Self-acceptance advocate and creator of Isle of Paradise tanning products, Jules Von Hep reflects upon the past, and shares his personal life lessons for a brighter future. Spoiler alert: it all starts with you…
Jules Von Hep is motivation in human form. His presence on Instagram is full of playful reminders to laugh and be in the moment, as well as very honest discussions about body image. His vegan and cruelty-free self-tan brand, Isle of Paradise, is now stocked world-wide, and he recently launched a sustainable British knitwear company, Yan Tan, to support UK farmers and promote ethical consumerism. He uses his platform to talk about issues that really matter – from body confidence, to self-acceptance, and the impact of fast fashion – and he looks like he’s having a blast doing it.
However, Jules’ arrival at this point has not been plain sailing. He’s had to work on himself along the way, and says that he really only found his feet in the past five years, after a long stretch of self-loathing, body dysmorphia, and disordered eating.
Here, Jules reveals the lessons he’s learned along the way.
Search for the positive
As a gay man going to school in the early noughties, before social media, homphobia was rife. I suffered from both physical and emotional homophobic abuse, and that really knocks a person.
In my early 20s, there were times when I stopped eating because I believed that my value was based on my appearance, and success was linked to a number on the scales.
Now I realise that pessimism is a form of self-protection. Actually being an optimist, for me, is saying: “If the glass is running out and it’s half full, let’s top her up!” Ultimately there’s always a positive and a negative route, we’re taught that in physics – you can’t have one without the other. It’s up to you which you choose.
The ship of body confidence is a big one to turn. It’s a huge tanker and it’s not moving in seconds!
Practise speaking kindly to yourself
I am someone who has stood in front of the mirror and picked my body apart countless times.
Having come out of that, I now know how much having a negative conversation with yourself affects so many other areas of your life. I’ve cancelled plans, parties, and dates because I didn’t like how I looked. I’ve had intimate experiences, apologising for my body as I undressed. That’s not sexy!
I started to change by working on my internal dialogue. Instead of focusing on the negative (I hate my love handles), I focused on the positive (I love my eyes, I love my humour). By changing my internal narrative, I became more optimistic and open-minded in my approach to day-to-day life, which enabled me to do wonderful things like launch Isle of Paradise, Yan Tan, and meet my partner.
Changing your inner dialogue comes with regular practise. The ship of body confidence is a big one to turn. You’ve got to turn that steering wheel a little every day, and eventually the ship will find its course.
It does take time. I’m 35 now, and I think I’ve only felt body confident and happy in myself for four or five years of my life, but I’m so glad I’m here!
Listen to what calls you
During lockdown, I massively changed as a person. I’d been flying around the world, hosting events with the Isle of Paradise, which was incredible, but I don’t think I took a moment to stop.
Lockdown slowed me down. It made me think about where I was going. I think that lots of people dealt with issues with their inner child during that time, and we were forced to connect with nature in ways we’ve not before.
My partner and I moved out of London, and one night we were watching a Countryfile report about farmers in the UK burning their wool because the fast fashion industry doesn’t support the British wool trade. My grandparents were sheep farmers; I remember going to sheepdog trials as a child and I was really disturbed by this.
I messaged a couple of my friends who are knitwear designers, because I felt like it was a massive crisis that no one was talking about. As a result, I launched Yan Tan, a sustainable British knitwear brand to support the UK’s wool industry. We use 100% British wool, and our garments are biodegradable so we operate on a complete farm-to-wardrobe and back-to-earth mentality.
I think because I’ve found inner confidence, and worked so hard on learning to like myself and be my own best friend, I’ve been able to take on this new venture and embrace the fear.
Chart your heart's progress
All too often business and life can be all about the bottom line, all about the profit. I think we’re conditioned to believe that progress is moving up, stepping up the ladder but, actually, I don’t think it is. Sometimes it’s sidestepping, stopping, or turning in a different direction altogether. As long as you’re doing something that makes your heart happy and fulfilled, you’re making progress.
For me, it’s about flicking on the switch that wakes you up and makes you question what’s right and wrong for you personally. I always go back to the questions: ‘Am I enjoying this?’ and ‘Will I enjoy it tomorrow?’ and if the answer is no to either of those, then I have a problem and I need to change that.
We only have one shot at this, no one has found the elixir of life (and if you have, please do get in touch!), so just feel the fear and do it anyway. Get on that roller coaster, because it’s not going to be there forever.
For more support on building self-esteem and confidence, visit lifecoach-directory.org.uk