Why Smart Girls Think Body Positivity Is A Lie

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I brace myself for the onslaught of comments. The inflammatory posts from instigators who wage cowardly battles against confident women who aren’t ashamed of who they are. I scroll quickly looking to confirm long-held insecurities festering among the replies. But what’s this?

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Beautiful, as always

That bag though…and the shoes

Hearts and fire emojis

LOVE YOU in this and more fire emojis

Where did you get that tank?

Perfect color on you

Girrrlll

*Stunning* in this

I’m stunned, just stunned

And so on…okay the last one is just me conjuring Blanche Devereaux.

I keep reading but there’s not a single hint of negativity.

Not even so much as a self-deprecating remark in the name of girl power. Mind you these are all women commenting. Nonetheless, the overarching message is one of love, friendship, and empowerment.

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And the original post? It’s a photo of a woman wearing her finest summer attire. She’s what fashion’s most fashionable have dubbed plus size.

Hers is a statement of body positivity. Yet, my eyes drift to her legs dimpled with cellulite, and cankles spreading over the top of her shoes. Why do I resent her supporters for celebrating her body just as it is? Why am I bitter at this woman for being fearless and undeniably herself?

Let’s start with the first question: Why do I resent her supporters?

I guess it’s because people rarely say things like that to me. Or I don’t want to hear it because I’m quick to assume they’re lying. Their compliments mean nothing. They’re just being nice.

You see, I was fat long before I was fat. In high school when I was hardly any bigger than my size zero friends, the guys called me “Oprah" — a fatphobic and racist remark they loved to chant as I walked past them.

Later when I had a job in retail, I stood there silent as these girls ridiculed their friend who was trying on lingerie. After a few minutes, they turned their attention to me and my weight. I guess folding underwear for minimum wage is enough to attract the ire of complete strangers.

And the second question: Why am I bitter at this woman for being fearless and undeniably herself?

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To say I don’t like my own body is an understatement. I hide under puffy sleeves and baggy sweatshirts as if to say “Don’t notice me, this is just a recording. I don’t actually look this terrible in real life.”

It’s the same reason I resist eating potato chips in front of people lest I confirm their suspicions that my body is 60% donuts and 40% Doritos. I long for the return of old-timey bathing suits. The kind that makes you look like you escaped from prison in an arid climate.

I thought we were all on the same page that smart girls don’t have to be pretty, too. When I look back on my misspent youth, should I have been perfecting my hair and makeup instead of watching Scooby-Doo reruns and singing along to commercials with the Best Love songs of the 90s?

Should I have broken a sweat in gym class rather than concocting a mysterious illness to get out of gym class? I can’t help but think my 20-year bout of acne and period cramps is God’s punishment for lying to gym teachers.

When everyone laughs because the star athlete of your fifth-grade class gets slammed in the head with a basketball — because he was staring at your boobs — it’s not easy to embrace the life of an uncoordinated temptress.

But I digress. The more pressing question is why do these hateful words infect us with fatphobia and singular standards of beauty? Why do the words “cellulite” and “cankles” float to our lips and fingertips? I suppose it gives us a common language to shame others and dwell in the anguish of self-inflicted barbs.

We have much to learn and unlearn, starting with mining for self-love where it actually resides. Letting the ugliness bubble up from within only confirms our worst impulse to deny someone else’s beauty. We throw cold water on fire emojis and refute compliments as nothing more than lies.

To the aforementioned instigators, who scavenge for insecurities and feast on others’ pain, find your empty calories elsewhere. And to those who celebrate their own and others’ bodies, I’m trying to follow your lead. But I’m still catching up.

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Nandini Maharaj, Ph.D. is a writer who has been featured in Medium, HuffPost, PopSugar, Animal Wellness, and more. Follow her on Twitter. 

This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.