The Truth About Practising Body Positivity

July 3, 2018

Loving your body after years of internalised self-hatred is hard. In fact, most of the time, it seems a near impossible and totally unattainable concept. Kind of like the warped and extremely limited beauty ideals we’re somehow all supposed to embody! But how, how do you bring yourself to a ceasefire when the war waged against your own body has existed for as long as you can remember? The truth is, I don’t have a straight answer. 

Accepting your body doesn’t happen overnight. Some days my body and I just aren’t friends. Other day’s I’m like “Wow! I’m unstoppable and ready to conquer the world, squish and all” - until I either start to compare my body to someone else’s or stupidly feel guilty about treating myself. Relationship status: complicated. All I can say for certain is that accepting and embracing your body is the opposite of a linear journey but I know wholeheartedly, it’s completely worth it. 

Most of us by now are in the know about the oppressive and sexist systems in power that contribute to an almost universal experience of negative body image. I have written post after post, caption after caption, read book after book, and had conversation after conversation about this. The way that society, the media, businesses, magazines, men and even other women talk about and judge the female body is enough reason to want to summon hellfire. Body positivity seems like the perfect alternative, the necessary antidote – and in many ways it is. It’s a way for us to finally be free. However, in the words of badass body activist and author Jes Baker, “when we focus solely on learning to “love our bodies,” there is a possibility that we are simply replacing the obsessive hatred around them with an equally obsessive love.” 

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a perfectionist. I get obsessive about things. I place pressures and expectations on myself that I would never put on someone else. When I fail to meet certain standards, my first instinct is to beat myself up. Not the insanely unrealistic requirement, to-do list, plan, or ideal I failed to follow but me. The consequence of that is that it creates a constant stream of consciousness that says, “I wasn’t/am not good enough to do this. I did/am doing something wrong.” This has been my response to my body when it’s been “too big, too squishy, too short, too curvy, and too round” to fit into society’s very limited and exclusive idea of “conventional” beauty. For so long I have felt that way. Now, thanks to body positive movements I realise that “it’s not me, it’s you”, you being the narrow-minded, eurocentric and harmful idea of beauty perpetuated, that profits off our self-hatred and our inabilities to change our genetics to fit. 

Wearing a bikini for the first time! You don't need abs to have fun at the beach.
That realisation is so very important, a necessary breakthrough on the way to body liberation but sadly, it’s also not the immediate and sudden fix. It’s not the one and only step to looking in the mirror and loving what you see. It’s just the beginning. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably feeling robbed because you wanted an easy and quick fix! Just like my default was to criticise my body for not being enough, now on this body positive journey, it’s become my default to blame and scrutinise myself whenever I don’t love my body twenty-four hours a day, every day. What a 360? However, I have come to realise that so early on in this journey, constant and unconditional love is yet another unrealistic expectation that I’ve set for myself. 

My truth is, is that when deciding to work towards body acceptance, there will be good days and bad days. The good news is, without the decision to accept your body, there aren’t any good days and now there is! Bad days are part of the process, this whole thing is supposed to be tiring and challenging. I figure that most rewarding and life changing processes are. 

The trick is not to beat yourself up about it. Feel how you feel, get angry and then get back on the rodeo. Have your moment, your pity party, but let it be just that. A moment. Every day is a new day and each day brings you closer to further badassery (wow I’m lame af). I say this not to be preachy or cheesy or because I’m in possession of some wisdom that you aren’t, but as a literal public reminder to myself! I’m trying to hold myself accountable here!

Some actual good news? Even if this process is anything but easy, since beginning this journey, I have learned and been taught a few tips and tricks that have made it a hell of a lot easier. Just like there have been obstacles, there have also been victories, some bigger than others and I wanted to share them today in hopes of inspiring other people to work towards liberating themselves. It might take more years than we’d like, but at least we’re on the way right?  

  1. Knowing who the real enemy is! I talked about this earlier, but my friend you really aren’t the problem here! I don’t care what size you are or what you can’t do, your body isn’t a failure. The system has failed us. I won’t take up word count here discussing it, but the system is completely against has and has been since the dawn of time. Books like Megan Jayne Crabbe’s “Body Positive Power” explain this perfectly or if you’re short on time I touched base on this in a post a few years back. It’s time to get angry at the patriarchy, the media and the diet industry. 
  2. Go on a media diet (aka the only type of diet I will ever advocate for)! Not that there’s anything wrong with looking “conventionally” beautiful but personally, whenever I see my Instagram flooded with digitally altered images of seemingly perfect women, I feel absolutely shit. It just does not empower me. Comparison really is the thief of joy. Obviously, these images affect people differently but without the decision to unfollow various fitspo pages and Victoria Secret models etc. and to instead follow girls who looked like me or who were at least un-photoshopped, I would have never found the body positive movement and its role models. Representation is beyond powerful. The first time I started to see images of plus-size models flashing radiant smiles and sporting carefree attitudes, it felt like breathing for the first time. Unfollow anyone who makes you feel bad and seek out the type of content that makes you feel good. 
  3. Become aware of and confront your own biases. Find the beauty in everyone! We’re an impressionable species and we live in a society that actively shames and discriminates against fat people. Therefore, the sad reality is that most of us have developed a fear of being fat. Be honest about the standards you hold other bodies to. Be honest about the criticisms you make of not only yourself but others and recognise where they come from. It’s easier to show love to yourself when you show love to others. Maybe your own insecurities have caused you to make unfair judgements of other bodies? It’s important to take accountability and to reframe your perspective.
  4. Recognise the ways that you hold yourself back! Minimise the worth and validity of your negative thoughts by rebelling against yourself through bold and affirming actions. For me, this meant wearing a bikini to the beach for the first time just this summer because the beach is going to get whatever body I give it! I was SO scared but it felt amazing. I couldn’t believe I’d held myself back for this long thinking something horrible would happen! Spoiler: it didn’t. It has also meant making braver fashion choices, like buying a very tight dress that I adored to formal that really did expose my lil round belly and just going YOLO. I had ruled this out for the longest time and deemed it a dress only for other skinnier girls but I felt the best I have ever felt at any social event. 
  5. Find other reasons to appreciate your body that aren’t based on physical attraction! So much value is placed on how appealing or sexually attractive our bodies look, but that is so far from their actual purpose. Our bodies are magic and capable beyond belief, no matter what shape or size their exterior presents! They are at work 24/7 allowing us to live and move, granted there is a privilege in being able-bodied and disabled bodies are just as valid and magic. For so long thanks to PE at school, I thought my inability to run or play soccer meant I absolutely sucked at sport and was doomed for life, but there is a form of physical activity for everyone! I learnt that while my body literally hates cardio, it is also strong af! I am amazing at resistance work in the gym and can literally crush a man with my thick thighs at Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu (a sport that changed everything for me). Find out what your body can do and find pride in that! Exercise shouldn’t be a punishment; it should be a celebration of what your body can do. Be grateful for all of your bodies little victories, even if it just means thanking it for getting from point A to point B.
  6. Initiate honest and safe conversations with your peers about body image! You’ll discover you’re not alone. This means eliminating any negative dialogue from your circles. Don’t spend time shit talking about yourself or others when you are with your people. I personally have so many amazing people to thank for helping me get where I am today. Conversations and shared resources create healing and community, it is invaluable. If you don’t have someone to talk to or to remind you of your worth on one of those bad days, then I am your friend! All of us can work our way to the self-love club together. 
Breaking the rules I had set for myself that were unkind and restrictive, and just wearing what I wanted to wear!
I hope this post allows one of you to look at yourself with less judgement next time you look in the mirror. I’m not trying to be the lamest teenager you know (although I could very well win that award) but I’m willing to look like it if it means I get to discuss what I’m passionate about on my very own blog. Either way, whatever journey you are on, I am rooting for you! Be gentle with yourselves and fake it till you make it! Thank you for reading <3

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