A Beginner's Guide to Body Positivity
I was originally going to call this post “A Beginner’s Guide to Mastering Body Positivity,” but if you read my last post about four things people get wrong about body positivity, you know I believe it is something you have to work at every single day. There is no destination, there is no end point, and I certainly don’t have all the answers. What I do have are some tangible ways that have helped me learn to love and appreciate my body.
For some people (I used to be one of them), the thought of loving your body is so far-fetched that you can’t even wrap your brain around it. If that’s the case, take baby steps. Start by saying something nice to yourself in the mirror. Start by doing something you enjoy in the name of self-care. Don’t stress yourself out trying to achieve one more “ideal.” You don’t have to approach body positivity like anyone else (even me!); make it work for you.
Pick one thing you like about yourself and focus on that. If the idea of loving your whole self seems overwhelming start small, and then move on when it feels like you’re ready. If being positive about even one thing is too much, start by being neutral toward your body. Actively challenge negative thoughts when they come up and work on simply not hating yourself.
Fake It Till You Make It
I wrote a whole blog post about this, but if you can’t honestly say anything nice to yourself, just pretend. I know it sounds counterintuitive, but the mind is powerful and the idea of the self-fulfilling prophecy is real. So if you can’t do it for real, fake it. Say nice things to yourself even if you don’t believe them. Tell yourself you are good enough right now, that your body is good and deserves love. Tell yourself over and over again, and you might be surprised when you actually start to believe them.
Offer Yourself Grace and Compassion
We are so quick to offer others compassion and understanding. We would never berate another person for not having lost the baby weight in six weeks or for eating too many carbs in a day. We are never going to stand in front of our friends and tell them they are fat and ugly and don’t deserve to be loved. We are never going to tell our sisters they are complete and utter failures who might as well give up now because their body is unlovable and they will be fat and useless for the rest of their lives. We would never say these things to other people, so why do we say them to ourselves?
In a world where the best parts of our lives are shared on social media and we have hundreds of examples of why we aren’t doing good enough, we have to realize those perfectly styled pictures on Instagram are not the full story. For example, I took a photo a few weeks ago and posted it on Instagram where I was standing by my closet. My bedroom looked super clean and organized, but just outside the frame of that photo clothes were scattered everywhere, my bed wasn’t made, and I had my laundry basket stacked on top of the baby’s high chair just to try and get the picture in the first place.
It’s okay to admit you don’t have it all together, but it’s not okay to berate yourself and tear yourself down because you aren’t living up to some Instagram ideal that isn’t even real. Offer yourself the same grace and compassion you would offer your best friend or sister. Talk to yourself like you would talk to them and not like your body is the enemy.
Find Your Why
When I started out on this body positivity journey, my focus wasn’t on being more positive about my body but on getting and staying healthy for myself and my family. But as I started to take better care of myself, I realized my hatred toward my body was having a negative impact on my relationship with my husband, my health, and my friendships. It wasn’t the example I wanted to set for my son or my nieces and nephews.
As I got further and further along, I realized I had the power to make an impact on others outside my close circle of friends and family. Sharing my story, being open and vulnerable in hopes of making an impact on even one person, has become a big part of my why. And knowing why I struggle so hard to love myself acts as a reminder on the days when it is really hard; it gives me a reason to not give up even though that would be the easier choice some days.
When it gets really hard, you have to have a reason for doing this, a reason that is just for you and no one else. Because an outside motivator won’t always be enough. That reason can be as big or as small as you want it to be, but take the time to figure out what it really is. Write it down and revisit it as often as you need.
Don’t Be Afraid of Your Emotions
This one actually came from a health and wellness challenge I did a few months ago, but I have found it to be so helpful. Learning to love yourself is going to bring up a whole host of emotions, some of them not so pleasant, but we don’t have to run away from them. Learning to sit with those negative emotions, really feeling them and then letting them pass, is something I am still actively working on.
We have been taught for so long to hide our emotions and keep it together, but those emotions have to go somewhere. If we don’t allow ourselves to feel them, we find other ways to cope with them; ways like overeating, self-medicating with drugs or alcohol, or other destructive behaviors. But if we can learn to sit in the uncomfortableness of our emotions, I believe there can be a lot of growth.
This journey to self-love and body positivity has not been an easy one for me. I have struggled and cried and wanted to give up. Some days it has been a battle, but I can tell you it is worth it. My life is so much happier and so much better because I have worked toward a more positive mindset about my body. I don’t hate myself with every fiber of my being anymore.
I listened to a podcast once where the guest speaker spoke about self-love and said loving yourself is actually harder than the alternative, and I couldn’t agree more. Some days loving myself is the furthest thing from my mind. Some days it is a battle inside me to fight off those voices that tell me I'm not good enough, not skinny enough, not pretty enough, that I'm not working hard enough. Some days it would be easier to let them win.
Finding true love and acceptance for my body has been one of the hardest things I've ever done. It makes me step back and really look at where those negatives thoughts and emotions are coming from. It makes me look at the less than perfect parts of myself and challenges me to love those too. It is not easy, but it is worth it.