One of the most important realizations I’ve made recently that has positively affected my mental health is the power of saying something out loud. Image: Matt Joseph Diaz.
Let’s assume that if you’re reading this, you’ve got a general idea of what body positivity is. You’ve read the articles, probably seen a Buzzfeed video on your Facebook timeline, and you think it’s time you should be more body positive!
I’m proud of you.
Attempting to make any life change is difficult — especially when it’s about how you view yourself and the world around you.
However, once you’ve accepted that you want to establish a body-positive mindset, you’re faced with a difficult question: What’s next?
When we write articles about body image, we often speak in the abstract about big ideas and how we approach social interaction.
But how exactly does one become body positive? What are the nuts and bolts that’ll lead you to a more positive sense of self, both physically and emotionally?
Well, that’s why I’m here. Here are 5 ways to actually be body positive:
1. Treat your body like your best friend.
Trust me, I’m fully aware of how clichéd and terrible this sounds. It reads like something your friend’s stepmom posts on her Facebook to inspire people who have a “case of the Mondays.”
However, I do mean this quite literally.
When you’re dealing with severe insecurity, your immediate reaction upon catching yourself in a mirror can be to put yourself down, to point out your flaws and shortcomings.
Before you do so, think about how you’d talk about your body if it were your best friend. Would you still say those cold, unkind things? Or would you find the soft, beautiful things about them to make sure they knew how wonderful they were?
Treat yourself like you’d treat someone you love.
2. Keep an eye on the nature of your interpersonal relationships.
By definition, the root of self-image is you (hence the “self” part).
However, you are deeply and often imperceptibly impacted by your life experiences and the people you surround yourself with. As such, your interpersonal relationships are vital in crafting your sense of self.
More often than not, especially when we’re dealing with self-esteem issues, we can find ourselves oblivious to the problematic behaviors of people around us.
Take the time to examine your friendships, both to see how they act towards you and how they act towards themselves. Make a point to address it if they make disparaging comments about the bodies of others or even themselves, to open a discussion about why people feel the need to compare bodies at all.
A support system, especially one where people are making an effort to change their view of themselves with you, can help make the process much less intimidating.
It’s a long journey toward positive self-image. There’s no reason why you should have to take those first steps alone.
3. Affirm your own beauty as often as needed.
Here’s the thing: You are fucking beautiful.
I say this not just because it’s true, but because it’s something you need and deserve to hear. A lot.
One of the most important realizations I’ve made recently that has positively affected my mental health is the power of saying something out loud.
When terrible things happen, part of why we’re afraid to talk about them is because the moment we say something, they feel real. Verbalizing your feelings or your perspective makes it way more three-dimensional, and while this can be intimidating, it can also be a valuable tool.
Tell yourself how gorgeous you are. Do it confidently, and do it often.
Before you leave the house for the day, give yourself a little wink in the mirror and say, out loud, “I look hot today.”
(Finger guns are optional, but encouraged.)
Spend a week saying something nice about how you look every time you catch your own reflection. It’ll feel uncomfortable and ridiculous at first, but over time you’ll find dozens of little things you didn’t realize you liked about yourself.
Those things add up, and as you notice how many little qualities you’re fond of, you’ll begin to see what makes up the beauty in yourself.
4. Address the negative with a gentle touch.
Nobody’s perfect, and that’s a good thing.
Have you ever met one of those couples where the two just seem perfect, beautiful, and always happy?
Two thoughts come to mind: serial killers or Eyes Wide Shut-style sex cult. Either way, I’m glad they found each other.
There are things about your body that you can change, and there are things you can't. I don’t want to try and tell you to “fall in love with your flaws,” but I am going to tell you to make peace with them.
Everybody has things they don’t like about themselves, but you should not use them as a reason to hate yourself. They’re a part of you the same way the things you see as your “best qualities” are, and they deserve to be treated gently and with care.
Your body has been lived in. It’s seen some shit, and your scars and blemishes and bruises are a sign of that. The things you think mar your skin are symbols of your survival, physical embodiments of memories — and there’s value in that.
When you’ve lived in a home for a long time, do you tell more stories about the rug you bought at Ikea, or the crack in the wall from when your best friend tried to do drunk parkour indoors?
Try to think of your scars the way you think of your best stories: powerful, meaningful, life-changing.
5. Know that you’re body positive already.
The truth is, you were body positive all along. Isn’t that such a cute little twist?
I would’ve said that at the beginning but, y’know, it would’ve been a really short article.
There are no minimum requirements for changing your state of mind — all that matters is that you understand the root of body positivity.
Body positivity is about pursuing and creating the best version of yourself, while still understanding that you have value as you are. It’s about the freedom and liberation in knowing that all versions of you have value, even though you’re still a work in progress.
Whether it’s your first day deciding to pursue a more body-positive lifestyle or you’ve been working at it for years, you’re still body positive, and I’m so proud of you.