“Self-acceptance is a journey complete with shitty days and good days… it’s a decision you have to make over and over again just to love yourself.”
In a perfect world every single woman would feel confident and happy with her appearance all the time.
In reality, that’s not always the case. Even the most self-assured women have days when they feel less than sparkly. Others live with unhappiness or insecurities for months, or even years, on end.
It’s something that model Jessica Vander Leahy has seen in countless women she has come into contact with through her work. Vander Leahy is a frequent Instagram poster – often uploading shots of her modelling shots, and she says through social media women she has never met reach out to her to ask her advice on how they can feel better about themselves.
“It made me wonder if there is a real lack of honest conversation about the way women feel about themselves and the natural highs and lows they go through — not only about body image, but also on their journey to figuring out what it means to be a woman and being happy and content with themselves,” Vander Leahy explains.
Vander Leahy took it upon herself to facilitate this open, honest conversation by launching #ProjectWomanKIND — an online video series featuring candid interviews with women about body image, health, and other aspects of life as a woman.
The first videos feature Aussie models Sophie Sheppard, Margaret MacPherson, Stefania Ferrario, Olivia Langdon and Vander Leahy herself.
The women were encouraged to be as honest as possible about their body hang-ups, and their advice for overcoming them.
“All of the models were so vulnerable and honest about the diets they’ve tried and all the ways they punished themselves and their bodies for not conforming to what they wanted, but ultimately they’ve come to accept themselves,” Vander Leahy says.
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“I thought it was great to get models to talk about not feeling perfect, because sometimes people may think models don’t have insecurities because they willingly get their kit off… but we’re some of the most insecure people you will ever meet because we’re reminded almost daily about our flaws,” she says.
Vander Leahy admits it was nerve-wracking to bare her insecurities during the interview, but says it’s important to acknowledge that it’s okay to love and accept yourself, ‘imperfections’ and all.
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Vander Leahy wants #ProjectWomanKIND to dissuade women from measuring their value according to how they look. “I hope these interviews can inspire and empower women to see that physical beauty is such a latent second to all of the great things they can use their bodies to achieve,” she says.
“They can give birth to babies, run marathons, build homes and fight bigger wars in the world using their physical bodies instead of fighting an exhaustive battle within themselves over the size of their friggin’ hips. Spending your whole life fighting that fight, well, what a waste of a gift that would be, huh?”
Vander Leahy admits her feelings about her body tend to ebb and flow, but on those days where she doesn’t feel “amazing” she has a few tricks that make her feel better, like hanging around positive people or doing something that makes her feel good, like exercise (followed by a wine and a laugh at the pub).
“Mostly I just try and keep on top of whatever is bugging me and actively make a decision to keep it in perspective. I remind myself that most of the time nothing is ever that bad and I’ll even remind myself that, ‘Hey, you’re gonna die one day — do you really want to waste your time on this today?’ Usually the answer is ‘no’,” she says.
Vander Leahy also credits her mother — who she describes as a “really confident lady” — for raising her to understand appearance wasn’t the be-all and end-all, and not putting too much focus on weight or dieting.
“I’m really grateful my mum didn’t give me those foundations of insecurity. I shrug off those moments of disappointment about my stretch marks or cellulite or whatever because I was raised to think it’s not the worst thing in the world,” she says.
“Making ProjectWomanKIND made me realise self-acceptance is a journey complete with shitty days and good days … it’s a choice – a decision you have to make over and over again to just love yourself and appreciate all of yourself in spite of what other factors might be influencing you. I hope that comes across to people who watch it.”
How do you feel about your body?
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