WALKING down the street three years ago, Chessie King was a ball of anxiety.
She feared one of her thousands of followers on social media might recognise her — and brand her a fraud for looking so different to her posed and filtered images on Instagram.
Shocked by her own feelings, Chessie, 26, realised those impractical standards were no basis for living in the real world.
So she began to post honest, unfiltered pictures to promote confidence over perfection.
The positive response was overwhelming and Chessie has since amassed a much larger social media following, with almost 800,000 fans, including TV host and fitness guru Davina McCall, who appeared in one of her videos last year.
She is a champion for body confidence and the author of new book Be Your Own Best Friend: The Glorious Truths Of Being Female.
The South Londoner says: “I love the quote, ‘What other people think about me is none of my business’.
“It’s everything I’m about and I want to spread this message as much as I can.”
But the road to confidence hasn’t been smooth. As a teen Chessie was taller than her friends and very aware of how she looked.
She says: “I started to realise I was taller and bigger than my friends when I was 16.
'I feel liberated’
“I was walking side by side with a friend, who looked at our reflection in a window and said, ‘Oh, my God, I can’t be seen out with you — it looks like I’m out with Mum’. I realised I wasn’t going to just ‘fit in’.
“Mum told me to embrace being tall. But I was different — the last thing I wanted to be.”
Chessie looked into modelling, hoping to make the most of her height.
She says: “I was told I needed to lose weight by a modelling agency, which sparked an unhealthy period where I didn’t eat enough.
“I was never ill but I knew I wasn’t eating right. When I was 20, someone suggested I do a bikini competition.
“I wasn’t sure at first but I took on the 18-week challenge of eating next to nothing and working out twice a day. I walked on stage with nine per cent body fat and was still told I was too big.”
Rather than push Chessie deeper into unhealthy patterns, it sparked her passion for promoting self-confidence.
She started eating properly and posting fitness videos on Instagram, building a following along the way.
She says: “I’d pose up perfectly to flatter my figure. Then I realised I was getting real social anxiety that I’d bump into a follower and they would think I don’t look as good as I do in the pictures I put online.
“I started posting the best images of me — ones that would make the cut for Instagram — but also posting ones that didn’t ‘make the cut’ alongside it. I couldn’t believe how many girls said I was ‘brave’ for doing it.
“That made me realise there was a real need to show this.”
That need is greater than ever. Experts report falling self-esteem among internet users in lockdown.
Research suggests women feel bad about themselves four times a day, while 61 per cent of us would not describe ourselves as confident.
Chessie, who lives with her boyfriend Matthew Carter, 31, a TV presenter and student, says: “I had a moment a few years ago where I was saying something negative about how I look and Matt turned to me and said, ‘Excuse me — don’t talk to yourself like that’.
“I realised he was right. We all have so much time in our own heads now in lockdown — it’s so important that voice is kind and loving.
“I’m at the stage where I can post anything about my body and not be embarrassed.
“I feel really liberated by that. Three years ago, if you told me I’d be posting videos to thousands of people of myself in a bikini shaking my wobbly bits around, I’d never have believed it.
“But when I realised it was helping people, I knew I’d keep doing it.”
Chessie has learned you can not take body-confidence for granted, as she found when shopping for a wedding dress.
While her July wedding has been postponed due to the pandemic, she says: “I re-learn body confidence all the time.
“When I was shopping for a wedding dress, I struggled to fit in some that were five times too small for me.
“I asked one of the shop owners, ‘What is the most common thing brides say when they try on dresses?’.
"And she said, ‘They always apologise — they say sorry and promise to lose weight for the wedding’.
“We are taught we have to look our absolute best on our wedding day. I thought, ‘Matt proposed to me the size I am — he’s not expecting me to change for our big day’.
“No one is going to remember me for how small I looked.
“They’ll remember the time we laughed until we cried.
“I just want women — and men — to know they are awesome.”
'Dancing naked makes you feel brave'
IN her book Be Your Own Best Friend: The Glorious Truths Of Being Female, Chessie helps women find their inner confidence.
Here are some extracts:
Be your own best friend
ONE of my friends was struggling with her image and I asked her to send me a message about her home and why it feels like her happy, safe place.
She said she loved her bed where she sleeps, her table where she eats and her walls where she hangs her memories. She didn’t once say: “I hate.”
I replied: “So why are you saying you despise your arms, your legs, your tummy? They are your body – your home for the rest of your life.”
Something that has massively helped me is speaking about my body the way I speak about my best friends’ bodies. Would I tell anyone their thighs are too chunky and they look gross when they sit down? No.
So why would you say it to yourself? I cannot say it enough – I literally want to record it as your ringtone, set it as your alarm: Be your own best friend.
Love the skin you're in
I DODGED acne until I was 17 so when it came, I was shocked. It honestly felt like I went to sleep one night then woke up with the world’s most complicated dot-to-dot.
I tried everything, from eating three raw garlic cloves every morning for a week to a strong course of Roaccutane, which ate up all the happy cells in my brain.
I tried LED light therapy sessions, I cut out dairy, sugar and fat, I used all the topical creams available. I used to have evenings before bed when I’d spend up to an hour attacking my face until it was bleeding and scarred.
If you have struggled or are currently struggling with adult acne, I feel you. I hear you. It is not for ever.
It takes patience. We are finally best friends, my skin and I. We fall out still but I treat it with so much more respect now – nothing extreme, just a consistent daily routine. Try:
- Use speakerphone or headphones instead of pushing your dirty phone screen against your face.
- Those magnifying mirrors that make you see every teeny, tiny little thing on your face . . . stay away from them. They are bullies.
- Wash your face straight after sweating or, if you can’t, use Clinisept, which is antibacterial.
- Try not to play with your face.
- Take off your cleanser with a natural cloth, such as a cotton muslin (you can get three for £10 online).
Confidence has no age limit
It took me until the age of 23 to finally find my body confidence.
To some people, who have suffered with low body confidence their whole lives, this will seem really young.
To others who have been confident since puberty, this will seem ancient. The thing I tell everyone is that finding your body confidence does not have a deadline.
I am constantly learning even now and I have new mums, women in their sixties and girls at school messaging me.
Remember, whatever your stage of life, it is never too late to find confidence, appreciate it and nurture it.
Body confidence is still a pretty new conversation. Maybe you find a stronger connection to body acceptance or body celebration. Whatever rings true to you.
Dance like no one is watching
Being brave is the red lipstick of emotions. As children, we have bravery coming out of our ears.
We try everything because we don’t care what people think about the result or how our bodies look when we are doing it. That gives us a wild energy we lack as adults. We stop doing carefree things and lose our bravery.
I prescribe dancing. I’m a pro at dancing in the house naked until I’m sweating.
If you dance like no one is watching, you find pure joy. Finding my inner child relights that fire inside.
Make a promise you will try a childlike activity in the next month.
Give yourself the time your younger self would thank you for. Savour that superpower it gives you.
- Be Your Own Best Friend: The glorious truths of being female, By Chessie King, out now, £14.99, Harper Collins
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