This month’s issue of IMAGE magazine is The Confidence Issue, full of Ireland’s leading female voices on our relationships with our bodies. One of modern life’s holy grails is achieving a state of acceptance about our bodies and loving them just as they are. CLAIRE O’MAHONY caught up with a selection of Irish women who share the moment they discovered body image has nothing to do with how you look in a mirror.
This month, while many glossies are leading the search for that elusive “bikini body”, we decided to do something a little different and focus on the power of the female body and our relationship to it. (Besides, if you have a “body” and you put it in a “bikini”, there’s little more to say on that subject.) “Body confidence” can mean a lot of different things to different people. The term itself is a little confusing, even by the order in which it appears. Does it suggest that the physical is more important than the mental? How someone looks is surely less important than how they feel. Some of the most beautiful women I know aren’t terribly confident and some of the most confident women I know might not be considered traditionally beautiful, but can command a room better than a full line-up of Victoria’s Secret models. Then, of course, the right dress or the perfect shade of lipstick can not only make you look incredible, but feel sensational too. The good news is that confidence is something we all have the power to possess, but it takes twice as much commitment and dedication as a gym membership. – ROSALEEN MCMEEL, EDITOR OF IMAGE
I don’t know anyone who would stand up and say, ‘I am totally happy with my body’. They post photos to Instagram that would suggest they are, but when you meet them in person, that’s often not the case. If you were just looking at Instagram, you’d think everyone was in the best nick of their lives. Everyone’s at the gym, everyone’s got biceps, I’ve seen them all. But the metrics are telling us that we are more obese than ever, we have a health crisis. This echo chamber of Instagram makes it seem like everyone is doing the right thing, but they are not. On the other hand, there is the fat-shaming culture. We have a responsibility to not dictate to women how their bodies should look, but also there is something to be said for not blurring the lines between ‘I’m happy with my body’ and ‘I’m being complacent about my health’ in terms of being over- and underweight. People are not fat, they have fat, and it is a transient thing. – STEFANIE PREISSNER, WRITER AND OUR JULY COVER STAR
Triona McCarthy. Picture credit: Mark Condren
Your body is amazing, just the way it is. Whether it’s thick or thin, through sick and sin. Let’s try to appreciate what we have before time makes us appreciate what we had. – TRIONA MCCARTHY, BEAUTY WRITER. Read Triona’s full story from the July issue here.
My body is my work. When I look back on my achievements, a lot of the time I’m in awe of what my body can do, and I pour all my energy into making it as efficient and powerful as possible. – NATALYA COYLE, MODERN PENTATHLETE & OLYMPIAN
Anne Gildea. Picture Credit: Marc O’Sullivan
Given the type of disease I had (triple-negative), when the tissue from the mastectomy showed that every trace of cancer had been killed, I was given the all-clear to keep living, and that profoundly changed how I relate to my body: Not a thing to fight with because it doesn’t look great in a unitard, but treasured healthy limbs, torso and head that enable the miraculous experience of life itself on this bonkers planet right here, right now. That’s where I’m at now. – ANNE GILDEA, WRITER & PERFORMER
Because I came from a place where I had almost zero body confidence, I make sure I look after how I speak to myself, that inner voice. If I start beating myself up for over-indulging or not working out or anything that isn’t about loving this amazing body that I have been blessed with, I’m now more aware and have the tools to turn this negative, useless talk around, to give myself a break, to be kinder and more compassionate to myself. – LIZ COSTIGAN, FITNESS TRAINER & POSITIVE FITNESS PROJECT FOUNDER
I went to a yoga class and the teacher spoke about loving yourself and being kind and nurturing to every aspect of your being. I wanted to cry, as I realised I never, ever gave myself a break. In my mind, I was always striving to be better, and never once in my life actually stopped to appreciate how wonderful, brave and kind I was and how blessed I was to have a body that was healthy. – GEMMA HAYES, SINGER-SONGWRITER & COMPOSER
My passion for all things healthy came after years of pushing myself to the limit whilst I was modelling and being “skinny” was the only thing I cared about. I wasted years planning how I would stay slim, every minute of every day, thinking of what my next meal would – or wouldn’t – be. I tried every fad diet that ever existed, not realising I was jeopardising my health, both physical and mental, and ultimately my happiness. I firmly believe now that mental health is the key to physical health, ultimate success and happiness. – AMANDA BYRAM, TV PRESENTER & WELLNESS GURU
Today, when I look at you, my body, I see something beautiful and strong that deserves the utmost respect and gentleness in a world that too often implies I should try to change you. Instead, I choose to celebrate you by adorning you with art and showing you off with fashion. I wear our scars with pride. I’m ready, more than anything else, to love and celebrate your power and strength. I feel incredibly lucky and proud that we have found peace together. I promise to always embrace and love you as I do now, and to one day hopefully give life to another beautiful body who will be taught that her or his body is endlessly empowering too. – NIAMH O’DONOGHUE, IMAGE JUNIOR SOCIAL EDITOR AND CONTENT CREATOR
Evanna Lynch, April 2016 IMAGE. Picture Credit: Patrick Bolger
It was in that therapy room confronted with so many other women living in fear, dulling their senses, distracting themselves from their true potential with a superficial addiction that I realised how meek and cowardly it really was to define myself by my body, and how bold it would be to stop fighting for a lovable body and dig much deeper in myself for the things about me that nobody else is. – EVANNA LYNCH, ACTOR. Read Evanna’s full story from the July issue here.
Read the full stories from all of these incredible women in the July issue of IMAGE, on shelves nationwide now.