Are you feeling less confident about your looks now than you were a year ago? You’re not alone.
According to research by fashion brand Snag, 34% of people say their body confidence has taken a hit during lockdown, rising to 40% for under-25s, while No7 found that more than 55% of women believe their skin has aged by up to five years over the course of the pandemic.
A survey carried out by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons found that the most in-demand post-lockdown treatments were wrinkle smoothing, breast augmentation and dermal fillers, with two fat-reducing treatments completing the top five.
Why has body confidence dropped during the pandemic?
“Covid-19 and the lockdown period has brought with it a whole host of body image and confidence-related issues for both women and men,” says Astrid Longhurst, body confidence expert and author of Romancing Your Body, which she puts down – in part – to seeing ourselves on video calls and not having as many of the distractions of normal life.
“Combine this with reduced physical activity, increased screen time – which has exposed us to many more images of perceived body ideals through the media, lack of sleep due to anxiety, and more focus on how we look due to the demand for video meetings, and we have a recipe for a national body confidence breakdown.”
Longhurst says that we’ve been “living in a low-grade stress response for over a year”, meaning our coping skills are compromised. “This hypervigilance can also extend to how we view and perceive our own bodies, with many people becoming more aware of their wrinkles, weight, age, shape, fitness, and overall health in a negative way.”
Here, Longhurst offers her advice on how to regain your confidence and learn to love your body.
Listen deeply to your life
Practising mindfulness can help you to “move away from focusing on what your body looks like and on to what life feels like,” Longhurst says.
“Listen to the rain outside your window, the birds singing, the trees rustling in the breeze, the sound of children playing, the kettle boiling, the shower water flowing, your loved ones talking, your favourite music playing and your own heart whispering to you about what feels right.”
Wipe away worry
Physical actions combined with self-compassion can help to reframe negative thoughts.
Longhurst says: “Gently rub both hands together, bring them up to your face and smooth both hands over your skin upwards in a loving movement. Imagine that you are wiping away any worry or stress-related lines or wrinkles.”
Hug your negative feelings
“Although it might seem contradictory to welcome or hug a negative feeling, it actually helps to diminish their power,” Longhurst says. “Imagine you are opening your arms out to give a good friend or loved one a hug and then fold the negative feeling into your chest as you embrace it.
“Breathe into the feeling and say in your head, ‘It’s all OK, thank you for being here. I’ve heard you now and you’re safe’. No negative feeling can remain if you are not resisting it.”
Look for the wonderful
Using the ‘glass half full’ approach is a great way to focus on what’s good about your life, and your body, instead of getting bogged down in a pessimistic spiral.
“Every day, ask the question, ‘How wonderful can things get?’” Longhurst says. “This simple little question primes the mind to go looking for answers that show you just how wonderful life can be.”
Even if you’re not yet brimming with body positivity, by repeating self-affirming words, you can manifest the confidence you desire.
“Make positive, grateful statements or affirmations for having already achieved all that you want in the ‘now’ tense,” Longhurst says.
“For example, ‘I’m so grateful that I am full of health and vitality’, or, ‘My body is my greatest friend. I trust her completely’. Read your new life script every day and allow yourself to really feel the joy of how this would feel.”