Emma Thompson says accepting her naked body was hard – here's how to love yours

Emma Thompson says it is hard not to judge your naked body in front of the mirror. (Getty Images)
Emma Thompson says it is hard not to judge your naked body in front of the mirror. (Getty Images)

Dame Emma Thompson says women should stand in front of a mirror naked and accept their bodies, as she tackles her first ever naked sex scene.

Thompson, 63, is starring in Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, as Nancy, a repressed, dutiful, 55-year-old RE teacher who, despite a 30-year marriage and two children, has never had an orgasm.

Now both widowed and retired, Nancy decides to hire a hot young high-class escort, Leo Grande, to see if she can finally “see what all the fuss is about”.

Emma Thompson and actor Daryl McCormack star in Good Luck to You, Leo Grande.
Emma Thompson and actor Daryl McCormack star in Good Luck to You, Leo Grande. (Getty Images)

Read more: Emma Thompson on not being offered sex scenes: 'I ... never conformed to the shape or look of someone they might want to see naked'

In one scene Nancy stands naked in front of a mirror and appreciates her own body.

The actor admits facing her first full-frontal nudity movie scene was terrifying, and told The Times, that she judges her own body, just like perhaps almost every other woman on the planet.

“I can’t do it,” revealed Thompson. “Nancy does something I’ve never done. When I’m looking in the mirror, I’m always trying to make myself look ‘better’ – turning this way or that, checking out my arse, pulling something in.

"Simply revealing my utter incapacity to accept my body as it is. But in the movie, at that point, Nancy’s body has just given her these seconds of pure pleasure and she is marvelling at it – not ‘it’ as it looks, but ‘it’ as it has become to her. A place she can be happy. A place she can find genuine bliss.”

Watch now: "It's the hardest thing I've ever had to do": Emma Thompson on her nude scene

Read more: Dame Emma Thompson finds communal nudity 'relaxing'

At the press conference for Good Luck to You, Leo Grande at the Berlin Biennale, Thompson said: “Women have been brainwashed all our lives to hate our bodies – that’s the fact of it.”

She then stood up, away from the microphones, and shouted, “So women, you try standing in front of a mirror, take your clothes off – and don’t move. Just accept it, and don’t judge it. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.” Her advice went viral.

Thompson is far from alone in experiencing these feelings, says life coach Puja McClymont.

"What Emma has said about looking in the mirror is such a common experience for women especially of certain generations," she says. "We have absolutely been conditioned over the years to loathe our bodies, always looking for ways to improve and never truly being happy with any result.

"This self-shaming has had such a detrimental effect on the way so many women feel about themselves which has led to many of us never accepting how we look and the magnificence of what our bodies are capable of doing. I love seeing body positivity movements on social media and in the press as they weren’t around when I was growing up and I’m in my 40s.

"I’m pretty sure I would have had a better relationship with my own body if I had seen more jiggly bits in magazines and on TV. It was only when Dove released their campaigns in the UK did we really get a first glimpse of body positivity back in 2004 with their Real Women campaign. However, there is still so much to do with both young and older women in terms of acceptance."

Read more: Sharon Stone returns to Cannes red carpet in sensational thigh-high split gown

Emma Thompson, pictured with husband Greg Wise, says women have been 'brainwashed to hate their bodies'. (Getty Images)
Emma Thompson, pictured with husband Greg Wise, says women have been 'brainwashed to hate their bodies'. (Getty Images)

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McClymont, who runs the Self Care 101 podcast, shares these tips to help us accept our bodies as we grow older.

Be grateful for your body

Working on your mindset towards your body is key. Look at yourself in the mirror just as Emma Thompson refers to and thank your body for all that it has done for you. This might include surviving birth itself, being in good health, allowing you to move, giving birth, strength etc.

If you are really patient, you’ll be able to create a huge list of all that your body has done for you so far. You can then add what else you’re going to do to look after it. By being grateful for your body, you change the association of a negative body image to one that is more positive.

Touch your body

So many of us feel ashamed of our shape, but when you touch your body, you start connecting with it. Similar to when we hug someone, the hormone oxytocin is released. By touching your own body, you get to know it better. You start to build a relationship with it. You can laugh, admire it and you can get used to it. Learn to accept your cellulite, your wobbly tummy or your C-section scars – they are part of your life story.

Decide to love yourself

Ask yourself, 'do I want to spend the rest of my days hating myself or loving myself'? Then write a list of all the things that you’re going to do every single day to ensure that you are nurturing yourself – e.g. finding a form of exercise you love, having a relaxing bath every night or booking a monthly massage.

You also need to include things that trigger you (e.g. slipping into conversations with friends about weight loss or endlessly scrolling pics of celebs in bikinis on Instagram and feeling inadequate) so that you can create good boundaries for yourself. The aim is to avoid negative body image associations.

Find body role models

Surround yourself with people who are body-positive and let their energy inspire you. Follow social media accounts about body positivity that you not only relate to but can also learn from. For instance, Lizzo has a great attitude to her body – you can learn body acceptance from her empowering Insta posts. Curate your Insta feed carefully to make sure you're only looking at content that makes you feel uplifted.