Recently, it seems as if the opinions and comments that we publish about body image have become more important than body image itself. Although spreading love for a positive body image is incredibly meaningful, providing ways in which women can learn to honestly love their bodies—otherwise known as the follow-through—is arguably more essential.
Which is to say: by focusing on how politically correct we can be, we’ve lost sight of the actual purpose of our mission in the “positive body image movement.” And note, this is not to say that we shouldn’t be politically correct (because in this case “politically correct” means making everyone feel beautiful and confident, which couldn’t really ever be a bad thing); rather, it’s to point out that we’re spending all of this time reciting new and supposedly revitalizing mantras about body image that we forget to actually appreciate our bodies. Because, if “appreciating” means not only liking, but also knowing and giving specialized consideration to our bodies (i.e. treating them, exercising them, and feeding them well), then the movement has almost become mindless.
While we’ve gotten more accustomed to rejecting unhealthily thin bodies, we’ve somehow developed this idea that not being scarily thin directly equates to not giving a fuck at all about how much we weigh. And, to a certain extent, that’s good. We should neither be slaving over a scale nor over somebody else’s opinion of us.
But let’s get something straight: not giving a fuck about something in no way means appreciating it. And before you get offended at the idea of someone thinking you don’t give a fuck when you actually do—that’s valid. Your point is completely valid. You’re correct, because only you will know if you’re truly loving, appreciating, and taking proper care of your body. For some people, being healthy doesn’t mean being skinny. For some people, being healthy means being naturally very thin. It varies a lot, and that’s fucking awesome. That’s why having your own, special body to love and take care of is beautiful.
So, my point here is that we should be proudly striving to preserve that beauty in its fullest and healthiest state instead of disregarding health implications under the notion (albeit true) that all body types are beautiful. I mean, wouldn’t we kind of lose credibility that way? The diverse beauty of the human body is not an excuse to in turn disrespect the human body. We still need to be the best we can be—that’s what appreciating our body means. If you know that you’re doing this—no matter what you look like—then you’re golden and I totally support you.
And admittedly, sometimes loving your body is hard. Sure, our ultimate goal is to get to a point where we all inherently love our bodies despite their outward appearance and take care of them accordingly, but the reality of the situation is that the world (and namely the United States) just isn’t there yet. We have lots of consumerism and a cutthroat culture insisting that a relatively small range of body types is attractive.
This makes it tough for everybody to always feel confident. Personally speaking, I fucking love my body. I was doing squats at the gym the other day and I wanted to clap after seeing myself in the mirror—it was awesome and I was so proud of my progress.
But sometimes…sometimes, I hate it. Sometimes I go hiking and take a picture at the top of the trail and start crying because I think I look so bad. When I think about how much I run and exercise (nearly everyday, but at least 5 times a week) and look down at my thighs that still have stretch marks on them, I get very frustrated.
On one hand, I’m like “what the actual fuck” and I envy the women who eat like shit all day, don’t work out, but still have perfectly streamlined thighs.
But when I truly think about it, I can genuinely and effectively remove that sadness, envy, and insecurity from my reasoning because I know for myself that I’m striving to be the best me that I can be. If you’re truly appreciating your body, then the subsequent power to overcome your insecurities is what loving your body means. That’s what having a positive body image is about.
So instead of expecting women to recoup from a long history of aesthetic norms with the quick and often shallow use of social media hashtags, I’d like to convey both what it means to appreciate your body and how you can come to truly love it in a realistic and personal way.
Given its depth and tangibility, this explanation will hopefully be more helpful to women than a simple “love yourself” sticker slapped on their foreheads would be.