If you’re struggling with body image issues, the concept of body positivity can be hard to get on board with. Here’s how a new way of thinking could be the key to accepting yourself - rolls, cellulite, warts and all
There’s finally a sea change happening on social media - slow as the tide may be, we’re seeing jubilant celebration of bodies of all sizes, colours and abilities, but how do you navigate the choppy waters of body image, when, try as you might, you can’t muster elation when assessing yourself in the mirror? There’s a different way to frame how we consider our figures, and the bottom line is acceptance. If that sounds a bit wishy-washy, here’s how to get there and why you don’t need to throw a body positivity party to feel good about yourself (although by all means DO if you’re feeling it).
What does accepting your body really mean?
- It means really being okay and accepting your body now.
- It means wearing a one-piece because that’s what you’re most comfortable in (even if you think you ‘should’ be wearing a bikini).
- It means not ever hiding yourself in big, baggy clothes because you don’t feel you have the right to be seen. You do. Any shape or size, you do.
- It means looking in the mirror and not seeing every single stretchmark, scar or extra fold of skin as something to be fixed, changed or made smaller.
- Being okay with your body doesn’t mean you can’t still want to change, but by accepting where you are now and having a kind intention to transform rather than a harsh goal means you are treating your body with consideration, not being your worst critic.
- It means even when being at your heaviest point (hello mums and mums-to-be), you accept your body in a gentle, loving and compassionate way.
- It means having respect for the hundreds of thousands of mechanisms your body performs for you on an hourly basis. You should be internally high-fiving yourself every day. You have to learn to accept where you are; that’s when you can begin to change. You can’t hate, criticise and berate your body enough to create lasting change – it just doesn’t work. You can, however, be mindful, loving and gentle with yourself and your body; with where you are now on your journey. And be courageous enough not to hide or be ashamed of how you look. Words are everything, and the way we talk to ourselves and to others is important.
The faddy memes that we need to stop saying (and why)
Strong is the new skinny
This phrase is often accompanied by a picture of a giraffe-like creature with long legs and abs so strong they could kill. Yes, these women may be strong on the surface, but are they strong on the inside? I’ve met lots of ‘strong’ skinny types who are struggling with the pace of the modern world. Strength comes in many forms, ladies, and just because you don’t have a six pack doesn’t mean you are not strong. Plus, this phrase makes you feel bad about two things if you are neither strong, nor skinny. Not only that, but I also know a host of skinny babes trying their hardest to gain weight. Which brings us to . . .
That person needs to eat/eat less
This is essentially ‘skinny-shaming’ and ‘fat-shaming’. We shouldn’t be shaming any body type. We shouldn’t even be commenting on body types at all. We aren’t a label. Neither our weight nor shape defines us. We all have a different body and all bodies should be seen as acceptable to society. Your body. Your rules.
Real women have curves
Real women have a heartbeat. If you qualify, then you’re in! Real women have curves, or they’re skinny, or they’re big, or they’re tall, or they’re short. Just because you don’t look like the woman next to you doesn’t mean she’s not a real woman.
The term body positivity started in the 60s to raise awareness of the barriers faced by larger-sized people and as a result, the word ‘fat’ was reclaimed as a descriptor rather than insult. In the social media age it was re-ignited and used predominantly by women of colour to challenge the beauty ideal. I work with a lot of women who find it hard to relate to the idea of body positivity because it feels too out of reach for them. Here is where body acceptance, or the term body neutrality, comes in.
From acceptance we understand that we might not love every single part of our body, but we can learn to accept it. My interpretation of body neutrality is that we should be neutral about all bodies, all shapes, all sizes, colours, genders and everything in between. The more we talk about bodies, the more they continue to be put in the spotlight, sadly opening doors to judgement. With body neutrality we can work towards the concept that instead of emphasising the need to label our bodies, we can learn to make peace with them. My hope is that one day we go even further beyond this, where commenting on how we look doesn’t take place at all.