My relationship with my body has been a pivotal part of my life — as a professional athlete, as a mother, and as a woman. For me, body confidence has been a journey, and not always a straight road. So, with Body Confidence Day tomorrow on October 17, I wanted to share my own story, as an ambassador for Dove, for their #ArmsUp campaign and talk about some of the things that we don't talk about enough.
I think it's important for women to see and appreciate the beauty in their natural bodies. It's not about perfection, it's about purpose. We all have our imperfections but it's important to concentrate on other qualities besides outer beauty — like being healthy and taking care of yourself, being happy with the beautiful things that make you, you.
For a long time, I trained my body for a purpose, to meet the demands to perform and manage at the highest level — playing rugby union competitively and representing Aotearoa in both the Black Ferns and the women's sevens team. I learned to respect my body, fuel my body, challenge my body, move my body, love my body — things I now teach others at our F45 gym, and have shared at coaching clinics around the world.
Throughout my life my body has fought battles, felt love, pain, struggle and victory, and has endured a lot that only I understand. Most of the time, I loved how strong I looked and felt, but like many women, I didn't always feel good about my body.
After the birth of my son Sāchi-Wolf in 2017, I started believing the things society said about how my body should look, and I realise now I wasn't alone, and many women feel pressure to look a certain way. In a little under a month after giving birth, I forced myself to work a rugby contract in Japan, and I put pressure on myself to lose the baby weight. I really struggled, and I didn't like the way I was feeling. Looking back, my expectations were unrealistic. All I really needed was to allow myself to recover and heal. I realised I needed to give myself time and give myself permission for self-love, and self-care.
When I think of the woman I was in my twenties, I see a young lady growing into confidence but intent on pleasing everyone around me. I now feel so much more beautiful, so much sexier, so much more interesting and so much more powerful!
I still have moments where I feel self-conscious, like with my underarms. I'm working out with people on the daily, and there have definitely been times where maybe I haven't shaved or I hope I smell alright. Sadly, this a feeling shared by the majority of women — who worry about their hair, skin, pigmentation, lumps and bumps.
Many feel self-conscious or embarrassed about the appearance of their underarms — even while exercising, a time when we shouldn't have to worry! I get it, but it's something we need to change. It worries me that this is so common, and that it can have an emotional impact.
It's fine to be real and natural, I just think go and do it. We're all different, and so are our underarms. Live life, don't worry about being perfect. There is definitely a stigma in society making most women feel insecure. But you should be able to do what's right for you — it's all good. Though I personally choose to shave, I think the more people see underarm hair and don't worry about the stigma, it will become normal. It's cool seeing it a lot more.
Exercise has played an important part in shaping body confidence for me, and for the women I train. I believe exercise is a celebration of what your body can do, I work out because I love my body. It's important to look after yourself, so when it comes to self-care, although many women are brought up to 'tough it out', I no longer am like that. I focus on my health.
I've also felt more confident as I've gotten older. Having a child and gaining maturity have taught me to value myself beyond my physical appearance. Not caring what people think anymore is the most liberating place to be.
Accepting and celebrating who you are on the inside and out is what counts, focus on yourself and celebrate others too. That's beautiful.
I'm in a place of gratitude right now. I am accepting of who I am. I want to learn more, teach more, I've worked long and hard to be able to get to a place where I can choose to surround myself with what fulfils and inspires me.
I see this growing confidence in other people too. Things are definitely changing, and what's considered acceptable — especially with our underarms — is being challenged.
More women are embracing their natural state and standing up and speaking out against these stereotypes. Our world is flooded with messages in the media about how we should look, act, dress, think and believe and at times, I think the way social media influences in this space can be really scary. Practising negative self-talk when online can redefine not only how we feel about ourselves, but also what we pass on to our rangatahi.
I love that Dove has a 'No Distortion' rule to the imagery they put into the world. This means that they don't retouch how women look, because they don't perceive anything to be an imperfection. Without alternative role models and companies like Dove that challenge the media stereotype, we are often left with just the media's messages of how we should look and be. We should embrace diversity, choose our own role models and celebrate our own uniqueness and natural bodies — challenging the body image ideal.
Dove has a commitment to championing real beauty, non-conformity, inclusiveness and being your authentic self, this is the main reason why I wanted to get involved with this campaign. I want kiwi women to understand that they are perfect just as they are and be a part of a conversation that I don't believe we talk about enough.
The work Dove does is shifting perceptions of what real beauty is — embracing body confidence, authenticity and acceptance. For me, deodorant helps with underarm confidence, especially with all the exercise I do. I have always been a big fan of Dove and it has always been my go-to. I like that it smells fresh and cares for my skin. I love the way it keeps my underarms soft and comfortable, and it lasts a whole day without having to reapply. I sweat a lot when I'm working out, but this deodorant has never let me down.
That helps me feel confident and in control. Both of these are empowering feelings.
Another thing that helps me, and is part of this #ArmsUp campaign is the power pose, raising your arms in a V above your head. It feels good, and for me, it has always represented achieving something — whether that's playing a match or heavy lifting, it's beautiful and it's strong. I love that the power pose is a cornerstone of Dove's campaign for underarm positivity, I also love that Dove has also partnered with Nope Sisters on limited-edition singlets for #ArmsUp, with all of the proceeds going to Women's Refuge.
It's all great stuff, and I hope the campaign encourages people to raise their #ArmsUp in celebration of their own underarm confidence, embracing their uniqueness and feeling empowered in their own real beauty— that's how I believe we will create change and acceptance.
Tomorrow is Body Confidence Day, and I'll be raising my #ArmsUp for kiwi women, to support this important kaupapa — feeling powerful, confident, and beautiful. Join me! Raise your #ArmsUp on your social media and encourage women to champion their own real beauty, or head over to the Nope Sisters website and get yourself a singlet to support Women's Refuge!
People often say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I think that the most liberating thing is realising that you are the beholder, so let's be kind to ourselves, and support each other as beautiful women.
Join Huriana and Dove in raising your #ArmsUp in support of Kiwi women on Body Confidence Day. Use #ArmsUp on your social media profile. New Dove Advanced Care is available at all major retailers for $7.49 (RRP).
Many women struggle with body positivity
- 23 per cent of the women are dissatisfied with their overall appearance
- 70 per cent of women feel pressure to look a certain way
- 40 per cent of women don't like the number on the scales
Underarm confidence has a significant impact
- 90 per cent of women have felt bad about their underarms
- 56 per cent half felt self-conscious while exercising
- 72 per cent of women said their underarms made them self-conscious, with 53 per cent wearing something to cover them up
- 61 per cent of women said being self-conscious about their underarms had held them back from doing something
- 63 per cent of women are worried about odour, 48 per cent about armpit fat, and 40 per cent about skin tone
Dove's Underarm Body Confidence Survey (2019) was conducted with over 7000 women aged 18-64 around the world.