What #BodyPositive Really Means (To Me)
Body positivity and the importance of self-confidence are not new topics for me -- not as a woman, and not as an author. I've struggled to find and maintain my own sense of confidence and self-worth all my life, right from the very first moment that something or someone told me that I'm not good enough as a person because my body doesn't meet someone else's standard of health or beauty.
I've been hurt. I've been called names. I've gotten the side-eye more times than I'd like to admit. I've been turned away, turned down, rejected, insulted. I still get that, actually, and I'm betting you do too, regardless of what you look like or what your personal life choices are.
- I get treated wrong because I'm white so people assume that means I'm a racist (Not True).
- I get it because I'm a Christian, and people assume that means I'm a "close-minded bigot" (Not True).
- I get it because I'm a plus-size woman, so people assume that means I guzzle soda by the gallon and don't care enough to take care of my body (Not True).
- I get it because I'm perceived by many to be "just" a stay at home mom, so they think I don't do anything all day and I just sit around enjoying unlimited free time with no demands while my children are at school (Not True).
- I get it because I'm self-employed as an author, and people tend to assume either that I'm filthy rich and can therefore blow off working whenever they want me to (Not True),
- or that I'm lazy and destined for failure and can therefore blow off working whenever they want me to (Also Not True).
But let's be honest right now, in a way that most people don't want to be. Only one of those things really matters in today's society, right? The one about being plus-sized, the one about not being as thin as most of the world thinks I should be -- because FAT is the worst possible thing someone could ever be, right? That's the one thing on that list that makes most people jack their eyebrow up in surprise or disgust or disapproval -- or maybe in a defiant moment of agreement with the sentiment they feel as they read what I'm saying.
That's why we have the whole body positivity movement in the first place. It's why we have stuff like #bodypositivity, #effyourbeautystandard, #honormycurves, #daretowear, #bodylove, and #imnoangel, hashtag campaigns that catch on and go viral because women are beaten and battered by the world until they're desperate for a way to feel good about themselves again, without feeling guilty for feeling good. The world tells us that we're never good enough, that we can't ever be good enough. We're too fat, too thin, too short, too tall, too loud, too quiet. Too opinionated, too laid-back.
And there is no middle ground, because what one person thinks is way too much, another person will think is not nearly enough. That's why you have to have your own standard of self, and you have to give yourself permission to live by that standard, regardless of what standard someone else is living by.
So how can I look at myself in the mirror every day, with breasts that aren't perfectly even and eyes that are different colors, a body that's lumpy and bumpy and striped with stretch marks and scars, skin that's imperfect, toes that are kinda crooked ... the list goes on and on, and that's just with my body -- we're not even touching the things that are wrong and have gone wrong in my personal life during my thirty-two years of trying so hard to be someone worthy of ... something.
How can I be body positive? How can I love this body, and this body, and this body, and this body, and this body? More importantly, how can I possibly love MY body, in spite of the constant influx of societal opinion that nothing about my body can ever be good enough?
And even more importantly, how can I love my body, in spite of the common perception that since my body is less than perfect, I am somehow inferior as a person?
It's hard. I have to start over again every day. I have to tell myself every single day, that I'm good enough. That I'm beautiful. That I'm strong. That my body is beautiful -- even when I'm looking at pictures taken from bad angles or in unflattering clothing, even when the lighting isn't right and I have no makeup on and my hair looks awful. I'm still beautiful. I'm still worthy of love and respect, still worthy of kindness and good treatment as a human being. It doesn't matter what my body looks like -- I'm still human.
But don't get me wrong. This isn't about pretending that it's okay to be so fat you're killing yourself. It isn't about pretending that your health isn't affected by your weight, or any of that.
However, it is never okay to put your nose in someone else's business, especially if you don't know their struggle. It is never okay to pretend to be concerned about someone just because the way they look makes you uncomfortable. You don't get to assume that someone with a larger body also has a general lack of anything (like self-control, right?) or an abundance of anything else (blood sugar and cholesterol, anyone?). It's about the simple, basic human respect that we all owe each other.
And you know what? We owe that to ourselves as much as, if not more than, to anyone else. Because it's true what I said earlier -- the world will always tell you that you aren't good enough. You owe it to yourself to be that one voice in the back of your mind that says something nice to you, especially because sometimes that's the only nice voice you'll hear. You owe it to yourself to be kind to you, to be positive about you, to be affirmative to you.
You are beautiful. You are strong. You are successful. You are amazing. You are worthy. You are enough.