According to the Ellipses Project, an advocacy group focused on equality and community, body positivity is:
“A radical redefinition and reclamation of the body. It arose in response to a Western culture that recognizes only white, able-bodied, heterosexual, and thin bodies as worthy and beautiful. Body positivity must be inclusive and intersectional if it is to make real change in society.”
Intersectionality in body positivity can spotlight a number of issues, from homophobia to the strict policing of sexual expression. The truth is, people should be able do what they want with their bodies without fear of judgment. Societal pressures to become more beatific (whatever that is) are largely nonsensical. Nonetheless, the notion that there is an "ideal" body type affects everyone, and leaves people feeling less worthy of love because of how they show up in the world.
For the purposes of this essay, I will explore how to feel comfortable with the body you have, and how to boost yourself esteem not by changing that body - but by embracing it just as it is.
Body Positivity Isn't Just for Women
Before we begin it should be noted that body positivity isn't just for women. Anyone can struggle with shame in regards to their bodies, and the issue is more prevalent than we’d like to think. Men can struggle with anorexia or feel embarrassed to work out at the gym just like women. Many men can feel pressured to achieve some ethereal goal of a body that will magically make them more desirable. As such, the following essay will be gender non-specific. However, it is also worth noting that the issue with body positivity (or the lack thereof) is more prominently displayed among women.
Society would like us to think of body positivity as a cop out. People who embrace their bodies, according to society, are looking for any reason to avoid the gym and zone out on the couch. Of course, this is far from the truth. Mainstream depictions of how men and women should appear are often unachievable. We can’t all be slender, 6’2 models with perfect abs. To expect us to be something we’re not is ridiculous. So, how do we begin the journey to owning ourselves? Here are a few tips to get us started.
Surround Yourself With Things That Champion Body Positivity
Because society pressures us into aspiring to an ideal type, it can be difficult to continue to love ourselves as we are. Because of this, in order to embrace body positivity, there are a few things we should do. First, we should understand that we don’t exist for other people’s perceptions of us. To combat these negative conceptions, we must surround ourselves with things that celebrate body positivity. There are tons of blogs, articles and memes that embrace body positivity in all its aspects and offer tips on how to do things that will increase our self esteem in the face of so much negativity. If you struggle with loving your body, immerse yourself in these resources. (Get some great tips in 6 Steps That'll Help You Love Love Love Your Naked Self.)
Use Creativity to Your Advantage
If you write, pen some love letters to yourself. If you dance, take a dance class. If you’re a photographer, take a selfie. The benefit of using your creativity to make yourself feel better is well documented. In this case, you’ll be using it to both enhance gifts you already possess and as a self-care mechanism to get you through tough times.
Join a Group of People Who Appreciate Body Positivity
Find a group of people who celebrate their differences. There are a number of groups that function as myth busters to the false standards of beauty that we encounter in day-to-day life. They accept themselves no matter their color, sexual identity or physical type. It’s really important to surround yourself with like-minded people even if you can only find a group like that online. Going it alone will make it harder for you as you walk this path.
In short, it’s going to be really hard to love yourself in a society that's so focused on "improvement." All of us have a tendency to find some objection to parts of ourselves physically, mentally, or spiritually. Judgment is a part of who we are as a society, but it doesn’t have to be a factor in how we see ourselves. Judgment starts from within, and if we can begin to show ourselves love by embracing body positivity, another thing tends to happen: We become more able to embrace others as well.