that sounds. Must stop that pronto!

  • Shannon K.

    I totally agree that good posture and a smile are a woman’s most important accessories. It exudes confidence and a comfort in your own skin. And the best part is it’s free!

  • Hi,

    I adore your blog, it’s fantastic.

    I love the No body bashing rule. We tend to forget that when we judge others we instil in ourselves the sense that we too are being judged. “insert negative self-image cycle here”

    Love
    T