Written by Ally Geist
Body positivity changed my life.
In many ways, it saved my life from the negativity I surrounded myself with, and allowed me to reach a point of contentment with myself that I didn’t know existed. I am now finally happy and comfortable when I’m by myself – I’m learning to become my own best friend. I think body positivity should be a part of everyone’s lives, because being at war with your body will never bring you peace. I learned that the hard way. More than anything, I learned that it’s okay to not fit into society’s pre-defined box for you.
I spent years hating what I saw in the mirror.
I picked my body apart, pointing out “flaw” after “flaw”, and never imagined that I could ever focus on my favourite qualities first. In fact, parts of me that used to make me very self-conscious are now some of my favourite things. My smile. My laugh. The line of freckles on my right wrist or the mole above my lip. I think the reason body positivity changed me so fundamentally is because I didn’t realize how hard I was on myself before finding the body positivity community. I didn’t realize just how many negative thoughts and beliefs I held about myself, and I filled my days completely, making sure I wouldn’t have any time alone. If I was alone, I had time to think of all the things I didn’t like about myself.
I was a bully. My victim was my body, and my mind.
Lately, I have been so much happier and healthier, but un-learning what 20 years living in a diet-centric culture taught me was hard. Living in a media-driven world where only a select few body types are portrayed in advertisements and television is hard. Especially when you can’t see anyone who looks like you on these platforms. I think a turning point for me in my desire to fully embrace body positivity was when I realized that I was starting to look for “flaws” in other people to make myself feel better. In summers, I wouldn’t want to sit down in shorts because I was afraid of the way my thighs looked when I did. So, if someone else’s thighs touched, I would feel better. If someone else had acne, had tangled hair, or mosquito bites all over, then it would be okay for me to have those things too. Looking for external validation was hard, and it never got easier. I decided I no longer wanted to look for flaws in others to build myself up; I wanted to find light and empowerment within myself to be truly happy. Enter body positivity.
Though I love body positivity, it receives a lot of criticism. Here are a few things I wish people knew about the BOPO community:
1) Body positive influencers are not attention-seeking.
This is the WHOLE POINT of body positivity. Body positivity is not the skinny girl posing for a photograph in her underwear to get likes on Instagram. Sometimes it might look that way, but body positivity is all about what works for you. Thin people are allowed to be body positive. Fat people are allowed to be body positive. YOU ARE ALL ALLOWED TO BE BODY POSITIVE. BOPO advocates are not looking for validation of their bodies, and they aren’t there to be sexualized or shamed. They are trying to find freedom, love, and peace. You do you, you fabulous creature, you.
2) People who embrace body positivity are not promoting obesity.
They are celebrating their natural sizes, and, frankly, promoting happiness at any size. That’s the point.
3) BOPO influencers are not always 100% confident.
They want to spread positivity, but they are learning, just like you.
4) Anyone can be body positive.
It’s not a thin, white, heterosexual, young woman movement. This is an everybody movement, and all body types have a place. BOPO needs the voices of the disabled, the sick, the struggling, the scarred, people of colour, LGBTQ+, and every other possible body… we need everyone to be a part of this conversation.
5) Body positivity can be hard at first.
It’s hard to learn to take care of yourself, especially when you’ve spent years learning how not to. It’s hard to learn to love yourself.
6) Body positivity and eating disorder recovery are not synonymous.
While, yes, a lot of people who are in recovery or are “recovered” from EDs have found the BOPO community helpful in their journey, body positivity is for everyone. If you have a body (hi there EVERYONE), this movement is for you.
7) Body positivity takes time.
It takes time to find what works for you. It takes time to learn to treat yourself with love and respect. But, dammit, it is so unbelievably worth it.
8) Body positivity can be the small things, sometimes.
It can be feeding yourself that slice of pizza because it tastes good and you’re craving it, even though that small voice in your head is telling you to go for a salad. It can be staying home from the gym because you’re tired. It can be shutting down the haters and trolls, or it can simply be that quiet voice at the end of the day that appreciates your body for carrying you through this messy journey called life.
9) Body positivity matters.
It matters because so many people are unhappy with what they see when they look in the mirror. Body positivity has brought me so much peace, and I want everyone to be able to experience it.
10) Body positive activists make mistakes.
Don’t let the fear of making a mistake, or saying the wrong thing, stop you from embracing body positivity. We all mess up sometimes. Just own your mistakes, apologize for them, and learn for next time.
I hope all of you are starting on that journey of self-love and body acceptance. I promise you it is so worth it. I’m rooting for you.
Feature photo: Emilie Currie