When love seems a stretch, it’s time to learn how to accept the home we live in.
I’ve been having some great conversations lately, with women of every shape, size and colour. I don’t know when it officially happened, but body positivity has been a growing movement over the past few years and it’s easy to see why it’s so needed.
For decades the shape and size of our bodies has been something that’s always up for debate; we could always be skinner, but then also a bit curvier – it’s enough for anyone to develop some serious body issues. And don’t get me started on the racial bias that comes along with this – black and brown bodies are far more likely to be judged.
But while all the talk of positivity and love is important and necessary, it’s also something that many of us might take for granted, from within our own social bubble.
While I’ve been researching body positivity and talking to women size 20 and above, I realised; why haven’t I spoken to any women on the other side of the size spectrum? I quickly checked out the #bodypositive hashtag on Instagram and confirmed what I’d suspected; that the world of body positivity only really seemed to apply to larger or acceptably curvy women. Bigger women are reclaiming the word ‘fat’ and celebrating it – as they should – but it made me realise that smaller women could just as easily face body issues. I spoke with my friend Ellie, who refers to herself as thin-privileged with no prompting from me. I asked her, as a much smaller body, one that’s widely and historically accepted as ‘goals’, if she ever had body positivity issues.
She said she did, but that due to her own privilege, she had to acknowledge that she could move differently in the world. “Once I realised that, I knew that I should apply more understanding to all bodies,” said Ellie.
However, although Ellie is able to be understanding, and refers to her own ‘body neutrality’ – accepting her body is there to perform various functions – that doesn’t make her immune from societal judgement when it comes to her shape. She recalls a time when she went down from a size 10 to a size 6, due to an immense amount of stress she’d been going through.
“All of a sudden, my family was like, ‘wow, you look amazing, what have you been doing?’” shares Ellie, who says she felt thoroughly miserable at her smaller size.
I found this fascinating; it’s clear how easy it is to assume that slimmer/skinnier bodies have a better time existing in the world, but that doesn’t mean they escape unscathed when it comes to society and family members.
I’ve also been reminded that there are many, many other bodies that go unseen every day in the media and on social platforms. Things might have marginally improved when it comes to seeing black and brown bodies on TV and film, but what about disabled bodies? What about queer bodies? While we’ve come a long way, we still have a very long way to go.
The main realisation that came up from these conversations was that, as well as working on our own individual acceptance of our own bodies, we need to apply that effort to how we view others. Can we just stop bringing up someone’s size or weight loss/gain as if it’s something to be celebrated? How about checking in with that person, regardless? Perhaps if we were kinder to others, we would eventually be kinder to ourselves, too. Or, to put it another way: perhaps if we were kinder and more accepting of ourselves, we wouldn’t be half as judgmental of others?
THE ROAD TO ACCEPTANCE
One of the steps on the way to loving our bodies is accepting them. I remember the words of photographer Nadia Meli who decided to write a little ode to her body, shared below:
I am sorry for all the times I hid you behind shame.
For when I looked at you with disgust, hated your form.
I am sorry for the times I tried to shrink you for not seeing all that you do for me every day.
I am sorry I was disconnected from you for so long and for not trusting your language.
I am so in awe of you now.
Every bend, every valley, scar,
Every rise, taste, line, every spot and mark and texture.
You are a masterpiece and I’m so grateful you are my home.
A few days after she posted this, I spoke with her on the phone and read the words back to her. I asked her, does this mean you’re in love with your body?
‘No,” she said. “But I no longer hate it.”