Body positivity - Beyond a hashtag.
Updated: Jul 10, 2020
“There’s no better representation of beauty than someone who is unafraid to be themselves.”
We’re all here trying to be inclusive and ‘woke’, speaking about issues like body positivity. Depending on who you ask, body positivity can mean- embracing yourself with all your flaws, feeling confident about your body, loving yourself, and accepting all bodies.
This concept extends from one to all those around you. It asserts how all people deserve to have a positive body image, regardless of how society or recent trends idealize shape, size, and appearance. Promoting acceptance of all bodies and addressing unrealistic body standards had to be a start. In this time of perfect influencers and media defining a person’s relationship with their bodies and how they feel about food, exercise, self-care, and lifestyle, this counts as a huge step.
With its roots in the fat acceptance movement of the late 1960s, the term goes way beyond just shape and size. It also recognizes and stands for those judged based on race, gender, sexuality, and disability.
What body positivity is not, is to stop working towards betterment, towards progress. If you have a goal, keep going, while loving your body the way it is at every step. What it is not, is simply telling people to accept themselves and be resilient in the face of the bombardment of images promoting the ideal. Telling yourself and others to ignore the dominant beauty ideal isn’t realistic. Popular culture tells people that they are flawed—but then demands that they have a positive attitude about it. That, of course, does not mean that you stop giving out good vibes. But a simple camouflage of negative thoughts with positive messages is not what is called for.
So what can you do?
Adopt body neutrality: Start by replacing negative thought patterns with realistic ones. It’s okay to admit that you don’t necessarily love everything about your body. It’s not easy. There will be moments when you feel weak. Conquering not feeling good enough is a tough one to win. But, there’s no definition of beauty. The only way to get there is to cultivate it within you, breaking any barriers that come your way.
Have your version of self-care: Respect your body, eat clean, and be proud of your self. Wear and buy clothes for the body you have- not for a planned future version of yourself.
Reminder: No amount of self-improvement will make up for your lack of self-acceptance. So you know where to start.
Stop punishing yourself: Quoting, those extra 5-10 pounds that you fret over, is where your body naturally wants to be. That’s your late-night pizza with your man, a Sunday morning brunch, or treating yourself with your favorite cupcake. Those extra pounds are your unforgettable trips, memories, and celebrations. They are your spontaneity, your freedom, and your love.
Do not take that away from yourself and your body.
Let social media do the right thing for you: Purge your social media feeds of accounts that don’t make you feel good about yourself. If you find yourself constantly comparing yourself to others, you’re less likely to feel good about yourself. Follow accounts that spark your interests and that leave you with positive feelings. Try following accounts inclusive of all body types, shapes, colors, genders, and abilities.
Coming to what body positivity is yet to work on:
We end up with not one, but two problems- not being perfect enough and daring to discuss our desire to be so out loud. Loving yourself and desiring to change yourself are two sentiments that should be able to peacefully coexist, but have a hard time doing so. The problem with today’s version of body positivity is that it refuses to acknowledge that no one approach is right for every person.
What people get wrong about here is:
Body Positivity is only for ‘fat’ bodies: No. Even though it started with a single target, we have to step up. Too skinny, too dark, too tall, too short, too anything- is all shaming. ALL bodies deserve to have a positive body image. When done right, it makes space for all of us.
Having said that, we still need to cling on to the radical roots of the movement, to shed light on centering the real marginalized bodies. Without this, we lose out on the wonder and the beauty of any goals that the movement set out to achieve.
It’s all or nothing : That’s an incredibly toxic and limited way to say you either love your body or hate it, with nothing in-between.
What should be advocated instead, is the wide range of emotions in the body positivity spectrum. There is room for doubt and uncertainty along with confidence, and that’s okay.
Let yourself go: This being one of the biggest criticisms that promote unhealthy behavior. Loving your body does not mean giving up on it. It should, instead, push you more towards taking care of it and paying more attention to the signals your body sends in.
It’s your fault: It’s not. Looking inside you and examining where your thoughts come from is crucial. But perhaps the bigger part is looking on the outside, taking a long hard look at how the media (traditional and social) has perpetuated a cycle of self-hatred and set up generation after generation to go through the same body image issues. Considering how every person indulged in self-hatred has, at some point, been told how they’re not skinny enough or good looking enough, we need to redefine what is beautiful.
It’s easy: Body positivity is as simple as choosing to love yourself despite your flaws. It’s that simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Letting go of and working through a lifetime of
insecurities is hard, and will take time.
They say, in a society that profits from self-doubt, loving yourself is a rebellious act. In the context of advertising, peoples’ self-perceptions have no apparent connection to the circumstances of their lives. Body positivity didn’t begin that way - it started radical and fringe. Today, body positivity has shed its radical, practical goals in favor of advocacy that’s entirely aesthetic and a problem that can only be solved by those looking to sell you something. The brands that previously thought you should feel one way about yourself, have now decided that’s no longer appropriate for their goals.
What none of these address, of course, is why someone might hate their body. There is no inherent unhappiness towards your gender, or fatness, or blackness, or to anything else that beauty standards have for long treated as a problem. The conditions under which we loathe ourselves are socially constructed. And it’s time that changed.
It’s a beautiful thing that you have a life, surrounded by those you love. It’s a shame how sometimes we don’t realize that that’s enough.
If you haven’t begun yet, here are some steps to help you get there eventually:
Appreciate all that your body is capable of.
Maintain a list of things you love about yourself- unrelated to how much you weigh or what you look like.
Remind yourself that true beauty is way beyond being skin-deep.
Look at yourself as a whole, choose not to focus on parts.
Surround yourself with people who give out good, positive vibes.
Shut down the voices in your head that tell you your body is not ‘right’.
Wear whatever you feel comfy in.
Stretch marks, moles, scars, cellulite, and body hair are nothing to be ashamed of.
Critically refine what you choose to follow on social media.
And lastly, be unapologetic. If you’re too big/small/imperfect for them to love, their heart is too small for them to fit you in.
Written by Nibha Patil
Cover by Ginelle Testa