This week in London, the Vitality London 10km event took place. Women from all over the country came together to run 10km through the streets of London in their underwear. Yep, that’s right – in their underwear. And do you know something? It made me so happy!
There were women of all shapes and sizes and ages and ethnicities running together. Some people had abs, some didn’t. Some people had lots of cellulite, some people only a little. Some people wore makeup and glitter, some people embraced the more natural look. Some people showed off their post baby bodies, some showed off their post workout bodies, some people showed off their born this way bodies. Nobodies body was better than anyone else’s, nobody judged, nobody cared or compared – they just ran, together.
And it was beautiful.
So often, women are pitted against each other and are told to compete. Sometimes being a woman is like being forced to be part of a sick parade where everyone has score cards and wants to boo each other. You’re told to feel jealous of people you don’t know for reasons you don’t even understand. Someone else’s genetics are measured against your own. You look at the photoshopped glossy magazines, the personal trainer at the gym with abs you could grate cheese on, the Facetuned Instagram selfies, the immaculate red carpet looks, the girl on your bus with the perfect highlights, the Love Island contestants they try pass off as plus size, the friend who eats what she wants and remains tiny and you compare. You compare yourself and you feel bad. You’re always ‘too’ something – too thin, too fat, too short, too tall, too skinny, too curvy, too pale, too dark, too wobbly, too bony. You’re made to feel like you’re never quite enough.
We all do it to ourselves. I was one of the worst. I can’t count how many times before a night out I have laid on my bed and contemplated cancelling because I’ve felt too hideous to go out or how many times I’ve tried to avoid being seen in a bikini. My birthmark was my brand, my thing to conceal, the reason I could never be ‘pretty’. I used to walk around, comparing myself on an imaginary scale to anyone I saw. It was exhausting and it was damaging.
What I would have given to see an event like the Vitality race all over social media when I was a teenager.
Events like this aren’t just about a group of women going out for the day and running in their underwear. They’re so, so much more. They show young people what real bodies look like so they know that what they see in the magazines and online isn’t always real. They show us that people we might look up to like Giovanna Fletcher and Carrie Hope Fletcher and Andrea McLean who all ran the race have body hang ups and insecurities too. They remind us that it’s normal to have imperfections, that it’s human, that imperfection is your own brand of perfection.
This event wasn’t about comparison, it was a celebration. A celebration of the natural, of cellulite, of acne, of scars, of birthmarks, of wobbly thighs and jelly bellies and all the things we are told to be ashamed of and edit out of our photos. It was a celebration of all things woman and all things beautiful.
There’s a reason why we all loved Mark Darcy in Bridget Jones so much and it’s because he tells us what we want to hear, what we want to be true. But the thing is, it is true and I’m telling you it too – you’re beautiful, just as you are.
We are all beautiful, just as we are.