• Rowan Evans

Her Story:Discovering The Power of Body Positivity

I count myself lucky that I get to speak to a range of interesting and diverse people in my day to day work. While I love talking to each and every one of them, not all of them leave a lasting personal impression on me.  Certainly not in the way that Danni Gordon from The Chachi Power Project did. 

Danni is on a one woman mission to change the way we think, feel and talk about our bodies, promoting not only personal body confidence but universal Body Positivity. A pretty massive task, but I have the feeling she is just the girl to do it...

Where did the body confidence journey start for you? In 2016 I spent some time doing a few self development courses in London. I told people I was doing them to be a nicer person, learn more about myself, get some tools to help with what might come up in my future and find out why I thought the way I did. I honestly thought I was learning to deal with the future, but what I didn’t quite admit to myself, or others, was that I was really struggling with my relationship to, and unhappiness with, my body. 

I was in search of being ‘skinny’ and the reason why I had never been skinny. I thought that was the secret of how I would 'get happy' with my body, and I wanted the courses to help me figure out secrets I may not be automatically aware of.

I had never had any body confidence in my whole life. I had always been on the larger side, and after years of dieting and exercise - I'd even run a marathon in the hope that I'd get thin and be happy with my body - I'd sorta given up. I had accepted that I would never have a conventional ideal body, and as a result I was ignoring and abusing the body I did have. The courses were a last ditch attempt at figuring out how I could 'get thin' and therefore, 'get happy'. What happened on the courses really wasn't expected. Kind of the opposite of what I thought was going to happen really...The courses made me recognise that my body wasn’t my life. The previous perspective I had was that my body was the controller of my life, it was the limitations of what I could achieve, it was how I was judged, it was the be all and end all. And because it didn't look quite 'good enough' it meant that the limits of my life were narrow.  What I realised was: my life, and I think all of our lives, are massive. A human life is unscalable. It's ridiculous that we think of our lives as constrained in the small bodies we exist in, because a life is made up of who you are, what you say, what you can be for other people, what you can create for this world. Your life is everyone you have met and everyone you will ever meet. It is huge and wondrous and your body is one small and integral part of that life, but it is not your whole life... Saying that now it makes so much sense but I really couldn't see that before I'd had it pointed out to me. Thinking this way flipped how I saw my life and my body. I was standing in the mirror looking at myself realising that I'd either punished or neglected it for 33 years. In that moment I realised just how lucky I was to have a body that worked so well. I can walk, travel, eat, swim, lift my nephews up, all with this wee body. I mean, I'd been able to run a bloody marathon! It was time to start showing it the love it deserved. I was going to start by accepting it, admiring it, being kinder to it. Heck, maybe I might even start celebrating it! Talk about life changing moments: this was one of mine.

How did you turn that personal turning point in to the Chachi Power Project?

After this realisation, I found I was floating on air for a few months. I was happier, had better mental health and my personal relationships were improving, all because this burden of constant concern of what others thought of me had evaporated. I was just more content with me. I'd been made redundant from a job I loved in December 2016 due to some struggles the company was going through. To fill up some spare time while looking for a job, I started what I thought was going to be a short term project. I wanted to try and encourage others to be a bit happier and recognise how incredible their bodies were - like I had. That's where The Chachi Power Project began.

What are some of your main tips to help other's get on the road to Body Confidence?  I was chatting with a wonderful friend in Jan 2017 and I was comparing our abilities to wear different bra types (mine were underwired beasts and hers were lacy and gorgeous crop top style things) when she told me that she had decided not to say anything negative about her own body ever again. I laughed. Surely that's not possible? But then I thought: why not? I'm the one in control of my mouth, why couldn't it be possible? And that was definitely one of the best things I could ever have committed to. I soon realised that if you don’t talk about the negatives you have about your body out loud, eventually the bad stuff stops popping into your head. The change is amazing. A year on and I now look into the mirror and smile at just how incredible my body is.  I will not enter into negative body conversations. I don’t police conversations or stop people from talking, I just don't entertain them. If that means leaving the room then so be it. My friends now know that the only time I will comment on their body is to remind them that they are beautiful. I think we are all blind to the high level of negativity that surrounds body image. We ignore all the great things our bodies can do because we are told daily via media that it's not good enough. The messaging is constant and toxic and what's worse is we don't even notice it anymore because it fades into the 'everyday'. We are force-fed what beauty is, what a woman or man should look like. No wonder we are all living in this world of self hate! Unfortunately it's up to you to recognise it and make a decision not to let those messages seep in. To help with this I have carefully curated pretty much all the media I consume. I make a point of only watching things that reflect and celebrate different ages, races, abilities, shapes and sizes. That means the TV, the movies I watch and the social media accounts I follow. So many people struggle with the likes of Instagram and it can have extremely detrimental effects on mental health due to the constant comparisons it encourages. I only follow inspirational people, and Body Positive accounts. There are all these wonderful people out there showing their ranges of normal, amazing, diverse bodies. I have completely retrained my brain to recognise beauty in everyone's bodies. It's been quite the journey. What are you doing through the project? Sharing this message and getting other people talking is really important to me. Through the Chachi Power Project I do workshops and talks. I go in to companies and do talks on body confidence and body image and I talk about the Body Positive Movement. Employers are realising the effects poor confidence can have on a workforce but many are not getting to the real issue of why people don’t have confidence, they just bring trainers in to teach you how to 'fake it'. There are a number of factors but I truly think that a big part of it comes down to body confidence. If you lack it, it can be debilitating. You use up lots of energy worrying about it and it can affect communication, behaviour and productivity. So my route is helping people to critically figure out where negative body image comes from and then give them tools to combat it. So that is the corporate level, but on a more one-to-one basis I run one-off events and retreats. I am hosting a body love and yoga retreatthis November in the beautiful Cairngorms in Scotland. It's my favourite way to get together with like minded people and experience nature in a really positive way, while sharing and hopefully recognising how wonderful our bodies are. I also work with children and young people in schools and youth organisations to discuss body image in a fun, yet serious way and give them techniques to have a more positive mindset. I've also run a few specific body confidence workshops for Universities and as part of festivals. Every so often I'll arrange a dinner in Glasgow or Edinburgh where we can all get together and talk about post-partum bodies, or kids body image or disability and body positivity. The scope for these sorts of events is endless. I am a trained jewellery designer and I can't help but feel that craft and creativity goes hand in hand with self care. I am putting together a series of Body Positive self care events with crafting elements and working with different designers and makers from around Britain. It is lovely to take time out from your normal life on a Sunday, learn a new skill, create something with a Body Positive celebratory vibe, get together with a crew of other ace people and talk about how awesome you and your bodies are, and then get to take goodies away at the end of the day. Ultimately, I am a one woman band. I can't be everywhere all at one time, and I am just sharing the message that feels true to me. But I want to encourage people to start having these conversations amongst themselves. This is why I launched the Chachi Collective. It is a way for people to get their own chat groups together, and start the conversation wherever in the world they are. I'm waiting for one to crop up in Bangalore. That's the dream! Unfortunately, in the world we live in, the toxic way we are encouraged to view our bodies and other people's bodies is getting worse. Social media is spreading this malaise, making it easier and easier to spread hate. When you think about it, it's an unbelievable universal phenomenon. I struggle to comprehend how it got so bad. So, for me, The Chachi Power Project is about changing that trend in whatever way I can. You can learn more about Danni and her amazing project on her website www.chachipowerproject.co.uk or follow her on  Instagram