Body Positivity & You by Mariah Shipley
Psst... can we talk about something? It’s personal. It may make you cringe, but I also hope it will make you want to talk. Its about our bodies. I know, I know. After a lifetime of being taught to be ashamed of anything so personal, we’re supposed to be comfortable reading about bodies on the internet? Taking advice from a stranger? Yes, because where else are we supposed to ask the hard questions? Kidding, but listen... When you think of your body, what do you think of? Do you think of the pesky winter pounds, or the hips that never grew quite the right curviness? Do you think of the way that kid in the grocery embarrassed you, or the time you skipped a social function because none of your clothes looked right? How bout that tinder date who insulted you to your face? Do you think about the stock of supplements, and vitamins and lotions in your bathroom promising to tone, lift, elasticize and hide? Do you think of anything positive at all?
Let me tell you a little bit about myself. I used to be 270 pounds, and for someone who just wanted to disappear... I only seemed to get bigger, and I couldn’t figure out why. I remember being chubby in sixth grade, and for the first time ever confiding in my friend that I didn’t like how I looked for lots of reasons, weight included. She saw herself the same way, and said she wanted to go on (what we now know to be) a crash diet, but wanted to wait til middle school where the peer pressure would help her stay faithful to it. Fast forward many years with much weight gained and lost. Now I’m under 200 pounds, but my journey isn’t over. And I’m not here to tell you what to eat or not eat, or what to do or not do to lose weight. I’d like to tell you about the thoughts that I have that let me be at peace and even enjoy the journey I’m on. It’s not the weight loss journey either, it’s just the journey of being a person, a person who is bombarded with messages daily about appearances and ideals. How do I cope? I made a list of rules to live by.
Rule One: Love Your Body Because Its Yours
Sure, other women wow me with their physique, how naturally cute they are, their skin tone. Despite the fact that I never wear makeup (it’s true) they wow me with how well they can do makeup and how good they look in it. I notice how good their clothes look on them, even how beloved they seem to be. And then I look in the mirror. I used to see lots of things in the mirror, but now I just see me. There are things about my body I feel proud of, and things I do want to change. But here’s the catch, even if they never ever change, I still like myself. And I still like my body. Why? Because it’s mine. If you want to improve, improve. But like yourself first, and make sure the liking of yourself isn’t contingent on improvement. When you accept yourself, you let it be ok that every other human on the planet is beautiful in their own way, and you are no exception. When I say every, I mean every. Regardless of weight, height, ability, age, race, gender, or opinion of Harry Potter. Existing in this flesh tent on Earth isn’t automatic entrance into a flesh tent competition of who has the best flesh tent. See how silly it sounds when I say it that way? Believe it or not that was the least weird way to say it, I think... C.S. Lewis said “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul; you have a body.” So love the body you’ve got no matter what, on premise that it is YOURS and no one else’s. Love it in a way that teaches others to love it. In a time where being at war with your body is normal, truly loving your body is a radical act. And when I say love it, I mean unconditionally. Even if you have something that makes you look different than anyone else, have a disability, or need to take medication every single day to survive, it’s still yours and nobody else’s, and deserves to be loved as such.
Rule Two: Respect All Other Bodies
Don’t stoop to putting down other bodies just because they’re not yours! And never put down yours, because all that does is make it harder for other people to love theirs. If I spoke back in the day about what seemed wrong to me on my body, it would only give other people new things to worry about for their own. Don’t go down that road. You don’t need to gush about the bodies of other people, but be vigilant about what is obviously encouraging and respectful and what is not. Hating on other people’s looks is exhausting and it makes you seem petty. If you’re going to diss someone, stick to what causes real problems like bad character, and please for the sake of the internet keep it real, concise, and in the confines of some quality banter. But hating on the way other people look is so 7th grade, and whereas we may hold those pop punk/emo albums in our hearts, the insults and insecurity needs to be let go of. Love your body because its yours, but seriously, respect everyone else’s no matter what.
Rule Three: What To Do When You Are At War With Your Body
So you’re having trouble following step one? That’s cool. Rome wasn’t built in a day. But listen, when you are at war with your body is when it needs your love the most. Don’t diss it, and don’t let other people. And when other people compliment you, let them. They mean it. Maybe you ate too much and feel bloated, or went to try on clothes and realized you’d put on some weight. Maybe some person made a joke about your small chest, or some stranger had the audacity to accuse your skin of being too dark. Maybe you finally got the senior discount about two decades too soon, or you just had a baby, or you were mistaken as the wrong gender... This is the time to go stand in the mirror and look hard at yourself. If there’s no mirror, just look down. Run your hands all over yourself from head to toe. Remind yourself that no matter what has happened everything that is here, is good. It's good enough. It needs love, not more criticism or confusion. Make your next meal a nourishing one, don’t skip eating. Take a hot bath or shower to remind you to cleanse from the negativity. Even if the clothes you have don’t fit right, they’re not a judgement of what is underneath. Think of these things that creep into your mind, as a place to start the hard work of loving yourself. A place of insecurity is ripe for accepting love. And if you have the means, decorate it! Put clothes on it that make you look fly, fun, sassy, business, wild, anything you like. Its your body, have some fun with it!