Beauty shouldn’t have a definition – certainly not one set by society. The notion that only bodies of a particular size, shape, colour or form are beautiful is downright ludicrous. It’s what drives the stigma around body image – or body shaming. The best way to stand against it is to live and breathe body positivity.
What is body positivity
Body positivity, in my view, is about embracing and loving your body just the way it is – irrespective of size, shape, colour or form. What makes this a challenge is the constant negative messaging around us that endorses only certain body types as normal and beautiful. It’s all around us – in the media and everyday life. It’s what leads to the social stigma of body shaming – which is to criticise someone (or yourself) on physical appearance. Body shaming is a form of bullying and is simply not ok.
Body Positive is…”a way of living that gives you permission to love, care for, and take pleasure in your body throughout your lifespan”Connie Sobczak, 2014 – author of Embody
Why body shaming needs to stop
Body shaming can have many harmful effects on those subjected to it – women, men, young adults and even children. I know this firsthand, having faced it in some form or other, all through my life. It can cause anxiety, depression, eating disorders and even lead to unhealthy behaviours to change physical appearance. Particularly with children, body shaming can have lasting effects on their health and self esteem.
What can we do about it?
I believe in fighting the negative with a positive. As individuals, the best way to fight body shaming is to do everything in your power to be body positive – here’s five ideas.
- Love your body
It’s no mean feat to stop the world from body shaming. But body positivity can – and it has to – start with each one of us. Love your body. Own it. Embrace it. Because it’s yours. It doesn’t need to fit someone else’s definition of ‘perfect’. You get to define what’s perfect for you.
- …and everything inside
There’s more to you than your body. Fall in love with the whole you – inside and out. Appreciate your personality, values and strengths. The more you fall in love with yourself as a person, the easier it will be to be body positive. Because your body is only a vessel to who you really are. Simply put, it’s the stuff that’s inside that really counts.
- Your body – your choice
This might sound a tad controversial but hear me out. Body positivity is about self love and bringing more wellness in to your life. In that process, you might choose to make changes to your lifestyle, which in effect transforms your body – whether it be a change in weight, shape, muscle mass or something else. I believe you can be body positive and still do this because it’s what you want – not what society forces on you. Do what makes you happy. Be healthy, be fit. If your body changes in the process, so be it. You did it for you.
- Develop the thickest skin
The path to body positivity isn’t likely to be an easy one – body shamers will make certain of that. The happier you seem to them, the more they will want to bring you down. Don’t let them. As hard as it may be, ignore any negative comments or criticism on your appearance. It’s a learned skill and you get good at it over time. Anyone who stigmatise you for how you look are ignorant. Don’t give them the power to control how you feel. Remember, body shamers are shameful – not you.
- Spread the message
As the famous saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day. It may take years, decades or centuries to stop the stigma around body image. But every little step counts. Do what you can to spread the message of body positivity. I’m not saying start or join a movement. It could be a simple post on social media. A blog post. Call out on anyone who body shames. Flag/ report any body shaming social media posts. Whatever it is, keep it positive. You can’t spread a positive message by acting negative.
When they go low, we go high”Michelle Obama
This is not an exhaustive list of how you can be body positive – only five ideas. If you’d like to learn more, there’s some great resources on the Body Image Movement (headquartered in Adelaide, Australia) and National Eating Disorders Association (of United States) websites.
The extent to which the stigma around body image has taken root around us is appalling. It needs to stop but it won’t, unless we all start doing something about it. Love your body fiercely, because it is beautiful. Appreciate your inner self. Don’t heed any negative comments or criticism that doesn’t serve you. No one deserves to be stigmatised for how they look, so spread the message of body positivity as far and wide as you can. Together, we’ll be able to get the wheels turning towards a society that accepts every body as beautiful.
What are your thoughts/ ideas about body positivity? Share with me in comments.
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© Jan Perera 2020. All rights reserved.