Bodies are inherently diverse and unique. Unfortunately, it seems that mainstream media refuses to acknowledge how our differences need to be addressed. We are not carbon copies of one another and I assure you we are not and cannot all be white, thin and able-bodied. We are not born to mold ourselves into these very limited categories and we should not be made to feel as though we have to. Media has had the power to perpertrate and influence the ways in which we process what is acceptable within ourselves and those around us. Whether consciously or unconsciously, we internalize these images and as a result start to apply them to our own perceptions about ourselves. This leads to damaging ideas about our own bodies. One way to combat these ideas has sprung up with the emergence of the body positive movement that, while still in its early stages, has been a running start towards more positive and inclusive interpretations of body image.
The body positive movement recognizes that beauty does not exist as a binary or a hierarchy. It isn’t just fat or skinny, as we often like to categorize it. Although there is still a bit of work to do within this movement to create an all-embracing space, I believe that the body positivity movement is starting to work within the structures of ability, race and gender to change how these often oppressive states start to affect how we see ourselves and those around us in terms of beauty. When we address the aforementioned structures, it will be easier for this movement to become intersectional, and to thereby create a safe place in which to talk about the issues we face daily. The body positive movement allows those people who have been made to feel insignificant and unwanted by society’s presentations of beauty to start to feel comfortable and confident with who they are.
Here are five simple simple tips to get you started:
1. Remember that loving yourself is a learning process.
It is not going to come easily. There are going to be days in which you just do not have the energy to combat all the negativity that comes your way, and that is okay. We are all going to be different in terms of how we start to address our negative body perceptions. What matters is that we choose to engage with what body positivity means to us, and that we work towards that goal for ourselves.
2. Refuse to let yourself be defined by anyone else’s standards.
You are in control and you get to decide what is going to define you. Do not let yourself fall prey to the idea that there is only one standard definition of beauty that has value. One way to help yourself move away from society’s definition of beauty is to go on a media diet. Try to avoid the constant onslaught of manipulative images and articles. Ignore diet ads, advertisements and commercials that try to instill a sense of guilt and worthlessness about your body. Living without these images for a while is going to make the process of crafting a positive image of yourself a lot easier.
3. Stop comparing yourself to others.
Our society has this obsession with presenting image as a competition. Do not place your self worth on other people. While it’s often nice to be surrounded by those who support you, being able to boost your own self-esteem is the key to a more confident you. Encourage yourself and those around you to see that worth lies in areas other than image by emphasizing equally (and perhaps far more) important attributes like intelligence, humor or kindness.
4. Fake it ‘til you make it.
It’s very important to make body positivity a daily occurrence. As much as I wish that self love could be something instantaneous, I know how difficult it can be to reverse everything we learned about beauty and body image. Taking it day by day is a useful tool that is going to rewire any detrimental attitudes. Start with affirmations in front of the mirror. Tell yourself how great you’re looking today and how good you feel about yourself. While you may not believe it now, soon enough you’ll find that it’ll come naturally and it’ll start to feel genuine.
5. Do not accept your flaws; embrace them.
The idea that you have flaws is perfectly normal. No one is perfect, after all, but that does not mean you have to hate yourself for it. Start by creating a healthy relationship with your body and embracing all the parts of yourself that make you you.
The body positive movement is not going to succeed unless we make a constant effort to eradicate feelings of inadequacy within ourselves and others. It’s up to us as individuals to create an environment in which self-love can flourish. It’ll take time to reach a state in which we can all feel confident in who we are.