Let’s do an experiment. Think of your best friend, your significant other, someone who means a lot to you.
One day, you ask this person’s opinion on an outfit. They look you over and proceed to tell you everything negative you’ve ever told yourself about your own body.
Maybe that you’re too fat to wear this, too thin to wear that, too short, too tall, that you have too much cellulite, that you have too many stretch marks, that you should cover up your fat arms, that your legs are too twiggy and that they just don’t have any suggestions for you to improve — you’re just a hopeless case of ugly.
Would you stay associated with this person?
So why do we consistently put ourselves down?
Talk to yourself like you would talk to your best friend. We’ve all heard this before, so maybe that experiment wasn’t very effective.
Here’s another one. If you have kids, think of them. If you don’t, pretend you do.
Now, pretend that for an entire week everything you say to yourself about your own body, you have to say to your kids about their bodies.
Could you do it? Probably not, because you love them.
You would never say those things to someone you love that much. So why can’t we love ourselves?
We’re taught to think that there’s always something worth fixing or improving, so we can never be happy with who we are naturally. But are we ever any happier once those things are “fixed?”
Even once you reach a healthy weight for your body type, you keep pushing for those extra five pounds to melt off, and then another five, and another five, and another and by this point, what you’re doing isn’t even healthy anymore – you just want to see that number drop.
The reality is that these thoughts aren’t inherent, they’re not organic, they don’t just exist on their own. These thoughts and their resulting behaviors are learned and socialized from the moment kids step into a preschool classroom, and in some cases, well before.
Kids as young as six have poor body image and consider dieting. Surely, they’re not hearing dieting tips from other six-year-olds, but their wide-open eyes and ears leave them thinking about their bodies in the same manner that their parents do.
Parents lay the foundation for poor body image when they ask their kids if they look fat in a piece of clothing when they let their kids hear them talk about dieting or when their kids see them refuse to wear something because of how they look.
This doesn’t mean they’re bad parents — they were socialized to think these things in the exact same way.
And as we get older, it only gets worse.
I was in the second grade the first time a peer commented on my body. We wore uniforms at my school, and a kid in my class told me that my stomach was too fat for my jumper since it poked out over the edges of the waistband.
I was seven years old. That’s almost 13 years ago.
A little later on, two different kids told me that they would never want me to be on their team in PE class. They didn’t say it was because I was fat, but that’s how I understood it.
That was nine years ago.
Another time, someone else laughed in my face when I told them I wanted to play volleyball. Again, it’s all about implication.
That was six years ago.
There’s more, but I think I’ve made my point.
I haven’t forgotten any of these instances. I started thinking about these kinds of comments every time I got dressed, and I made a habit of crossing my arms in front of my stomach when I sat down. People asked me why I sat like that and I just told them I was always cold.
This is why body positivity is a movement, not something we just automatically know, like our hair color or our name.
But we can’t just word-vomit physical affirmations and expect body positivity to magically appear in the minds of our most vulnerable.Tell your kids, your young siblings, your little cousins, the kids you babysit and even your own parents that their bodies are good bodies. Remind them that healthy comes in all shapes and sizes and that numbers on scale mean nothing.Teach them how to nourish and take care of their body instead of punishing it. Debunk the perfection myth, and help them grow to love the body they’re in. And don’t forget to love your body, too.