Before I launch the Zoom call to connect with Jess Jones, I have a moment. There are two big splodges of paint behind me – testers that never progressed to a fully painted wall. I briefly consider moving to another room for our chat, and then stop myself. I’m about to talk to the woman who’s published a brilliant and relatable book about confidence, accepting who you are, and living an authentic life. She’s hardly going to care about the state of my online background while we talk – and neither should I!
Two minutes into the interview and we’re both in hysterics. Jess is wearing a fetching, snug pair of blue and pink headphones (she had to use her daughter’s after misplacing her own), and I’ve confessed that the hold up on decorating is down to an injury caused by a misguided decision to take up roller skating, after watching a stranger make it look easy on Instagram.
It’s so refreshing to laugh and share in this way as two adults. Putting people at ease, and being relatable, I believe, are just a couple of Jess’s many strengths. Another is talking about body acceptance in a way that feels within reach and realistic. It’s for these reasons that her new book Own It: How to Build Confidence, Completely Love Yourself and Embrace your Body, is already going down a storm.
Here, Jess kindly shares four of her tried and tested steps for playing the starring role in your own life, which begin with being completely and utterly yourself.
Start owning it by…
I spent almost all of my life trying to be someone else. Someone smaller, someone quieter, someone more sassy, someone prettier. The list of the things that I tried to change is endless. But I now realise that every time I criticised myself, every time I wished I was something different, I was taking advantage of the privilege of time. Time isn’t guaranteed, we have no control over it, yet the one thing we do have control over is how we feel about ourselves and treat ourselves – which, ironically, would change how we choose to spend our time.
When we look back over our lives one day, if we have the privilege to be able to reflect in our final moments, will all of the little things that we worry about really matter? The numbers on the itchy little labels stitched into our clothes? Our untameable hair? The amount of cellulite that beautifully ripples across our bodies? The scars and stretch marks that evidence the journey our bodies have been on? The people who never texted us back? The opinions of others – some of whom we don’t speak to, like, or even know!
Will any of those things matter? If not, then why not try to stop them from limiting our lives now by learning to accept and embrace them as just part of the fabric of life – so that we can start being more unapologetically ourselves.
None of us are perfect, and that’s OK. Our gift is that we are each the unique person that we are – in heart and mind, as well as in body – so let’s savour and celebrate that!
When I’m complaining or offloading about something, my therapist often asks me: “Will it matter five minutes from now?” If I answer yes, she asks: “Five months from now?” This one is a little trickier as, for me, many worries, thoughts, and feelings can sometimes linger for a fair few months. So if I say yes to this one, she then asks: “What about five years from now?” And I can honestly say that there has been almost nothing going on for me at any stage that I could say would categorically matter five years down the line.
If you can get into the habit of asking yourself these questions when you’re stuck in a rut about something, or when your confidence is wavering, or you’re feeling unsure about what action to take, your answers can often create the space for you to make a decision with a lot of the fear removed about ‘if this’ or ‘if that’ happened.
If you’re anything like me, a lot of the decisions that you’re unsure about are a result of fear. It’s crucial that we learn to walk right into the face of fear at times, because some of our greatest moments are likely to be waiting to happen just on the other side of it – achievements waiting to be claimed, and a freer, happier life waiting to be lived.
I’ve learned to use this process for so many things in my life – from making a decision about what dress I want to wear, to how I respond to a negative comment. And I love it, as it’s a surefire way of helping me to get out of my own way in order to just ‘go for it’ with things, instead of wasting my time away worrying and missing out on all sorts of opportunities.
I once heard the saying: “We miss 100% of the opportunities we don’t take.” So why not seize as many of them as desired – who knows which ones might end up changing our lives for the better?
I used to really struggle with accountability. As I mention in my book, I’ve lived so much of my life in my own victimhood, blaming everyone and everything else for the feelings that I held about myself, that I was ultimately using it as an excuse to stay stuck in a negative space.
The harsh truth is that so much of us feeling stuck, and not managing to change anything in our lives, is because of nothing or nobody but ourselves… Ouch!
Learning to be accountable – not only for the way I was treating myself and the changes that I wanted to make in order to feel better in myself – but also for the impact that I had on other people’s lives, was a real game changer for me.
This isn’t to underestimate the effect that other people can have on us and how we feel at times, of course. But it’s about us taking the power back, being in control of where we want to go from here, and confidently claiming responsibility for taking the necessary steps to change our lives for the better.
When I was looking for hope and motivation for my own journey of change, I came across a lot of incredible people who had transformed their lives. But I often felt that their stories didn’t relate to mine, and that what they had achieved wasn’t obtainable for me. I felt like I was just ‘too average’ and in too deep with my negative thoughts to be able to make real change.
I worried about anything and everything. I allowed myself to be consumed with the idea that those who had made progress were so far ahead of me that it wasn’t worth me even trying. I convinced myself that there was just no point, because happiness and confidence were never going to be for me. As a result, for a long time I stopped myself from just taking the first step, which is ultimately all that any of us need to do to get the ball rolling…
We can continue to make excuses, and we can continue to allow ourselves to be held back by our self-imposed limitations, or we can take advantage of the gift of time and we can crack the hell on.
You will never know the true potential that you have, and just how much you are capable of, if you continue to live in the confined space created by the limited opinions of others (and/or yourself). And you will never truly ‘own’ your life if you aren’t willing to just take the first step on the path.
The truth is that it’s our fear to truly ‘own’ ourselves that limits our lives. Every day that we wake up, we get another opportunity to do whatever we want, to be whoever we want, and to own every little part of who we are.
So let this new way of being start now.
Listen to I am. I have with Jess
Extracted from ‘Own It: How to Build Confidence, Completely Love Yourself and Embrace your Body’, by Jessica Jones (Wellbeck, £12.99).
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