To help get you on the road to celebrating you, we asked some experts and a slew of sisters who just know they have it going on to share their secrets to boosting body esteem. Here are the key traits that confident women share:
1 BODY-CONFIDENT WOMEN ACTIVELY AFFIRM THEMSELVES.
Even the most together sister will admit that maintaining a positive attitude isn't always easy. But what sets her apart from less confident souls is her belief that this, too, shall pass. "We all have those days when, no matter how much water we drink, no matter how many grapefruits we devour or crunches we crunch, we take a look in the mirror and we're critical of what we see," says Marsha Lawson of New York City. "But that only accounts for one percent of my perspective. The other 99 percent of the time I know I am quite possibly the sexiest woman in the world!"
So how do you get there? By reminding yourself of all you have going for you, says Gloria Morrow, Ph.D., and author of "Too Broken to Be Fixed?". "Every morning, take a few minutes and jot down your strengths to keep them top of mind as you go through your day," she suggests. "Tell yourself, 'I am blessed, I am beautiful, and I have powerful gifts,' so that before you even walk out the door you've taken time to affirm yourself."
2 THEY KNOW SIZE DOESN'T MATTER.
Have you ever noticed how some women, regardless of their dress size, seem to exude an energy that draws people to them and attracts envious looks from the size eight women in the room? What those self-assured women know is that being fit and feeling good about yourself is not about the size you wear but about how you wear it. It's a lesson that Toccara Jones takes to heart. She's the model who represented big, beautiful women when she competed on UPN's America's Next Top Model. "I wore a smaller size when I was in college, but I worried more then about my body image than I do now," she says. "It's not that I don't care how I look now or that I let myself go, because I think I'm gorgeous. But I am happy with who I am. I'm going to be fabulous no matter what size I wear."
3 THEY MAKE TIME FOR THEMSELVES.
Sisters who feel most comfortable in their own skin see the value of lavishing some loving care on themselves. It's a strategy Elisha Marshall, of Charlotte, North Carolina, relies on. "I try to do something special for myself every week," she says. "It could be buying something that's cute, taking a hot bath by candlelight, polishing my nails, getting my hair done, getting a massage, or getting a pedicure. The key is to make myself feel good."
4 THEY STAY HEALTHY.
Black women are becoming more aware of the importance of eating healthfully and staying physically active, which are key contributors to one's overall well-being. "I love to flaunt my confidence in my body, and I feel especially great when women half my age ask for advice on how I stay in shape," says Dori King from Chicago.
King points out that while some women over 40 may hesitate to go sleeveless, she isn't afraid to bare her arms. "I started doing push-ups a long time ago because I decided that I did not want my grandma's fleshy arms," she says. "I exercise and eat healthy meals to stay trim. My confidence comes from being happy with who I am. I embrace middle age and live it to the fullest."
5 THEY HAVE A POSITIVE ATTITUDE.
Body-confident women have a strong sense of self that they project to the rest of the world. Transforming yourself from someone who is too afraid or ashamed of her body to strut her stuff into a woman who loves being the center of attention doesn't require magic. It's about ditching the need to define yourself by other people's perceptions. Natalie Nagthall-Scott of Los Angeles, agrees. "As a child growing up, I was always extremely thin and would get teased about the way I looked," she recalls. "As I got older, I learned that people will always have an opinion about you, no matter what you look like, so I decided to embrace my uniqueness."
So how do you learn to own yours? Realize that what makes you different from everyone else is also what makes you beautiful. Play up your shapely legs, curvaceous hips, full lips, almond eyes. Instead of latching onto every new clothing trend, find styles that flatter you and start your own trend. "People will be thinking, Dang, she's all that," Toccara says.
6 THEY DON'T COMPARE THEMSELVES WITH ANYONE ELSE.
A key step in fostering healthy body confidence, experts say, is to reject the notions of beauty that society imposes on us. That's something Maria Newport of New York City, says she figured out a long time ago. "If I compared myself with the images of American women I see in the media, I'd be plagued with grief," she declares. "I'm not a size six, my hair isn't long and wavy, and my skin color isn't café au lait, but I know that I'm beautiful." Newport credits her confidence to her spirituality and the years she attended Spelman College. "Sharing space with some of the most intelligent and beautiful women in the world empowered me to see that we are all truly beautiful in our own way," she says. "I can appreciate what others have, but I also know that I am a baaad sista!"
Instead of worrying about whether they look as good as a certain celebrity-or even their gorgeous neighbor down the street-confident women put their energy into being the best they can be. "I tell my weight-loss clients to think back to when they felt and looked their best and let that become their goal, not what Tyra or Naomi looks like," says Rovenia M. Brock, Ph.D., a nutritionist and author of "Dr. Ro's Ten Secrets to Livin' Healthy." "In everything you do, compare you with you. After all, there's nobody who can do you but you."