Please introduce yourself so the world will know who you are?

My name is Claire Thomson, and I am a professional photographer, blogger and entrepreneur from Cape Town.

 

You are pioneering a movement called “Ilovemylyfie,” a movement where women embrace what they often reject – their bodies! How did this movement happen? How did it begin, was it influenced by your own life experiences?

The ilovemylyfie movement finally took shape 2 years ago but has been building my entire life. I grew up being the short, muscular and curvy friend to some very beautiful girls and I never felt like I was good enough because of what I looked like.  Many painful tears were shed and I hated every inch of the body I was given and endured the nasty comments from older boys at school because I didn’t fit the mold. After a spat of intense gyming and dieting in my early twenties I achieved the body I so badly wanted but was really shocked to discover that It did nothing for my happiness. In fact, I was worse off as I was moody, tired and unbalanced. Not to mention I was self-obsessed and constantly watched my body. All because I wanted to look a certain way. This made me dig a little deeper and start to question HOW I had been conditioned to believe I needed to look a certain way. How had all the other kids at school all been conditioned the same way?  Where was this message coming from? Why was I not allowed to be 100% me and feel great?

 

What has your journey with your body looked like? Have you sometimes disliked the way you looked?

I have hated my poor lyfie for many many years. I have sworn at it, poked it, pulled it and wished it wasn’t mine all because I have been shown one type of body by every form of advertising I come into contact with. Naturally this made me believe that my body, which was completely different to what I as seeing daily, was not good enough. I can honestly say that I am repairing my relationship with my body daily, and as in any relationship, there are good days and there are bad days but I am so grateful to have a healthy, strong body that works and gets me from A to B and is my vehicle for making a change. I have to keep reminding myself that I am not a clothes hanger or a sexualised object and I do not have to feel obligated to look like one just because the female body is represented in the  media as a sales pitch.

 

What was the turning point in your own walk with your body, the one that made you change the way you saw yourself?

I feel that slowly shifting my perspective has helped me realise what actually matters in this life. When you take a moment to realise that there is so much struggle and real life tragedy around the world, it makes your cellulite and wobbly bits look a lot less important and your working, healthy body a lot more magical!  My mum always used to say “push the zoom out button” when I would get to caught up in life.

 

You are passionate about changing that voice inside our heads, the one that says we are not picture perfect enough, we don’t look like pin – up girls. How are you doing that with “ilovemylyfie?”
Ilovemylyfie sheds light on how our bodies have been used to sell consumerist products for many years and in doing so we have linked one particular body type to the idea of happiness and beauty. By educating women on the tactics used by the media to keep us feeling inadequate in order to sell us things, because who wants something you’ve already got, It makes them realise that happiness and self acceptance is nothing you can obtain by looking a certain way but rather by living a certain lifestyle and having a certain mindset.

 

Currently you are asking 100 real women to share their real stories. Their stories of vulnerability and expectations, the ones they and others have placed on their bodies. Has there been a story that has touched you and left you clearly changed?

I have had a few stories that I have related to and others that have taught me something completely new! I think that experiencing so many diverse life lessons from these women I am realising that the lack of diversity in the media is such a shame and it is robbing us of truly understanding other peoples lives and making us look to much into our own. Every single woman I chat to and take pictures of has something special to add to my journey.

 

In your experience and opinion, how can women embrace themselves more, where does it start?
It starts with being able to filter what you take in and what you ignore. We are aware of the fake media, so don’t buy into it. Take time to look at your body as a functional, beautiful machine instead of an object. Take back your power. You are a woman and you grow life. How beautiful is that? You look a certain way because of your lineage and heritage and that is so beautiful! All the women before you in your blood line have contributed to who you are in the flesh. Do not for one second deny who you are and try to be something that you will never be. Be thankful for the way you have been made because your creator, whoever you perceive him/her to be, does not make mistakes. Lastly, look after the body you have been given. Love her, feed her good whole food, take her for walks, pamper her. She deserves all the love you can give her because she is amazing!

 

To speak about our male counterparts, eating disorders and body shaming is becoming increasingly common and men today, what can we say to the men out there about their bodies, is this message universal for everyone?

I believe that we both face very different pressures as men and women but inadequacy is the main thread that connects us all and this is no coincidence. There is a lack of diversity in the media for both men and women and I would encourage men feeling the pressure to look a certain way to consider what it is you are bringing to your life and the people around you rather than what you look like. Are you an awesome father? Are you a strong leader? Are you ambitious and do you show kindness to everyone round you?  As women we are attracted to those qualities far more than washboard abs believe me!

 

Final words and thoughts?

We will never be able to stop the messages we hear on a daily basis. We will never be able to prevent our daughters seeing what we see on our screens. What we can do is give them the tools to be able to know what matters and what does not. We can teach them that there is more to being a woman than what they look like and certainly they are allowed to be diverse and unique. We will get self love right, I believe that. It will all start from the inside out, the order in which it should be already!

 

 And lastly if someone wants to share their story with you, how can they do that?
Please send me your story to
ilovemylyfie@gmail.com and I will make a date with you! I am hoping to do some travelling soon so that we can hear from women all over the country!

For more on this journey visit:

@ilovemylyfie

https://ilovemylyfie.wordpress.com

https://www.facebook.com/ilovemylyfie/

**Photo Credit, Edo Mostert**

About The Author

Lauren

Lauren is a social justice journalist who writes about womens lives, their stories and their global impact. Her work on social justice has included articles on women abuse, gendercide, female ritual servitude, female literacy and the plight of child brides. She currently has three books out and her third, a biblical novel entitled Yehudit Chosen by God, won the Desmond Tutu - Gerrit Brand Award for the best debut Christian novel of 2017. Lauren's heart is to encourage women in their daily lives and challenges, she is an international speaker and a full-time writer. Visit her website and read some of her work over at www.laurenjacobs.co.za

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