From the moment we're born, people judge us based on our looks. We may not be able to understand the comments calling us "cute" or "chubby" when we're that young, but as we get older, we take the judgements to heart. Compliments about our appearance can put smiles on our faces and instill confidence in us. Similarly, insults can put a damper on our day and make us struggle with our body image. Other people's words have power over us when we let them.
Jojo Oldham, an artist and copywriter from the U.K., had a creative solution for reclaiming that power. The 31-year-old painted a skintight, slightly see-through dress with all the things — good, bad, and ugly — that she's heard people say about her body. Instead of continuing to let the words of others hurt her, she wore them proudly.
It took Oldham some time and many miserable diets to get to the point where she could confidently wear these insults across her body.
"It takes confidence to create such a personal piece. I've finally reached that point in my life where I love and respect my body and I like who I am. That's not to say I think I'm perfect or that I think I look amazing, but I've accepted my natural body shape and I no longer want to feel pressured to be a certain size," she told A Plus. "In the past I would have felt embarrassed to make such an honest piece because I felt there was truth in the negative things people have said about me, but now I don't feel that need to fight my body and try and make it fit a mould that it clearly wasn't made to fit."
"Also, I’m lucky to be strong, fit and healthy and I should be celebrating that, not getting angry with my thighs because they jiggle when I run. Now I’ve found a happiness in myself that means those remarks genuinely don’t bother me now and are just background noise. And it was that confidence that inspired me to make the dress."
Oldham didn't paint the dress to earn pity points or show off the compliments she's received. Instead, the dress has served as a way to empower herself and others. She hoped that other people would identify with the project and that it would encourage people to share their own experiences with body image struggles.
So far, the reaction has been extremely positive. Many people have reached out to Oldham to tell her that the dress made them feel better about their own bodies.
"Others have got in touch to say how worried they are for their young daughters who are reaching an age when they're going to start experiencing image pressure for the first time, and that this is an issue we all need to deal with so kids can appreciate their bodies for being strong and healthy rather than having to worry about what they look like," she told A Plus. "Then I'm sure I've got lots of shit for it too, but I haven't bothered reading that."
Hopefully, Oldham's project can help us all to treat ourselves, our bodies, and others with more kindness and realize the gravity of our words.
"We are all amazing in our own ways. And we've all got better, more important and more fun things to think and talk about than whether our shoulders are too broad or our legs too skinny, our eyes too far apart or our knees too knobbly," she wrote on her website. "We should all be able to celebrate and love ourselves without fear of criticism from others, whatever shape or size we are."