“I wish that you could see that beauty is within your heart. And you were made with such care—your skin, your body, and your hair are perfect just the way they are. There could never be a more beautiful you. Don’t buy the lies, disguises, and hoops they make you jump through. You were made to fill a purpose that only you could do, so there could never be a more beautiful you.” —Jonny Diaz, “More Beautiful You”
This week (February 21st-27th) is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. Before I say anything else, I will say this: I have never struggled with an eating disorder of any kind. Overall, I have always had a pretty healthy relationship with food and exercise.
Because of that, I am not going to talk about eating disorders. I do not know firsthand what they are like, and I therefore do not feel qualified to discuss them. Instead, this post will be about body positivity. Loving yourself has become the subject of the recently-surfaced body positivity movement. This movement—although undoubtedly begun with the best of intentions—has unfortunately become skewed and misrepresented in society today. I recently read this article that criticized Meghan Trainor’s well-known song, “All About That Bass” (which was popularized for its supposed “body positive” message). With phrases such as “stick-figure, silicone Barbie doll” and calling smaller women “skinny bitches,” Trainor’s hit song is far from the true meaning of body positivity.
Now I won’t sit here and try to convince you that skinny-shaming is just as big of an issue as fat-shaming, because the truth of the matter is that it’s not. It just isn’t. While no one should feel as though their body isn’t “good enough,” and skinny-shaming is still hurtful and unacceptable, it cannot be equated with the problem of fat-shaming. Quite frankly, the society we live in makes it a lot easier for smaller women than for larger women. It’s far easier to find clothes that fit smaller frames than it is to find clothing for larger frames, and many industries, whether consciously or unconsciously, often convey the false stigma that being thinner is more desirable than being larger. No, skinny-shaming is not on the same level as fat-shaming. That does not at all make shaming skinny people okay or acceptable (because it is still hurtful and enforcing a negative body image), but it simply is not as large of a problem as fat-shaming.
The true meaning behind body positivity is not to shame one group in order to make another group feel better. A positive self-image should not come at the expense of those who look different than you. It is not permissible to tell bigger girls that they need to fit into a certain size of jeans to be beautiful, nor is it okay to tell smaller girls that having curves is more beautiful than not having them. The same is true with any other physical trait—eye color, hair color, height, skin tone, etcetera. Even worse, it is definitely not cool to tell girls that one body type is more desirable to men than other body types. Each man has different personal tastes, for one, so the generalization that “men like skinny girls” or “men like curvy girls” is just a statement of ignorance (or, in my opinion, plain stupidity). More importantly, this tells girls that the opinion of men regarding their bodies actually matters. But guess what? It doesn’t (or it shouldn’t, at least). Appealing to men (or anyone in general) should not be used as an incentive to achieve any certain body type.Body positivity is also not only for women. Though commonly talked about in the feminist community, body shaming is also a problem for men, too. It is inarguable that it is a bigger problem for women, but we cannot ignore the men here, either. Magazines and movies and TV ads usually feature tall, fit men with visible muscle, which also conveys the untrue message that being muscular is more attractive than not having noticeable muscle. Just like men have different tastes in women, women have different tastes in men. Moreover, similar to what I said before, women should not be used as an incentive for men to obtain a certain body shape. Everything I said in the above paragraph applies to men, too—no single physical trait is “better” than any other trait, and telling them that (whether consciously or unconsciously) is not okay and is counteractive to the body positivity movement.
Now that I’ve covered what body positivity is not, I’ll tell you what it is: True body positivity is learning to love yourself and the body you have regardless of what it looks like. Refuse to compare yourself to others and focus instead on the wonderful qualities you have. Anything you do to change your body, do it for yourself, not for others. Make it a goal to get to the point where you can see another attractive girl or guy and not feel threatened by or inferior to that person. When you do, it’s truly freeing.
Learning to love myself for who I am is one of the best things I have ever been able to do. That doesn’t mean that I never have days of low self-esteem, because I do still have them like everybody else. Some days I look in the mirror and insecurity creeps in. I have days where I dislike a part (or multiple parts) of my body, but at the end of the day, I know those thoughts aren’t true and I can’t let them consume me. When I have those low days, I try to remember that it happens to everyone and the key is to not let those negative thoughts win.
As you go about the rest of your day, I challenge you to start combatting those negative thoughts that pop into your head. Start the journey of learning to stop comparing yourself to others and to love yourself and your body. (: