Twelve Australian Women Unleash Their Body Confidence

"We are all perfectly imperfect"

If you’re wondering what a bikini body looks like, this is it. In their upcoming book This Is Me, photographer Julie Adams and journalist Georgie Abay captured unretouched portraits of women and their stories of self-love and acceptance.

Nadine, 57

“I think society as a whole needs to get over its obsession with this idea of perfection. We are all perfectly imperfect. I’m proud of my body for keeping me thriving over the past 57 years, enabling me to bring two boys into the world and being the vehicle that I can express myself through. Two years ago, I joined a modelling agency and they found me work pretty much straight away. I’d always been self-conscious about being photographed, but turning 50 was like having a light switched on inside me and I no longer care what other people think of me.”

body positivity

Kate, 40 (with daughter Maddie)

“For me, body confidence is all about perspective. I’m lucky enough to work in a field that I’m passionate about – speech pathology – and through this I know that everyone has their own stuff going on. If my biggest drama that day is body image, then I’m doing OK!”

body positivity

Ashlyn, 19

“Ever since I was little, I had this idea in my head about what my body was supposed to look like. It took me so long to accept that I was beautiful, stretch marks, pudge and all. I love my pudge now! I know how hard I have worked for my body. I was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome [last] year, which helped to explain why I’ve struggled with my weight all my life. I also understand now that just because my body isn’t society’s perfect ideal, it’s perfect for me and I do what I can to protect it and keep it healthy.”

body positivity

Sara, 38

Being alive makes me happy”

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Helen, 85 (far left, with daughter, Caroline)

“When I was younger, people admired my face and my hair – which was long and red – but not my body. I always felt overweight and checked the scales every day. Years later, I now feel happy with my weight. We all look back and wish we were kinder to ourselves when we were younger.”

body positivity

Belinda, 45

“I was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer at age 36. It was completely out of the blue. At the time my children were nine months old, four and six. I was in complete shock, but I immediately went into practical/pragmatic mode and decided I would have anything removed that would give me the best chance of staying alive for my kids. It took me about three seconds to decide to have a mastectomy. After surgery and during chemo, I spent many nights crying and feeling very afraid. My goal was to be alive to see my son Archie start kindergarten. He is now in Year Four. I have no regrets.”

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Maia, 21

“My body confidence has evolved since my teenage years into something positive. I now understand that my body will change and alter in its own unique way and I now embrace my natural form. Living a healthy lifestyle has definitely contributed to the way I view and feel about myself.”

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Caroline, 30 (on left, with friend Clémence)

“I loved my body when I was a little girl; I had legs to run, arms to carry my dolls, and a mouth to smile. But everything changed when I turned 15. I was anorexic for a year, then bulimic at 17. I would starve myself and be found lying in the street after I’d fainted, too weak to carry on walking. Seven years of therapy later, I still don’t have the answer as to why I did it. I needed to hurt someone for how unhappy I felt, and it was easiest to hurt myself. It took me 10 years to be able to wear a swimsuit in public, without a care in the world. It took so much work to love myself just the way I was, but I did it. And I do.”

body positivity

Grace, 35 (with daughter Averie)

“My attitude towards my body has fluctuated since high school. The biggest revelation that I will pass onto my children is that my body size never correlated with happiness. My happiest moments weren’t at the same time as when my body was at its thinnest.”

body positivity

Jacqueline, 25

“I’ve realised my relationship with my self-image will always have its ups and downs. But I’m becoming more aware of having negative thoughts. Instead of letting them control me, I turn the emotion into something productive and ask myself, ’Can you be kinder to yourself and others?’”

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Juli, 18

“My mother taught me that everyone is beautiful in their own way. A lot of girls my age edit their pictures – they always want to look ‘better’ and they don’t like their natural photos. I think it is really important that we upload more unretouched photos – otherwise girls want to look perfect all the time. They think they’re only pretty when they’re retouched. Social media often feels like a competition – it’s about who looks the best in the pictures.”

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Marianna, 45 (with daughter Maddalena)

“What’s so appealing about everyone looking the same… same breasts, teeth, nose, legs, hair colour… why? It’s all manufactured. Between all of our countries and cultures there are many variances and many ideals of what is beautiful. The only way to normalise real women’s bodies is to acknowledge that we need to shift our focus away from the physical and towards the inner beauty and strength we all have. As we age and wither, our soul is the only constant and, if we don’t nourish it and love it, we can’t ever feel content with an ever-changing body.”

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This is an edited extract of This is Me by Julie Adams and Georgia Abay (Bauer Books, $39.99, This article originally appeared in the March 2020 issue of marie claire. 

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