Woman reflectingMost mornings, I look in my bathroom mirror and say, “I’m a big bright burning star and I’m gonna shine forever!” The reality is some mornings I may not believe it but I say it anyway. It’s my chance to cloak myself in love and assurance before I walk into the world, playing the leading role in my one-woman show. Even when I’m uncertain, channeling confidence and taking informed risks inspires me to live boldly.

That’s my body confidence.

For me, body confidence means living out loud, being strong and fearless—and sometimes vulnerable… fearful. In my best moments, it’s about being present. In my worst, it’s about forgiving myself. Body confidence is our ability to proudly (re)claim who we are, realizing our complexities do not diminish, but accentuate, who we are, what we’ve accomplished, and what we can build together. Our differences—marked by age, race, size, gender, class, dis/ability, sexuality, our many dimensions, inform our social lens and our response to social injustices. Different as we may be, one of the strongest connections we share is our ‘messiness.’

Our bodies—especially women and girls’ bodies—are highly policed, which in turn encourages self-policing causing some of us to be more concerned with our ‘package’ than our purpose. As a talkative child, I was often told: “Good girls are seen and not heard.” Good girls, it appeared, were made of sugar and spice, wore pretty dresses, and flattering accessories. Though I didn’t know it, these gendered messages advocated silence and prompted me to second-guess myself, making me think my style had to fit in some gender box. As I aged, I learned how much I enjoyed being a ‘bad girl’ in the most fashionable pant suits I could find! I learned to enjoy troubling silence and subverting boundaries.

By now, I’ve been very fortunate to speak with women and girls about body confidence. Much of my work involves helping us reimagine diverse bodies away from fault and beyond decoration or objectification. I co-founded the Body Confidence Canada Awards (BCCAs) to acknowledge people who are actively redefining what body image, body confidence, and ‘emBODYed’ activism can look like. It’s an opportunity to recognize ‘othered’ bodies talking back against stifling body ideals and social scripts. It’s a chance to celebrate the power we own in sharing our ideas and taking up space even when we are the only ‘one’ in the room, and even when we might not know the right answers.

Besides, what are right answers but consensus? Sometimes ‘wrong’ answers are the most compelling and transformative. I’ve found nothing is more haunting than when a question is asked and the person next to you in the ‘classroom’ or ‘boardroom’ of life answers the call, saying exactly what you wanted to but couldn’t.

Girls who participated in the Canadian Women’s Foundation’s Girls Voice Video Contest thankfully will never know that experience. They are speaking up and out, embracing feminism, tackling racism, championing LGBTTIQQ2SA* rights, and taking their rightful place in herstory today. This is body confidence.

I dream of a world filled with body-confident women and girls. To paraphrase one of the world’s greatest intellectual activist minds, the late “Black, lesbian, feminist, mother, warrior, poet” Audre Lorde: if you do not define yourself for yourself, you will be crunched into other people’s fantasies for you and eaten alive.

How do you define your body confidence? Don’t forget to share it. We are all fantabulous works in progress and when we share, we grow.

* Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer, Questioning, 2-Spirited and Allies

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