You're not gonna love your body 24/7, but you can still promote positivity!
By Erin McKelle
I’ve been writing about body positivity on the Internet for a couple of years now, but I have to admit that if anything, loving my body has become harder than when I started.
Since then, I came to understand that I had an unresolved eating disorder that I battled for six years, I’ve started working out and I’ve discovered a passion for cooking. I also grew up, literally and figuratively, which caused me to see my body in a different way.
I always thought that once I got through puberty and my teen years, I could really lose weight and change my body type. As I grew my knowledge based in fat studies, I started to realize that I was probably going to inhabit this body for the rest of my life.
Since I’ve been preaching body positivity, I’ve felt increasingly guilty about this internal struggle. I have been experiencing imposter syndrome, as I have felt like I have no right to tell you about body love when I secretly hate my own.
Yes, that’s right, I said it: I hate my body.
I’m letting go of the expectations I put on myself, real or imagined, to be this perfect picture of body positivity at all times.
The thing is that body positivity does not mean that you love your body 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It doesn’t even mean that you love your body one day a week. What it means is that you believe all bodies are good bodies, that everyone of every size deserves equal treatment and respect.
You want to see accurate representation of fat people in the media, you believe in bodily autonomy, and promoting healthy body image instead of a fatphobic one.
Sure, cultivating body love can be an integral part of that, but practicing body positivity doesn’t mean that you’re going to find that next week — it might take a lifetime to cultivate!
Body positivity is a philosophy, not an activity. Just like feminism or sex positivity, it’s a way of viewing the world and making sense of culture.
I’m sick of all of the pressure and expectations that seem to come with proclaiming oneself body-positive - it’s like you’re expected to never have any feelings about your body except for positive ones. I would argue that creating this ‘positive thinking only’ notion is harmful to our collective body image consciousness, since the underlying message is that negative emotions are to be suppressed. This is only going to perpetuate the cycle of self-hate, especially when there aren’t safe places to express these feelings.
So now that we’ve got that down, you’re probably wondering how you can practice a body positivity that is inclusive of these negative experiences. Here’s a few practical ways to cultivate this in your body image practice.
1. Accept, Don’t Judge
It’s important to remember that everyone is on their own journey of body love and that there is no right or wrong way to experience your body, just like there’s no wrong way to have a body.
The bottom line is that your body-positive practices should include absolute acceptance and never judgment. Don’t tell people who are struggling to just shut up and love their bodies already — I guarantee you they’ve been trying to do that, and you shutting them down isn’t helping!
Embrace all forms of body positivity and people’s relationships with their bodies, just like you embrace people in all forms.
2. Recognize Intersectionality
If you’re not a feminist theory novice, intersectionality is a term coined by theorist Kimberlé Crenshaw that essentially means people experience their identities differently. For instance, a white woman is going to experience misogyny differently than a woman of color.
The same principle applies in body positivity, since most of the time those who are most applauded for their body image practice are privileged white women and many of them are also thin. Someone that has a marginalized identity is going to probably have more obstacles to face in body love than those who have more privilege.
Figure out where you fall on this spectrum and always analyze sizeism, lookism, and fatphobia from an intersectional lens.
3. Work On Your Relationship With Your Body
If you are struggling to make peace with your body, it’s time to work on your relationship! You can’t expect your interaction with anything or anyone to improve if you’re not working on it proactively. So start to really spend time with your body, appreciating everything it does for you and practice bodily self-care.
This could mean working out when your instinct is to lay on the couch, giving yourself a massage when you crave touch, or admiring your naked form in the mirror, and listing all of the things you love about your body, instead of the ones you don’t.
Once you start to spend time with your body mindfully, you’ll see how important this is to finding body love.
4. Find Ways to Uplift
At the end of the day, our culture is the reason that so many of us struggle with body shame. So, we have to change the culture before we can ever truly find our way out of it.
To do your part, find ways to engage in society that are focused on cultivating good body image, instead of harmful. This can be as simple as giving someone a compliment that’s not body focused or telling someone something you love about them if they’re tearing themselves down.
All of these small actions eventually build up to create cultural change. And that’s what I’m here for.
This article was originally published at Ravishly. Reprinted with permission from the author.