Hello my favorite booknerds! As promised, more (better?) blogging from yours truly in 2018! So I want to talk to you about, well, let’s call it a current event, or better yet, a movement that is near and dear to me: body positivity. This isn’t a new movement, it’s been around since at least the 90’s, probably much longer under a different name, but it tends to ebb and flow with strength and becomes more of a “thing” when celebrities or brands come out and say something, or make an ad campaign that celebrates “real” bodies. Case in point: Tess Holiday’s rise to super model status and Dove’s recent ad campaign. In case you’re unfamiliar, body positivity, simply put, is: accepting the body you have as well as the changes in shape, size, and ability it may undergo due to nature, age, or your own choices throughout your life. Sounds nice, right? Loving the skin your in? So why is it so damn hard to love ourselves?
Everyone is different, but for me, one of the main reasons I have such a hard time looking at my body shape in the mirror and loving it is the things I’ve been told, and seen, my entire life. As a kid, I was always bigger, both in height and natural girth. This meant that my “friends” would be cruel, especially in those hormone riddled years when I wanted boys to like me. I wasn’t petite by any means, which my friends would tell me by passive aggressively making comments like: “Well, my doctor said I’m going to have the perfect mannequin body when I grow up!” I kid you not, one of my friends said this to me when I made the mistake in confiding in her about my size. Of course she was lying, but it didn’t matter. I wasn’t skinny, so I believed her when she said that, because she was, she was the expert on bodies at the tender age of 13. Then of course there’s all the popular media and magazines that say things like: “Drop 2 sizes in 10 days for that perfect beach body!” “Find out which celebrity has let themselves go!” “Banish cellulite and get more sex appeal with these easy steps.” Messages like that, for me, definitely had me looking at my curves and, frankly, hating them.
In the last twenty years or so, brands and other movements have been trying to change this. But a lot of brands who have appropriated this have missed the point of the movement entirely. The surface message is: you should feel good about your body. What they are really saying is: you can’t feel good in your body as it is, so let’s help you create a body you can love. Or they show only a small subset of people; like only lighter skinned models who are a “small” plus size—basically acceptable fat. Because there is, apparently, a line where you go from being allowed to love yourself and wear whatever you want without shame, to being fat. And body positivity isn’t just about physical appearance, either. It incorporates disabilities, sexual identities, race, and of course, people who are very large in size. If at any time someone tries to adopt the body positivity mantra but tells you that only these “plus sizes” and these skin tones are acceptable, then they are missing the point.
This isn’t the only misconception about being body positive. Some people believe that being body positive means you have to feel fabulous and sexy all the time, seriously. All. The. Time. That’s false, by the way. Body positive is just about divorcing how you look with your feelings of self-worth. You are not worth less or more because you look a certain way, and you are allowed to feel ugly, but you should always see your worth and want to take care of yourself—that’s being body positive. Believing that you aren't worth less because you don’t fit a certain size, and that your size or appearance or sexuality should have any bearing on your decision to treat others with respect. That's what it's about, people!
Body positivity is also not an excuse to “let yourself go” or be lazy, or to not take care of yourself. It’s just asking you to be okay with who you are, because if you hate yourself, you won’t take care of yourself, and you should want to take care of your body. That means that if you do see issues, but you’re okay with yourself as a person, you’ll be more open and willing to make healthy changes, whatever those may be. It’s also understanding that other people’s health is no one’s business but theirs. You do you, free of the constraints of an oppressive cultural standard of beauty.
For a long time, I thought body positivity meant that I did, indeed, need to find myself the sexiest thing to walk all day every day, and when I didn’t, that meant clearly I hated myself. I follow a lot of curvy body positive models on Instagram and I look at those images and think “Well, damn, I don’t feel that comfortable in my skin. I’m not body positive.” But I’m just looking at a still frame of their life, and I should never compare myself to them. I know nothing about their struggles, like they know nothing about mine. I’m still struggling with that, but I’m trying to take care of myself, to love my shape, and to not argue with my husband when he genuinely says he loves my big butt.
Shopping for pants will always be the bane of my existence mainly because girl sizes are so arbitrary when it comes to pants—this, I feel, is done on purpose because guys don’t have such silly issues when buying pants. Why girls should always run a gauntlet when trying to find the right sizes and pay more for bigger sizes, I’ll never know, but it’s unfair and, dare I say, sizeist (is that a thing?). But despite the emotional roller-coaster I experience when I go shopping or step on the scale, I can still be body positive and be okay with the person I am. And you can too! Let’s Make this 20GREATteen (see what I did there? 2018? Well, I thought it was clever) and be okay with the people we are and the space we inhabit. And know you aren’t alone! If you are looking for more information, these are two great places to start and know I am always here if you want to talk, just leave me a comment and we’ll get a dialogue going!