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I asked body neutrality advocate Jameela Jamil for her advice on self-love

WORDS BY JASMINE WALLIS

It’s an ongoing journey to pick out the internalised misogyny from ourselves.”

“Someone said on Channel 4 the other day that if you say ‘Appetite-suppressant lollipop’ three times into your front camera, Jameela Jamil will appear and drag you to filth. I’m so down for that to be my legacy,” activist and actress Jameela Jamil laughs over our Zoom call. 

I’m speaking to both Jameela and the therapist and writer Sara Kuburic (aka The Millennial Therapist) today about their partnership with The Body Shop. Together, they have teamed up with the iconic beauty brand to launch a global campaign; Self Love Uprising.

According to a study conducted by The Body Shop, we’re living through a global self-love crisis. While self-love is a broad term that means many things to different people, the study surveyed 21 countries and found that one in two women feel more self-doubt than self-love and a huge 60 per cent wish they had more respect for themselves. 

Most well known for her portrayal as the prim and proper Tahani Al-Jamil on The Good Place, Jameela has also spent a large portion of her career focusing on empowering people while calling for the regulation of diet and detox products on social media. 


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After creating iWeigh in 2018, an ongoing project focused on radical inclusivity and body positivity, Jameela sparked a movement by posting an image of herself with a list of all of the non-physical things she’s made up of – her relationship, job and friends – to combat our appearance-obsessed social media feeds.

It has since grown into a podcast and community of 1.3 million Instagram followers and is revered as a safe space that amplifies diverse voices. Jameela is moved by the response to iWeigh, and doesn’t underplay the impact it has had on many people around the world.

“The messages of empowerment are growing as people are rejecting shaving their armpits or rejecting anti-cellulite or stretch mark creams. I’m seeing a literal response to breaking down the system that’s designed to make us hate ourselves,” she says.

Speaking with Sara and Jameela, the two women openly share their traumatic health issues, explaining how these catapulted them each onto their self-love journeys. 

Jameela bravely tells us about her eating disorder and attempt to take her own life at just 26-years-old, while Sara shares that she had a debilitating panic attack on a plane that caused her to re-evaluate her life path. 

“I went to the emergency room and found out that I was okay and it was just psychosomatic and I think that was a big realisation for me that something was really wrong and that I wasn’t living a life that was fulfilling for me. I was living for other people,” she explains.

Both experiences have been catalysts for the women to devote their lives to lifting others up. As a mental health expert, Sara hopes that we can gain self-love and respect through vulnerability. 

“I see so much damage done when people can’t show up as who they really are and I think one of the greatest things we can offer one another is that space,” Sara says. 

“Once we’ve built enough vulnerability with one another then we can start talking about depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, whatever it may be. But just showing up as who we are in each moment, owning that and being vulnerable and transparent could be revolutionary.”  

With Australians from minority groups more likely to have a low self-love score on The Body Shop’s Self-Love Index, Jameela recognises that people from the LGBTQI+ community, women and people of colour have to fight ten times harder to love themselves in a system not always designed for them.  

“It’s an ongoing, incremental journey that women and in particular women of colour will be on for a very long time because it’s hard enough to love yourself anyway, never mind if different portions of the world so actively and violently hate you.” 

Jameela is no stranger to hate – she’s been thrown into the middle of controversies by tabloid publications and Twitter trolls due to her outspoken activism. To help her on her mental health and activism journey, the actress says that this year she’s embarked on a new technique to set boundaries; “The Fuck Shit Detox”. 

“It’s the only kind of safe detox where I cut out toxic people from my life. I got rid of some friends last year, I spring cleaned my phone book and timeline and it has massively freed up space in my brain,” she says firmly. 

“I think that’s a very important practice for women. Women are supposed to just be likeable. We’re supposed to please and placate everyone and we don’t really have a template for breaking up with a friend or a family member or even just distancing ourselves from people we follow online and we’re allowed to. We deserve the right to improve our headspace.” 

Jameela believes that our self-love will collectively improve once we separate ourselves from ideologies that stem from internalised misogyny. Luckily, the pandemic has not only given us the space to decide who we really want to share our lives with, but it’s also provided many of us with a break from the sometimes crushing pressure of gender performance and beauty expectations.

“It’s an ongoing journey to pick out the internalised misogyny from ourselves. Especially after last year, there’s been a significant shift in how women see themselves after a year off of being confronted with constant patriarchy,” she explains.

Sara on the other hand knows that this process of unlearning the systems we’ve been raised with doesn’t happen overnight.  “We’re not fully equipped to deal with it. I think it’s going to be a process of educating young women, educating ourselves and understanding what it means to undo years of patriarchy and transgenerational sexism and discourse that has not served us. What we need to focus on as a society is educating and equipping young women.”

Despite having a huge platform, Jameela insists she doesn’t want to be inspirational but rather, aspirational. The activist notes that allowing ourselves the space for self-reflection and growth is key way to improve our relationship with ourselves.  

“I’m one of the more relatable people who can register that ‘Oh okay, ten years ago she used to have very problematic views around women’s sexuality and now she’s grown up and actually fights for the rights of sex workers’. There’s room for me to grow. If we tell ourselves that other people can’t grow then it means we can’t grow personally.”

While both women now come from places of privilege, their journeys to self-love have been fraught with hurdles, self-hatred, mental illness and health scares, much the same as many of us (just minus the massive Instagram followings or a role in an Emmy-nominated TV show). 

Jameela ends our call the way it began – with more sage words of advice. “We shouldn’t wait until we have the perfect knowledge before we strive for an opportunity to help other people. We should just scrap in now, do our best and try not to speak over others. All you have to do is try to be better tomorrow than you were today.” 

If you’re struggling with body image issues, you can call the Butterfly National Helpline at 1800 33 4673 for free and confidential support, or email or chat to them online here

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