The words’ self-love‘ sound simple but ponder a minute longer, and one might start to wonder, where does it begin, and when does it constitute being selfish. Mental health issues are more prevalent than ever, and as loud as messages about accepting your body as it is (healthy, that is), so are the blatant ideas that beauty is skinny is flawless. It’s a vicious cycle.
One such notable name in the market is The Body Shop, the first beauty brand to talk about self-esteem—since 1997. Founder Anita Roddick believed that beauty is an outward expression of everything you like about yourself. The iconic 1997 campaign featured the slogan: “There are three billion women who don’t look like supermodels and only eight who do.”
The brand continues to promote this, especially with the recent launch of their campaign, Rise Up with Self-Love. Joining this movement is Jameela Jamil and Sara Kuburic (also popularly known as The Millennial Therapist on Instagram).
You might know Jamil from the show The Good Place or as a passionate advocate and creator of I Weigh, a platform/community that encourages radical inclusivity in all forms. The multi-hyphenate star is well known for her brutal honesty matched with fantastic humour. Kuburic’s Instagram handle isn’t just a catchy-cool username. She is a real-life existential therapist, writer, life coach and mental health advocate—and has a clinic that operates worldwide.
We joined them in an exclusive panel discussion on the topic of self-love, hosted by The Body Shop, and it was a powerful conversation by women, amongst women, for women. Here are some of our favourite quotes.
Saying no to her images being Photoshopped during her modelling days
Jameela Jamil: “I knew I felt terrible about myself because I couldn’t help but compare myself to a digitally-enhanced image. When we edit our own photographs, we’re setting ourselves up for failure. Human beings are trying to live up to impossible standards set by technology. When you scroll through the Explore page on Instagram, it’s the same beauty look. It’s not even Angelina Jolie specifically. It’s the big lips but a tiny nose, the big eyes and thin-but-beautiful face—all of that at the same time. Everyone’s very contoured and altering images so much that I think it sets you up for sadness in the mirror.
“I don’t want airbrushing or Photoshop because it makes me feel bad about myself. I need to get used to seeing my pores and wrinkles, and I think women aren’t encouraged to find those beautiful. Women are inherently gorgeous in our own special way, and I want us to feel better about things like lines or a lack of symmetry. As an ethnic minority, I don’t want my skin lightened. I don’t want my nose to be made smaller or to look more Euro-centric. I want to look like where I’m from, and I want to look that way with pride. So, it just means a lot to me. I’m not doing it for attention, but it’s something I’m doing to protect myself.”
How to truly embrace that self-worth transcends social media presence
Sara Kuburic: “Focus on the relationship with yourself versus how other people relate to you. Change the conversation and think what a massive shift it would be if we put as much effort into the relationship we have with ourselves as we do with other people. It would change the way we present ourselves on social media too because most of that is us wanting attention, acknowledgement and appreciation. None of those things is wrong but social media can be set up in a way that makes us try to get it—and that is quite harmful to us.”a
Their thoughts on certain challenges (e.g. Earphones Waist Challenge) on social media platforms that can negatively affect young women and their self-esteem or body image
Jameela Jamil: “We need to start a revolution against it. I’m upset to see so many adverts to young women about weight loss products slotted in between videos of extremely thin—and often edited—young girls. A lot of whom are struggling with their own self-image and eating disorders in order to stay thin enough to be, well, appreciated on social media. The fact that these challenges are allowed and how these adverts are specifically targeting teenage girls too. The men that I follow do not get targeted by diet adverts, but I do based on the algorithm. I would sit with my friends, and we’ll see what comes up for us, and it’s completely different. That is sexist, inappropriate, and it is literally killing people. Eating disorders are the number one cause of death in any mental illness. We need to start taking that seriously—an eating disorder is not a vanity problem for a teenage girl where she’s just consumed with her own self-image. It is severe and deadly.”
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Sara Kuburic: “No, it’s horrifying. I heard about those challenges a couple of weeks ago, and I can’t believe that it’s allowed. I know a lot of activists who get shut down just for posting pictures of their cellulite—of having too much—which the platform deems as inappropriate content. It was really fascinating to see how it’s intended to harm mental health. It’s intended to tell women that they’re not good enough, not skinny enough, not ‘whatever’ enough. What could be helpful is teaching women that genuine connection does not equate to social media. Having adequate boundaries around it is really important.
The Self-Love Index by The Body Shop talks about how people who spend more than two hours on social media find that their mental health and self-esteem generally decrease. That’s a significant finding.
So I think it’s really crucial for us to start having boundaries on what content we do follow, what platforms we do support just by being on time or how much time we spend on them. We don’t have an agency over what sort of crap is thrown our way all the time, but we can at least take some responsibility for what we choose to follow or not follow. What sort of ‘challenges’ we choose to reenact or not reenact. As women, it sucks that we’re put into these positions, but we have to take a better responsibility over how we can protect ourselves from a society that is designed, in a way, that can harm our mental health.”
How their self-love journey began
Jameela Jamil: “Starting therapy. Once you start, you lift up that first layer of pain and trauma. As a woman, especially, you tend to be an onion of stored trauma because we tend to have to tolerate and swallow everything stoically. Therapy made me realise that I’ve wasted a lot of my life and time trying to please other people. God forbid, a woman should be selfish and selfish enough to ask what kind of life she wants to live.
“I started to imagine if I had an app that can tell me how many minutes of every day I’ve spent wondering how I could fit into the patriarchy’s ideal of who I should be and what I should look like. And I wanted to cry at the thought of how many hours, months, days or years I have spent, distracted from my happiness, my growth, my mental health, good sex—all of these different things. It’s been an ongoing journey since then to dare to ask myself what do I want.”
Sara Kuburic: “I had an event in my early 20s that triggered severe panic attacks for a year straight. That was my wake-up call—I suppose many people could relate to this—that I wasn’t living for myself but for other people. Just because I was getting so many pats on the head as well as accolades for being who I should be being. I didn’t realise how miserable I was. That phase substituted any genuine self-esteem or relationship I had with myself. When I started to struggle with panic attacks, a lot of trauma came up, and when I went to therapy, it was like that same onion peeling moment.
“What was really helpful for me was when I started travelling around then, and I realised what it means to be a woman in different cultures. What it means to be a white woman when I show up in different cultures—the different expectations. It showed me my privilege and insecurities. It showed me who I was, regardless of context. It was one of the most beautiful ways to solidify who I want to become, to ask myself what do I really deserve and how do I want my legacy or impact to be. That was my journey towards self-love.”
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Their advice on silencing the worst critics in our life—ourselves
Jameela Jamil: “Someone once told me that words have authority over thought, and I have found it to be true. The more I listen out for that inner bully—an inner bully planted by society—the quicker I identify it. And I think, would I say that to a woman I love or respect? Never. So why am I saying it to myself, and there’s no one to protect me because I’m saying it in the privacy of my own company. Identify that inner bully and stick up for yourself. Do it out loud. I interrupt those thoughts out loud: ‘No, no, you can’t talk to me that way.’ Sure, I look quirky doing it in public, but that’s what it takes to shut that practice. ‘I’m not too old for this. I’m not too fat. I am entitled to love and respect just as much as anyone else,’ I’d say.
“We not only need to be more careful about what we say to ourselves, but to each other. If you noticed that a friend has lost weight, don’t congratulate her. You are putting pressure on that friend who will try to maintain that weight loss. They feel scrutinised. It’s not a compliment because then it also implies that weight gain is a failure—and that is not true. Switch up your compliments to friends—compliment what they’re wearing or how funny or intelligent they are. These non-traditional compliments will change us as a community as well as how we think. That there’s value in how smart or helpful someone is.”
Sara Kuburic: “Yeah, it’s similar for me too. Except (laughs) I make myself apologise. ‘No, no, we’re going to take a moment, and you’re going to admit what you did wrong. And then you’re going to reframe what you were trying to communicate with me because it wasn’t that I suck or I’m too fat or not smart enough. It was that you were feeling scared or triggered, so let’s get to the bottom of what you were really trying to communicate and then we can move on.’ That’s something I’ve been really intentional about, and it takes a lot of time in my head, but I think it’s so important. I ask my clients to do this all the time.”
Catch a recap of the IG Live session that Jameela Jamil and Sara Kuburic did below:
To follow the #SelfLoveUprising movement, follow The Body Shop on Instagram.
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