Becoming ‘body positive’

I was sitting in a coffee shop over the weekend doing some readings when the table beside me decided to start critiquing every girl that walked by the window.

They criticized a few strangers passing by for being too fat, others for being too skinny and some more for being too pale or too tanned.

By the time they left the coffee shop, I was sure that they had criticized every angle of the human body, completely ignoring the contradictions.

With the impacts of the media and the polite lies of society, it really isn’t a surprise that body positivity is such a hard practice to come by.

Instead of conditioning people to believe that they have to have slimmer thighs and size zero jeans, we should be encouraging ways to achieve a higher self-esteem and a change in perspective.

Being exposed to every diet fad to help women look like Miranda Kerr or Candace Swanepoel, and being told that certain ideals are the key to social acceptance is damaging to vulnerable young women. Girls as young as 10 years old are destroying their bodies in order to fit into what they believe is an accepted standard, resulting in disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and body dysmorphic disorder (BDD).

Being “fat” by societal standards is not the only disparagement that women face. Sometimes there is pressure for “skinny” women, as well. Thin women face criticism for supposedly promoting anorexia, completely disregarding the reality that some woman are just naturally thin. Instead, they are slammed for not being “fit” or for having no muscle or meat on their bones.

Nonetheless, women aren’t the only victims of societal influences on body image — men are just as susceptible to these notions.

If a man isn’t buff, strong and doesn’t resemble cross fit star Rich Fronning, his masculinity is brought into question.

Personal records and scientific research have shown that men have also developed eating disorders and BDD to avoid being society’s interpretation of “scrawny” or “nerdy.”

The problem with our society is that we are never happy. One minute, people are criticized for being too fat and just when we are about to accept this ideal, society spins it around and tries to convince you that being skinny is a crime. The real crime is that we are trying to please a society that is influencing us to place all importance on appearances at the expense of innate qualities.

If we continue to focus on the exterior, there would be nothing left inside. If we focus on the qualities that make us “special,” then we will start to believe it and live by it in our everyday lives.

And then maybe this will bring us to a point in our lives where we can accept bodies of all shapes and sizes without feeling the need to criticize each other for not conforming.

As someone who is currently recovering from an eating disorder, I never want to have a daughter who feels that her self-worth must be based on what others believe to be beautiful or accepted.

I never want to have a son who thinks that not lifting 200 pound weights will make him an outsider amongst his peers.

Instead, I encourage everyone to promote body positivity so that one day they can teach their daughters and sons that every body is different, and to accept that as long as they are confident in themselves, what society tells them about their body won’t impact their lives.

Becoming body positive does not require much work. Simply changing certain thought patterns can make a huge impact. It is not silly to thank your body for getting you through the day and not falling apart when life gets tough. Instead of criticizing your body for what it doesn’t give you, try to be grateful for what it can. By doing that, you are one step closer to ending the tradition of body shaming.

There is no shame in ignoring societal standards and having your own concrete conceptions of beauty. I know that I would rather get labeled a narcissist than spend any more years hating my body.

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