In our world obsessed with appearance and thinness, body positivity is a rare and worthy goal. It is important and liberating, not only for people, recovering from ED’s or people who are overweight.
But for everyone.
A lot of telling research shows that women who are at normal weight hate their bodies just as much as women who are overweight. It’s important to finally understand that body positivity and acceptance is not about weight.
Even though body positivity seems simple and great in theory, it’s much more difficult in practice. We have to fight deeply ingrained beliefs and messages we receive every day. And to do this successfully day after day we need more than good intentions.
To be able to be incorporate body positivity as a true value in our lives, we need to improve our skills in 5 key areas. Here, I’ll present a brief overview of them and why they are important.
Being able to treat ourselves with kindness is a key to better self-esteem and happier and more fulfilling life in general. But it’s also a keystone in body positivity.
We can’t just neglect or ignore the negative messages that come from our environment. We need to be able to counteract them. We need to know:
- why they are manipulative;
- what is the damage they are doing;
- why they are wrong;
- why the values they instill are not really important, and should not be prioritized;
- why they send us on a wild goose chase and why the ideals they present are unobtainable for more than 90% of people.
And this knowledge shouldn’t just live in our heads. We should feel it, and we should be able to use it to be more kind and understanding of ourselves.
There can’t be positivity without kindness.
The best way to assess how are we treating ourselves is to monitor our self-talk. If we’re mean to ourselves, we’re sarcastic, and we mock and shame ourselves regularly, something has to change.
The easiest way to improve in this direction is to think: “would I say this to my child/husband/best friend/mother/or anyone that you consider a close and valuable person?”. If the answer is “NO,” make a do-over. Try again, and pretend that you’re talking to your favorite person, who’s in your situation.
Self-kindness and self-acceptance are usually used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. I can be kind to a lot of people, who I don’t accept. Kindness is very important, and it could lead to acceptance, but they are not the same thing.
I’ll make the same point here, as I did before, there couldn’t be positive toward something you don’t accept. If you don’t accept your body, there will be resentment, tension, and internal dissonance. So, to be able to be truly positive, you’ll have to find a way to accept your body the way it is.
A very helpful and simple strategy is to really look yourself in a full-length mirror with and without clothes. To become familiar with your body as a whole and with its parts. You can also take selfies and force yourself to really look at them as a whole, not just to pay attention to the bits you like or don’t like. You can also post online the ones you find appropriate, not just the ones you find flattering.
Also look at other people’s pictures, the ones that are real, unfiltered and full of love. There are a lot of pages related to exactly that kind of images, so do a google search and take a peek.
The key to acceptance is exposure. The more you are exposed to something, the more you get used to it and the more normal it starts to look and feel. The more normal something feels, the easier it is to accept it.
It’s hard to know ourselves, but it’s so worth it. It’s important to dig deep. To find out why it is important for you to be body positive. What are your drivers and what are the values you want to live by?
If we don’t know why something is important, it’s hard to make it a priority. It’s hard to make it a value for ourselves. And it’s almost impossible to let it change our behavior and our lens.
If you want to explore what your core values are, you can use this list from Brene Brown to help you. You can choose just 2 core values. This will give you perspective on what is most important in your life and what is the role of body positivity in the bigger picture.
To be able, not to get defensive and not to feel shame, when someone is commenting on your appearance or when they are talking about triggering issues, you’ll need to be able to hold your ground.
And to do this with kindness and resolve, you’ll need to learn to be more assertive.
This is not an easy skill, but it could be learned. There are a few key things that you need to focus on:
- Don’t get defensive and don’t get offensive. If you feel someone is attacking you, ask questions. Find out what they really think and believe and why. Try to understand. When you want to state your opinion or disagree, don’t go with “you’re wrong, things are like this,” but ask “Is it possible for things to be like this.” That way they won’t become defensive. And you’ll know better what the person thinks and feels and if it’s worth your trouble to communicate and to try to explain your point of view.
- Aim for honest communication without judgment. I’ll quote Brene Brown again, here, but “Clear is kind, unclear is unkind.”
- Don’t induce guilt and shame in the other person. If you’re aiming to make them feel bad, this is not assertiveness, and it’s not helpful.
- Use “I”-statements, don’t blame and criticize;
- Listen actively, stay curious and don’t jump to conclusions;
- Stay open and receptive, which doesn’t mean to agree with everything you’re told. But be receptive to the idea that you also might be at least partially wrong or blind for some factors;
- Learn to say “No.” Set clear boundaries of what is ok and what is not ok and why. Even if you understand the behavior of the person who is hurting you and you know that they mean well, you still owe it to yourself to open your mouth and say that it’s not ok with you.
- Learn not to think binary – in rights and wrongs. Things are usually on a continuum, and it’s better to be able to agree to disagree sometimes.
- Practice and clarify your stands on the issues that are triggering and important to you. This, of course, is a process and something that you do just once.
As I said, these are quite difficult. You don’t need to be perfect, but just be mindful and make your best effort. It can change your life.
I left courage for last because you’ll need lots of it to practice the other four skills. You’ll need the courage to change your self-talk. You’ll need the courage to accept yourself the way you are and to take an honest look at yourself, flaws and all. You’ll need the courage to speak up, and not hold your opinions just to yourself. You’ll need the courage to disagree with people in a productive way. You’ll need the courage to set boundaries.
You’ll need the courage to be body positive in a body negative world.
But I know you can do it, and I know it is worth it! I wish you a great and positive year.