We have incredible bodies that are capable of incredible things. No matter what we look like, how tall or small, how wide or scrawny our butts are, without our magnificent bodies we wouldn’t be able to experience anything – love, laughter, joy – life. If this sounds a bit evangelical it’s because I am. I really believe that we need to stop hating our bodies and judging our worth on how well we compare to the girls in MTV music videos. But it’s easier to say these things than to really feel them in real life. I know I have to remind myself that my body is worthy of admiration, despite the fact I feel it is less aesthetically pleasing since I gave birth to twins. I’m learning that the relationship we have with our bodies is one of the most important, enduring and challenging, but with a bit of work, it should be one of the most positive ones too.
I spoke to Body Positivity expert Michelle Elman who you may know from her Instagram, Scarred Not Scared (if you don’t know it – go check it out!) on Instagram @scarrednotscared. She’s a body positive activity and a body confidence coach to boot. She agrees that it can be difficult to own positive feelings about our bodies because we’re conditioned to think of ourselves as objects.
“Women have been taught that their worth lies in how beautiful they are and that we should all be striving for one beauty ideal. This beauty ideal is not only narrow but is also fabricated thanks to airbrushing, Photoshop and editing that presents altered images as real.”
Essentially, she says, this leads to a comparison battle that we’re all destined to lose.
If you want to get technical about body positivity, it’s actually way more than telling yourself you’re not “too bad” when you look in the mirror. Elman says body positivity is a political movement that works to get oppressed and marginalized bodies seen, represented and accepted in society. It’s the kind of political movement most of us are happy to get behind as well – accepting and celebrating bodies in all their diverse perfection.
Falling in love with your body, accepting it and crucially celebrating it is a journey that most women have to go on at some point. It can be all too easy to get locked in a negative pattern when it comes to the things you say to yourself about your body.
To combat the bitchy voice in your brain, (the one put there by the patriarchy!) Elman suggests spending more time looking in the mirror and focusing on saying positive things to yourself every day.
She says, “Changing your inner voice is a fundamental part of body positivity so begin changing the thoughts that you’ve come to accept as your norm. Start with noticing how much your body has done for to keep you alive; appreciating what your body does is so much more important than what it looks like.”
We can agree with that.
Elman has just the inspirational mantras we need to know to take control of how we let ourselves feel about our bodies. Reading these just once or twice a day and integrating them into the way that you think can start to make a true difference to how you feel about your body.
1. “All Bodies are Good Bodies”
Remember there is no such thing as a ‘bad body’ – embrace yourself, as you embrace those around you.
2. “Healthy At Every Size”
There’s a movement within body positivity called ‘Healthy at Every Size’ and it’s a reminder that we need to adopt healthy habits for the sake of well being, not weight control. Don’t make size your goal. Make smiles your goal.
3. “There is no condition or requirement on self-love”
Stop putting restrictions on when you are worthy of your own admiration. Be proud of yourself, now, today, and always.
4. “Fat is a descriptor, not an insult”
Stop seeing fat/cellulite/small boobs (or whatever it is you’re self-conscious about) as the enemy, start seeing yourself as a person – a whole – a body -don’t reduce yourself to anything less.
5. “You do not need to change your body to love it”
Think of all the things your body allows you to experience, do and achieve. From thinking to reading to breathing to feeling the sun on your skin – start seeing your body as your best friend, not someone you need to change in order to accept.
Read more of MBS’s As Told to MBS column over here.