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You know the drill. The broken record: 'Look after yourself, 'Be kind to others', 'Be kind to yourself, 'Be kind to your planet'. Core, fundamental beliefs we feel strongly about and care deeply for. But at what point do they become nothing more than words on a page, phrases on your screen? We need you to stop. And ask yourself right now: Do you love yourself?
It's not about loving the last thing you bought. Loving the latest makeover trend you tried. The last thing you did well or the new relationship you're in. These things lift you up, sure. But what about loving yourself? There are plenty of things outside of ourselves we want to believe make us feel good. Those things can be gratifying and fulfilling. What do people mean when they talk about self-love?
Here's how we like to think about it: Self-love goes beyond feeling good about yourself. It's bigger and deeper than anything you've ever felt before. It might even be uncomfortable. And that's okay. Self-love is about appreciating yourself, it's about self-acceptance and giving yourself permission to grow into who you really are.
AUTHOR & TRANS ACTIVIST
In the words of Charlie Craggs, activist and trans campaigner: "I reached rock bottom, especially with regards to self-love. I hated myself to be quite honest. I hated my body. I hated everything about myself. Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom to start building yourself back up again. I try to help others wake up to the power of self-love by just being my most authentic self, which I think, in turn, encourages other people to be their most authentic selves."
At The Body Shop, we see it as our duty to inspire and enable people around us who, like Charlie, commit to the idea of self-acceptance. Self-love starts with an inside job but it doesn't stop there. Once you start feeling more self-love it becomes like a newfound superpower, making you stronger and inspiring you to share that 'feeling good' with others. When we start to accept ourselves, that's when we start to heal all that unlove inside us. When we are uplifted, we can uplift others.
Practicing self-love is more important today than ever. The world is experiencing seismic changes. We see it in our politics, in our environment, in our technology. We see it in conversations to do with gender bias, racial injustice, identity inequality. With everything resting on unsteady ground, it's no surprise we're experiencing a collective sense of self-doubt, questioning our agency and self-worth.
With disruption all around us, positive and negative change, isn't it time we ask ourselves what we want, what kind of human beings we want to be and what kind of world we want to help shape?
How can we become stronger in ourselves, firmer in our belief systems, if we don't start from the inside-out? That means learning to accept ourselves first and learning to love ourselves next. We need to start by getting to know ourselves, by what we value in the world before we get to grips with what kind of agents of change we want to be. let's start by committing to a cause that comes closest to us. The ultimate action is one of self-love because it means growing into ourselves and accepting who we are, making us stronger and more engaged world citizens.
The problem is, we're taught early on to believe we're not enough: not good enough, not pretty enough, not polite enough, not smart enough, not strong enough. The unfortunate truth is that women are often hit hardest when it comes to these societal and familial projections of feelings of inadequacy. We respond by striving for perfection, trying to achieve and succeed in every aspect of our lives or we withdraw, shut down and stay silent.
We see the unachievable pressures and standards we're taught growing up and later hold onto them inside ourselves and without knowing it. We see it play out in our homes, at work, in our relationships. It is exactly this filtered, skewed, completely unachievable idea of being flawless that we want to challenge and push back on.
We live in an imperfect world where brands and businesses continue to profit from our insecurities by undermining our self-esteem and sense of beauty, and by feeding off of our collective self-doubt.
Most of us still believe what we have been taught - that we are not good enough as we are. This belief keeps us small. It's something we can choose to hold onto or we can choose another path and look to self-love as our superpower, transforming self-doubt into real action, for ourselves and for those around us.
"LOVING YOURSELF IS A PRACTICE IN A WORLD THAT TELLS YOU THAT YOU SHOULDN'T."
POLITICAL ACTIVIST & UN AMBASSADOR
When activist, campaigner and upskirting law-changer Gina Martin was a young girl she was told she was too loud, too disruptive and asked to speak more slowly. She tells us that all the characteristics she was bullied for "are the very reason I'm good at what I do now, which is activism, campaigning and advocating for people, and shouting about things that I care about."
Gina shows us that accepting herself, celebrating every part of her, even the "too loud" parts, are the parts of herself that fuelled her determination to change the law and make upskirting a UK criminal offence. So when we're told we're not good enough, or not quiet enough, how can we channel some of Gina's activism, her ability to challenge norms and change behaviours by questioning what we've been told to believe about ourselves? Now's our chance to commit to self-love as a way to spark personal transformation and activism, to create happier lives for ourselves and beam that out to everyone around us.
We believe that self-love has the power to be action. It's about each and every one of us needing to take conscious action (big or small) and rising up together. A key part of acting collectively is about businesses playing their part and taking responsibility. As The Body Shop founder Dame Anita Roddick once said: "Never be seduced into believing it isn't the role of business to tackle the big issues, because it absolutely is."
We've always challenged societal norms, encouraging empowerment and fuelling activism. Back in 1998, we took a stance on body positivity with our self-esteem campaign which featured a size 16 doll we called Ruby with the slogan: "There are 3 billion women who don't look like supermodels and only 8 who do." In 2021, we take a stance on self-doubt, on flipping norms, on pushing through personal and societal challenges.
As a beauty company founded by a woman, it is our fundamental belief that everyone has the right to be heard, to feel beautiful, feel seen, feel believed, feel respected and be loved. We're seeing the groundswell of female activism like never before, but there is still so much unfinished business amongst women of all ages from all backgrounds and ethnicities still grossly underrepresented, with no voice and no agency.
When we asked change-maker and founder of@girlswillbeboys_ Char Ellesse how she understands self-love as action, she told us that her very existence is an act of defiance. She explains that: "As a woman, especially as a black woman, especially as a queer black woman, me existing Is defiance. Period. I feel like the world was not built for people.
How do we see this playing out? What can we do, massive or discrete, familiar or out of our comfort zone, to help collectively rise up through the power of self-love?
With your help and the other fearless people who will rise up alongside us, we want to help inspire 1 million acts of self-love across the globe in 1 year. Because if we start, no matter how small, each of us can breed self-love within us, encourage self-love to grow amongst us all and witness a better world for everyone. No status quo flipping, self-doubt challenging story is too small or quiet to share.
We can all learn from fitness coach and activist Sophie Butler when she talks about how becoming disabled can happen in a moment and how a self-love journey lasts a lifetime. In her own words, self-love is "at its most powerful when it's in a collective formation. And when we can go out into the world and be bold and empowered, we can then help raise everyone else up."
Let's follow Sophie's lead as we go out into the world together. Know that this is the start of our journey. When we are united by self-love, when we tap into our miraculous self-love superpower, we will be unstoppable.
"WHEN WE GO OUT INTO THE WORLD BOLD AND EMPOWERED, WE RAISE EVERYONE ELSE."
FITNESS COACH & ACTIVIST