I am so honoured to have Mel as a guest writer on my blog today and she talks about something which is very close to my own heart - body positivity. For me loving myself just as I am was hard, it's honestly still something I struggle with from time to time - it's a journey. I hope this post helps you become more body positive in your own life. Make sure to leave Mel some love in the comments below! - Jayne xo
Having low confidence and negative body image can severely impact on your life. Learning to accept yourself is a lifelong journey, but here are a few tips which might help you on your way.
1. Give yourself a break
All this ‘love yourself’ stuff… it’s bloody hard, isn’t it? We know that ‘beauty is on the inside’, and that ‘it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks’, and all the other stuff we’re told, but that doesn’t mean we can suddenly just start to love our bodies. It’s a life-long journey, so it’s okay if you don’t love your body right now.
I literally can’t remember a time when I ever liked my body, even as a kid. That many years of growing up with so many negative thoughts wasn’t going to simply go away by reading a few inspirational quotes. It’s taking years to unlearn the negativity, and takes a lot of practice.
It’s okay if you don’t love yourself right now. At some point in the future you might. For now, just take that pressure off and take it one day at a time. Even one minute at a time if that’s easier. Just for one minute, if you have any negative thoughts about yourself, just notice them. Put yourself in the role of the observer in your mind, watching the thoughts come and go. Consider if they’re really your words or it’s the voice of influences in your life – family, so-called friends, magazines you read as a teenager.
‘Good’ and ‘bad’ are merely just ideas we’ve programmed with. Everyday we're bombarded with expectations in the media. They tell us how to look, how to act, how to be sexy (but not too sexy or you’ll be branded a slut), even how to be ‘happy’. The beauty ideal is super thin and tall with flawless white skin. Happiness is sold as young, beautiful people with money, often in a heterosexual relationship whose love lasts forever. Movies really have a lot to answer for, don’t they?
Have you ever thought about how different it might be if fat women had been portrayed as sexy in the media for the last 30 years? We’d have a very different idea of beauty! So if you get these negative thoughts about your body, try to simply acknowledge them and move on. You get to choose which thoughts play in the playground of your mind, and the negative ones are no fun. Pick ‘n’ Mix your thoughts!
2. Read and Learn
There are lots of body positivity websites out there and loads of bloggers sharing their experiences. Follow them on social media and fill your online bubble with positivity. You could also try following things that make you smile – cat pictures, cute dogs, sunsets, flowers. Or if you’re anything like me it’ll be pictures of pizza, graffiti art and guys from 90’s bands I still fancy. Whatever does it for you.
The pictures we see in magazines, adverts, shop windows, on billboards – the media we’re processing subconsciously every day on our way to work – is simply not real. Cindy Crawford once said ‘even I don’t wake up looking like Cindy Crawford’. We’re living up to computer-altered images designed to make us feel bad about ourselves so that we’ll buy stuff. Many people know this, yet still strive for this level of perfection. There are even apps to retouch our own photos to make ourselves look thin and flawless, to create something that we think fits what other people expect to see.
Britain’s diet industry is worth £2 billion, and they thrive on failure. If any diet ever worked they would be obsolete, so it’s important to them that we don’t have good relationships with our bodies. Body positivity is their worst enemy and could ultimately dismantle the whole system.
The more stories I hear about people overcoming body image issues, the stronger I feel. The media isn’t all bad. We can use it help us learn about body positivity and gender equality. Body image issues are feminist issues - it’s because we live in a patriarchal system which objectifies women more than men that there are more problems for women and girls in this area. This doesn’t mean men don’t suffer from body image issues, they just have a different set of expectations put on them.
3. If you don’t feel like being body positive for yourself, do it for others
Having low confidence can affect our life choices, meaning sometimes we don't have the confidence to aim as high as we could.
“7 in 10 girls with low body-esteem say they won't be assertive in their opinion or stick to their decision if they aren't happy with the way they look, while 9 out of 10 (87%) women will stop themselves from eating or will otherwise put their health at risk.” – Dove Self-Esteem Project
A world where women limit themselves due to worries over their appearances has resulted in fewer women in power and in positions of influence in our society. The ones that are in positions of power sometimes experience imposter syndrome – feeling like a fraud, like they’re going to get found out any minute.
We need young people to grow up knowing that they can do whatever they want without judgements about their appearance holding them back. It’s our responsibility to make sure they know that. We can help people younger than us by spreading positive body image messages, encouraging diversity, treating everybody equally and appreciating people for their actions, not just how they look.
Body positivity isn't just good for you, it's good for society. It can help build a kinder world.
4. Surround yourself with people who make you feel good
A friend who isn’t supportive and accepting is simply not a friend. The same applies to relatives. Don’t think that being loosely connected by blood means you have an obligation to spend time with them. If people are negative, you don’t need to be around them. Simple as that! Surround yourself with like-minded, kind people instead. You deserve it. If you’re looking to meet new people, maybe try www.meetup.com or look on Gumtree in the ‘community’ section for your area.
In the online world, if someone posts something you find offensive or negative, unfollow or block them. People forget that the social media world is set up and controlled by us. We can adapt and change what we see at the click of a button, and it’s our responsibility to know when to switch off.
5. Appreciate your body for what it can do, not just what it looks like
Stop for a moment and imagine you’re an alien looking at the human body for the first time. You’d probably find it rather silly how much some humans obsess over their distribution of fat and hair, but you’d also think about how clever human bodies are. Do you do yoga, or cycle, run, or dance? Stop and think for a moment how incredible it is that our bodies do all these things! Have you had a baby? Well, that’s just extra proof of how incredible bodies are - able to create a real human being inside them!
Stretch marks, wrinkles, scars – they’re all signs that you’ve experienced things in life. Be kind to your body, it gets enough punishment from the outside world. It deserves some love and gratitude. Have a bath, a nap, eat that ice cream, have a lie in. Masturbate (yes, I went there, it’s a valid form of self-care!) Do something that feels good. Wear things that feel comfortable. Move your body in a way that feels good.
6. Write a letter
Try writing a letter to yourself. If you’re angry or frustrated with your body, then tell it why. Maybe it’s more of a list than a letter, that’s fine. You don’t have to try to be nice to yourself if you’re not feeling it yet. If you end up with more of a list of negative statements, maybe rip it up into tiny pieces afterwards, or burn it!
Then, when you’re ready, try writing a list of things you like about yourself. It doesn’t need to be physical things, in fact it may help if it’s not. Focus on things you’re good at and enjoy. Even if it’s ‘I make a mean cup of tea’, that’s totally valid.
If you’re feeling really stuck in a cycle of negative thoughts or emotions, always know that you can ask for help. Talking therapies can be incredibly helpful when overcoming difficulties in your life. There can sometimes be free CBT groups or courses in your area through the NHS. If you’re in Bristol, contact Bristol Wellbeing Therapies. Having counselling is not a weakness, it just means you want to be the best kind of person you can be.
Mental health is just as important as physical health, so make sure you take care of yourself and take steps to get help if you need to.
7. Cultivate compassion
Your body is yours for life, there’s no changing it. We’ve got to work with what we’ve got. It’s not easy to maintain body positivity but you’re not alone. Everybody in their life has experienced negative thoughts about their bodies at some point, but it’s our individual choice as to how we deal with those thoughts.
They say you have to love yourself before you can love another, but what if that’s still too hard to do? Being kind to others sometimes seems easier than being kind to myself. So let’s try it the other way around. Be kind to others. I don’t mean compliment them on their outfits (though of course go ahead if it’s a really awesome outfit) but rather, be respectful and non-judgmental. Step into their shoes and see things from their perspective. If we can be aware of our unconscious biases and judgements (which we all have, we can’t help it) then we can help build a kinder future which might then allow people the space to be able to be kind and compassionate to themselves.
Recommended body positive TED Talks:
Bio: Mel Ciavucco is a Bristol based writer and podcaster. She writes novels, screenplays, short stories (anything from gritty family drama to gross-out zombie comedy) and she writes about feminism and body positivity on her blog.