In recent years the body positivity movement has grown into something as big as the people it empowers. And when I say this, I mean it has a varying impact or size for each individual that encounters it. For some, the movement is small while, for others, it is the biggest part of their lives. My point in making my previous statement is that the definition of body positivity has been blurred due to the socially constructed human need to tear one another down. The body-positive movement is as big as the people who it empowers because it has no set size or standard for who it is supposed to reach.
A common criticism of the body-positive movement is that it only empowers larger individuals and, by doing so, shames skinny people. Though I do believe there are people out there who feel the need to insult others to feel beautiful, that doesn't mean this notion is the heart of the body positive movement.
Just focusing on the words "body" "positive," it becomes clear what it is all about, being positive about your body. If the movement was meant to be exclusive the name would suggest that, it would probably be called something more along the lines of the fat body positive movement, or the skinny body positive movement. If you look at it this way the movement has the ability to reach everyone to some capacity, with that being said, everyone could be a little more body positive, because let's face it admiring yourself just the way you are isn't always easy. Here are five ways to be more body positive that helped me begin living a more body positive life.
1. Decide that your goal is to be healthy.
The first step on your body-positive journey is to make the decision that your main focus will not be the number on the scale but how you feel physically as well as mentally. It is so common for our society to place an overwhelming importance on how physically healthy an individual is while seeming to not care about that same person's mental well being. Shame and stigma being attached to a persons body type won't encourage them to gain or lose weight, in most cases it will only cause distress and anxiety. Yes, physical health is important, but it should be noted that it cannot be determined by outward appearance alone.
2. Have kind thoughts about the bodies of others.
This one may have a chicken-or-egg complex because, honestly, I'm not entirely sure which came first for me. The kind thoughts about other people's bodies or the kind thoughts about my own. When I say have kind thoughts about the bodies of others I don't mean to compare yourself to the people you pass on the street. I just mean to take the time to think something kind rather than to think they should have worn a larger sized shirt, or that they shouldn't be wearing shorts that short, or that they should eat a cheeseburger. I've found that having more realistic expectations and gentler thoughts about the people around me gave me the permission to be gentle myself. If you can't be kind to others, how will you ever be kind to yourself, and for some it may be the other way around.
3. Bask in your naked glory.
In order to love yourself, it's important to be comfortable with confronting yourself in your most natural form. When I first got to college I purchased my first full-length mirror and I began to make a habit of changing in front of it. At first it was a way for me to see what parts of my body I wanted to target for my next work out, then it was a mixture of finding parts a disliked as well as liked, and after a little effort...OK maybe a lot of effort it became a time for me to strut my stuff and feel proud of the body I already had. Looking at yourself naked could be a terrifying thought, and looking at yourself naked and liking what you see may even be unimaginable. Hating your body but refusing to confront it is kind of like being forced to work with a person that you really don't like, but maybe if you confronted them the problems between you too would dissipate over time, either way you get to go home at some point so it doesn't really matter. Though if you have problems with your body that you never confront it's safe to say they'll never go away, and when you go home your body comes with you. With that being said go on with you bad self and bask!
4. Wear what you want not what society wants.
There is nothing I hate more than hearing someone exclaim, "just because it comes in their size doesn't mean they should wear it." It is in fact the very opposite, because it comes in their size it was intended for them. Their body type was being thought of when that piece of clothing was being made, if they shouldn't wear it I'd really like to know who should. At the end of the day it really boils down to wearing what you feel the most comfortable in, or the most attractive, often times the two go hand in hand. If you want to wear a bikini or if you want to wear an outfit that swallows your entire soul I think you should go for it if that's what you really like, no matter what body type you have. Be mindful that sometimes it can be really hard to tell the difference between what you want and what you're "supposed' to want, and if the two happen to match up that's always OK.
5. Create a more body inclusive social media account.
Many people claim that swearing off social media can do wonders for your body image. I am not denying that this can be true, but proposing that there may be a compromise. Instead of avoiding it all together try surrounding yourself with a variety of body types.Like I previously explained body positivity doesn't mean praising exclusively fat, thin, or fit people. Following the accounts of people with bodies like mine as well as those that look different from my own has helped me to become more body positive then ever. It's allowed me to celebrate different bodies as well as see the beauty in my own. Another step to creating a more body inclusive social media account is following different body positive activists such as Jessamyn Stanley a plus sized yoga instructor and body positive activist, Matt Diaz a body positive activist and public speaker, and Allison Epstein who is a body positive blogger on The Body Pacifist, as well as an eating disorder survivor.
Of course, there are many ways to lead a more body-positive life, and it's important to remember we all struggle sometimes. What I've listed above are just little things that have had a huge impact on developing a more positive body image. On my bad days sometimes none of these work, but when all else fails, I just keep thinking I should see myself the way I see those that I love the most, and one day I will more often than not.