By now everyone has heard of our new lord and savior, Lizzo, but if you haven’t- today is the day your life changes. As a visibly plus-size public figure who has been sweeping all of the award categories lately, she takes quite a bit of heat. She’s also revered as an image icon for women of all shapes, sizes and ages due to her seemingly unshakable self confidence. But, how does she do it?
As a visibly plus size woman, I’ve always struggled with the word “confidence” when it is directly referenced to my size in conversation. Pro trip: “I love when bigger girls wear great outfits! You’re so confident!” is not a compliment. It is a great way to tell me that you think I should be swaddled in my grandmother’s curtains and apologizing for the space that I take up. So I’d like to make a distinction early in this post. Confidence, in the way that we most often use it in this manner, can be faked and looks very different in its authentic form. It is also not transferable to all abilities or categories. You can be confident in your abilities at work, while struggling with body image. Whereas self love is typically all-encompassing as the foundation for authentic confidence… but it takes much more work.
This applies to most bodies, but plus size bodies have a leg up here just based on the sheer amount of practice we have with body and confidence policing. We already know that our appearance will be met with scrutiny so when the internal question of “Oof. What are they going to think of me in this sheer leopard print top covered in fringe?” comes up, the answer is always going to be, “yo, people are gonna be super uncomfortable.” You know it already. You’ve met this truth over and over in your life. Congrats love, half your work is done! But now is the hard part. What are you going to do with this truth now?
You can put on the top and some metaphorical armor that says, “I look great and f*ck anybody that doesn’t think so!” It works- until someone actually takes that as a challenge. Seriously, how many times have you been like, “f*ck this guy!” and then immediately crumbled inside when someone actually told you you looked like a dumpster fire? Or even stuck with the “f*ck this guy!” attitude all night but had that disapproving look or comment play over and over in your head as you lie down to sleep?
The problem with this mentality is that it puts the focus on the other person- who we already know has a problem with what you’re wearing- and even possibly who you are as a person just by what outfit you have on . I mean, yeah- that person’s opinion probably is garbage, but why even give them the power to make you put on that armor in the first place?
Here is our other option: grace and an internal source of love and acceptance. It is hard. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Instead of, “f*ck that guy” I had to change the internal monologue to things like, “I deserve to wear something that makes me happy and feel attractive.” Or, “there will be people that don’t care for this, but it says more about their thoughts of themselves than it does me. I can give them grace, or even forgive them, because I know what it’s like to feel judged by myself or others.” You cannot control what others will think of you, but you can completely control what anger or hurt you choose to pick up and carry.
It may feel super cheesy, but it works. The more you can see the hurt behind the cruel actions or words of others, the more you can understand your own- and vice versa. Eventually, that self love gives you a bit more peace time and time again and authentic self-confidence begins to take hold. Instead of walking in with armor and the “f*ck that guy” sass, you light up rooms just by celebrating even the smallest parts of yourself and others.
I’ve not met any one person that has great self love days one hundred percent of the time, and I know a lot of people that I believe truly deserve that. Here is where the buzz around Lizzo comes in. She has an image and a brand now- one of self-love and confidence. In order to continue making money and have a successful career as a celebrity and influencer, that image must stay in tact. I’ve created and curated images and brands and worked tirelessly on PR and media pitches for people that just had to show up and stick to the talking points.
I am not promising that is the case for Lizzo or even discounting her hard work at all here. She is literally paving new, incredible paths for the world, but it is important to understand that she likely has bad self-love days too, just like us. She also likely has a team who can manage her outfits, social media and PR duties or speaking cues to help celebrate her as the queen she is even on those bad days. It is okay to build your own team to do the same for you as long as you give back in the same way.
Building self love and authentic confidence takes time, practice and patience- and you’ll never get it perfect. That may drive you absolutely insane but also give a bit of comfort if you’re anything like me. There is no easy tip or trick, no magic formula- just a ton of understanding and forgiveness. If you are working at it, you’ll get it eventually and create a life, and bangin’ wardrobe, so much bigger than you ever could have dreamt.
Here’s to what’s next.