A bullied teenager knows what peer pressure means, and a traumatized child knows what taunts mean. But, a person lacking body positivity knows what not having self-esteem means.
It is very easy for us to be sitting behind screens, advocating body positivity. However, most of us come across situations where we want to wear our favourite pair of shorts or tank tops, or even other dresses and wish to be the possessor of somebody else’s body. We want thinner thighs, slimmer waists, less bulky arms, maybe no acne or longer hair. I say it here, most of us do.
Now the point is, some of us are fearful of gaining too much weight and then being patients of various cardiac health issues. It is understandable. All of us wish to be healthy. For some, though, this turns into an addiction, where we just don’t realize that we are on the verge of being unhealthy. We substantially reduce our diets, and sometimes even skip meals. Or maybe some of us our afraid of our growth and wish to be taller or wish to be able to be able to change various physical features of ours.
What I described above is known as Anorexia: an obsession with diet and weight. However, there are many more such issues. From a lay man’s point of view, these can all be cured by increasing our confidence and having good body images. Achieving this, though, is not so easy.
What comes here as our greatest weapon in the fight against negative body image is ‘body positivity’. Body positivity refers to the assertion that all people deserve to have a positive body image, regardless of how society and popular culture view ideal shape, size, and appearance. Some of the goals of the body positivity movement include challenging how society views the body, as well as having stable mental wellbeing with regards to your own body image. Sometimes, people wish to be body positive, but it isn’t always easy. The world keeps adding to the problem. Let’s take a look into a personal example which led me to realise and say what I said here….
As a leukaemia patient, I had been given excessive steroids during my chemotherapy. What resulted as a side effect of these was excessive facial and body hair growth. For more than 10 years, I had been severely bullied. As a consequence, my self-esteem fell too low and my body image was shattered. I stopped going out to play because kids would look at me and judge my appearance. I stopped hanging out with friends because even in the course of normal conversations, a few crude remarks were always passed. From gorillas to chimpanzees, I had been all called sorts of animals during middle and high school.
The breaking point for me was when one day, my closest friends sided with people who always mocked at me. I remember returning home and crying. I do not remember what the bullies said, but I do remember what my mom told me that day. She told me how the most important thing in life is life itself, and that the only love that matters is the love that we give to ourselves. One who cannot give love to themselves, can’t give it to the world, and without love, the world wouldn’t be a place worth living in! That was the day when I gained my lost confidence, the day I realized that before anyone else, my own body needs my own love.
You see, we are homo sapiens. Just like all other species, all of us too have certain variations from each other. What a boring world it would be if all of us looked the same! Yet, some people decide to set “standards” of beauty. Standards of how an ideal person should be, and those that claim that a female must be slim with curves at the right places and males must be muscular. The standards need to be changed. A certain type of body isn’t the perfect body, and different bodies have different senses of “healthy”. For example, it is the general perception that thin people are the healthiest, not realising that a certain minimum amount of body fat is necessary for a fully functioning body.
It is the failure of our society for not having been able to break down these shackles even in the 21st century. We need to propagate the idea that our bodies need no approval, no stamp of perfection, and more importantly no claims of being correct. All we need is the positivity within us. And more often than not, that is where we struggle the most.
So I have decided to list a couple of important tips for anybody who may wish to start or contrive a positive environment for body positivity around them:
1.Love yourself – : Easier said than done. We must realize that we only accept the love we think we deserve, as quoted by Stephen Chbosky in his book, The Perks of Being a Wallflower. No acceptance of others is needed once we realize that it is we who determine our body image and confidence. And once we do this, we start to ignore the rude remarks thrown to us to a large extent.
2.Accept people as they are – :It has been noticeable from several case studies and researches that kids who come from loving families and people with mixed racial backgrounds are less likely to bully and are way more accepting of people, than kids who have origins coming from narcissistic families. Similarly, once we start accepting people for who they are, treating their flaws as their most distinct and special features, we tend to give ourselves more love and gain more body positivity.
3.Reach out for help –: Are you suffering from some eating disorder? Or maybe some other problems such as insomnia? Reach out for help. The world isn’t as bad as we make it out to be. People are there to help, counsel, and even provide support. Look for positive talk, be it from your friends, therapists, or even a stranger. If nobody else, you are more than welcome to come and talk to me.
4.Start believing in yourself –: You are as strong as your weaknesses let you be, so embrace them. Start your day with one good thought, and watch as you embark on a positive journey throughout the course of your day. It works, believe me.
Body positivity isn’t as easy to get as we make it out to be, but it’s not insurmountable either. The greatest barrier lies in changing our mind-sets, and I hope with the few tips I’ve mentioned above, along with the real-life excerpt of myself that I have provided, you’d be able to see that the best changes come from within. It isn’t easy to change the world, but it is easy to change ourselves, and once we do that, we have already catalysed the process of turning the world into a happier, better, more positive, and accepting space. Talk to me if you face a problem, and the next time you look at yourself in the mirror, smile your widest smile, because this body has given you this life, and now it is your duty to live to the fullest. And remember, none of us is meant to be perfect, but we are amazing just as we are!