Today, we're speaking with Amber Goodwin-Figes about her experiences as a life model, the ways in which exercise and powerlifting have changed the way she perceives her body, and how overcoming an eating disorder has led to a newfound sense of body confidence.
Britain Uncovered: Hi Amber! Can we start off by asking you for your thoughts on body positivity – what does this expression mean to you, and would you describe yourself as a body confident person overall?
Amber: Hi! I'd say body positivity means finding comfort and joy in your own body and enjoying your body for yourself in all its uniqueness, outside of anyone else's demands or expectations. It frees us, empowers us, and reminds us that we belong to ourselves first.
Am I body confident person overall? Oh, that's a tricky one! Overall, yes I am. It's not always easy and I have certainly felt a lot of shame and discomfort in my body in the past, but I now see fighting to accept and enjoy my body as part of accepting and enjoying myself.
Britain Uncovered: Last month marked this year’s annual World Mental Health Day, and we recently posted an article exploring the ways in which body positivity can contribute to greater mental health levels. Is this a theory you subscribe to?
Amber: I try to focus on allowing my feelings around my body. If I'm having a day where it's difficult to be positive, rather than pretend that I'm feeling strong, I acknowledge I feel a bit vulnerable. This often feels uncomfortable at first, to be honest, but I've found in engaging with what I feel that I'm allowing space for that pain to be heard and in doing so, it doesn't feel quite so heavy. I'm slowly developing an extra level of resilience and releasing trauma held around my body image.
Britain Uncovered: You often post photos of your workouts and various gym selfies, and physical exercise is clearly an excellent way of keeping a positive mindset. How important to you is staying active, and has this become even more significant in the midst of a pandemic that's challenging us like never before?
Amber: Keeping active and powerlifting, specifically, is essential to my wellbeing. Respecting what my body can do over what it looks like and seeing the power I have in getting stronger has completely changed how I see my body.
I was nervous when gyms closed as I didn't know if I'd lose the motivation to train on my own, and worried how that would affect me... but I actually found an extra motivation in myself, which has only boosted my confidence more. I was never sporty or athletic when I was younger; it seemed laughable I'd ever venture into a gym, but it's completely changed me for the better. I'd recommend it to anyone!
Britain Uncovered: A few weeks ago, we posted a review of some of Rosy & Ruby’s Body Love Sketch Club events, and we actually had the pleasure of drawing you during one of the first virtual sessions back in May! How did you first learn about these events, and what was it about them that appealed to you?
Amber: I'd been following Ruby for a while and am a big fan of her sex and body positive advocacy. The idea of a safe, communal space to see the beauty in bodies was appealing... and being a closeted exhibitionist probably had something to do with me taking part too!
Britain Uncovered: The online sessions provide people with the opportunity to pose for the attendees, typically in five-minute intervals. What was the experience like posing for the class, and how was it seeing everyone’s interpretations of you?
Amber: It was a very freeing and nurturing space. There was something quite overwhelming about seeing the careful detail people put into painting/drawing me – I was art!
I felt comfortable participating, but I think it was also a confirmation to myself of how far I've come in my body positivity journey. Once upon a time, I was very busy destroying every ‘flaw’ I saw. Today, I sit and revel in people turning me into artwork, just as I am.
Britain Uncovered: Once we’re able to attend Rosy & Ruby’s events in person again, do you think you would like to pose for the class during one of these in-person workshops too?
Amber: I'd be keen to pose in person, I think it would be an extra step on that confirmation journey for me. I'd be a bit more mindful of being chilly though!
Britain Uncovered: So many people are suffering from self-image concerns, and this has the potential to be hugely damaging to mental health levels. Have you ever been in this predicament yourself, and what advice would you offer to anyone currently suffering with a body confidence crisis?
Amber: I struggled with an eating disorder for many years. My body was the enemy, and it has taken a lot of time and work to begin healing that. Everyone is different, but I would say that no one is alone in that struggle – the world can make us feel ‘wrong’ very easily. You are allowed to feel however you feel. You are worthy of the space to explore and heal. Speak up. Nurture yourself. Never stop fighting for your own corner of peace.