At IMAGE, we believe in real beauty. Each of us is different and we want to celebrate that. In our Love Your Body series, we speak to real Irish women about what beauty means to them. While they might be of different ages and come from different backgrounds, they all have one thing in common: they have proudly embraced their bodies and real beauty. This week, Lynn Jo Chaney (a self-confessed “chubby gal”) tells us about shedding her insecurities and embracing her fuller figure.
Lynn Jo has struggled with body image for years. “When I hit college, I started to pile the weight on. I don’t like my knees or my arms, but the big thing I had an issue with was my tummy. It was always so large and flabby; I hated the way it looked in clothes – and without clothes.”
Related: There is nothing more radical than liking your own body
Now aged 26, Lynn Jo admits her weight has affected her confidence in the past. “I would get massively bloated,” she says. “By the time I’d get home from work, I would look like I was ready to give birth. I was convinced that’s all anyone was thinking about me.
“All my friends are gorgeous with stunning figures; always wearing the nicest outfits. I would find myself sticking to what I knew – not trying anything new. Trying on clothes just became a nightmare. I’d end up crying because nothing fit. I couldn’t even wear heels; the extra weight made them so uncomfortable. Getting ready for nights out always made me feel so rotten,” she concedes.
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Lynn Jo’s insecurity began to impact her relationships, with the Dublin-native saying she didn't have the courage to go up and talk to anyone. “I had no confidence when it came to boys at all," she says. "I barely wanted to see myself naked, let alone have anyone else see me.”
The turning point
Over the past year, Lynn Jo's feelings have shifted. The woman who once hid behind flowy tops and dresses is now wearing more fitted clothes; even cropped hoodies. But what changed? “I am still chubby and desperately trying to shift a few stone," she says, "However, I have come to the realization that other people don’t give a rat’s about my body. I am the only one who cares so much.
"Being in Slimming World and Weight Watchers has made me realise there are people out there who would kill to have my figure, and I have stopped taking it for granted,” Lynn Jo explains.
Related: The power of positive daily affirmations
“I have also realised that most guys don’t actually care about how slim you are (and if they do, we don’t want to be dating them anyway, do we?). I have started hearing more comments about how I am perfect the way I am, and that definitely boosts the confidence a bit and makes you see yourself in a different light.
“Recently on a work night out, I looked in the mirror and didn’t fuss over how I looked. I was happy. I felt like I stood a chance, even when standing among all the other girls. While I would still like to work on my weight and tone up more, I don’t think I’d mind anymore if I stayed the same. That, to me, is my way of coming to love my body.”
Beauty 'ideals' need to change
There's a huge disparity between the women we see in beauty advertisements and the women of the real world. While beauty and fashion campaigns are becoming more inclusive (of different cultures and body shapes), Lynn Jo still doesn't feel it represents her. “At the end of the day, these larger models are still massively toned; none of them has curves or bumps. The make-up models are all flawless. I don’t want to see how my foundation will look on a blank, perfect canvas; I want to see how it looks on someone with an uneven skin tone and spots.”
The lack of representation of real women in the media is what makes many of us feel self-conscious. "Even the bloggers who get invited to fancy make-up launches in Ibiza are flawless," she points out. "We need more real people in the beauty industry, and more emphasis on helping people find what look fits them; not making themselves fit a look."
Finding happiness again
The most important thing to Lynn Jo is learning to feel happy in her own skin. “That is something I have learned over the past year, and something I really stick to. You do it all for yourself. Guys may tell you they think you look great without make-up. But if you love make-up and it’s your thing – if it’s what you need to do to feel like your best self – then do it.
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“It’s all about being happy in yourself," she surmises. "No one should be judged for what they need to do to feel that way. And we who worry about being judged need to stop judging others. Someone has had lip fillers and you think they’re too much? That might have been just what they needed.
"We are all on a journey; different journeys to each other. Some take longer than others to get to the destination, but we need to support everyone while they try,” she says.
While Lynn Jo has come to embrace her body image, other Irish women are finding it incredibly difficult. According to a study by the National Women's Council of Ireland and Ignite Research, 41% of Irish women reported being unhappy or very unhappy with how they look. These negative feelings prevented one in five of them from applying for a job, and 8% of them from visiting their doctor. It’s time for us all to promote (and recognise) real women for what they are: beautiful.
IMAGE Beauty Festival
Join us for an unforgettable weekend of beauty in the heart of the Irish capital! Tickets for IMAGE Beauty Festival are available now. We look forward to seeing you there on May 25-26.