As a body positive activist, I receive my fair share of messages on social media. I often receive messages of thanks and gratitude, messages from people expressing a desire to find confidence, I receive questions on how to sustain body positivity – but the least favourite message I receive (even less favourable than the occasional unsolicited dick pic, bleugh) is when someone messages me asking for my help because they’re being trolled. Every day I find myself empowered and awe-struck by the strength and resilience that women and men display through their body positive words and images, and I am thrilled that the world is taking a step in the right direction where body image is concerned. But it also saddens me, because we’re not there yet. Progression is a wonderful thing, but the bopo community is often hit by a tirade of bullying and trolling that is categorically unacceptable.
I’m a tough cookie and have skin thicker than my thighs, so it takes a lot to get to me. My body positive mindset and faith that I have that this movement is achieving great things keeps me strong in the face of adversity. But, I’m not superwoman, there are occasions where I have to remember to let the negativity go – like water off a ducks back – and here are some of the things I try to remember when the trolls go on a rampage.
TROLLS ARE NOT CONCERNED FOR YOUR HEALTH
Used as the scapegoat for body shaming, trolls will often place their bullying in the category of “health concern”. It almost seems to be used as a justification, that because they’re telling fat people that they’re going to become unwell because of their size, they’re doing us a favour. Nope. You cannot make a judgement about health based on the way that someone looks. Health varies from person to person, generation to generation, size to size, you can’t declare that someone is going to become ill because of their body shape or size – so unless someone has stuck you in an MRI scanner, they have no foundation to their comments. Concern trolling is used to cover up body shaming, your self-worth does not diminish because someone thinks that it should.
THEY AREN’T WILLING TO LEARN
In the early stages of my body positive journey, I made the rookie mistake of trying to educate the trolls on why I am not ‘glorifying obesity’, why being called fat is not an insult, why I am not narcissistic for posting images of myself on social media (the list goes on) – and each time it felt as if I was banging my head against a brick wall. Many trolls throw comments out there hoping to get a response, and if you do respond, they tend to barge their way through – all guns a’blazing. Trolls cannot be educated. They do not understand that if a body doesn’t belong to them, then they have no right to comment negatively about that body. If they’re happy living in ignorant bless, then it’s not worth your time or effort to try and educate them.
BEAUTY IS NOT DEFINED BY YOUR SIZE
Since the body positive movement has taken off, people from all walks of life with a whole variety of diverse bodies have declared that they love their bodies. Trolls are quick to pounce on anyone who steps a toe over the line of what is socially acceptable, you’re not the first and believe me, you won’t be the last. But know this, your beauty is not defined by the size of your waist or numbers on a scale, but by who you are – your essence. These trolls do not know you personally, they don’t know the things that you have achieved or the things you’ve been through – they don’t know what makes you, you. By that right, they don’t know what makes you beautiful: and you are, trust me.
THEY MISS THE POINT
As a self-confessed fat girl who posts unashamed body photos in the public sphere, it comes as no surprise to me when I am told that I am ‘glorifying obesity’. This seems to be a particular favourite – but they’re completely missing the point. When I was growing up, I wanted for nothing more than to have some kind of mainstream representation of my body shape and size, but sadly, there wasn’t. I, and other fat women and men are not glorifying obesity – we don’t sit here from atop our bopo vantage points and declare that our body type is the best body type to be. All we are doing is saying, hey, this is my body, and I love it as it is – and actually, you can love yours too.
LEARN TO LAUGH
A troll once told me that my fat was overflowing like a cup of unleavened dough – as insults go, this one actually impressed me. A far cry from the usual insults that get thrown at me, at least this one showed some level of intelligence – but most of all it made me laugh. After all – who doesn’t love a slice of soft, warm, doughy bread, right? I’ve found that learning to laugh at the lengths that some trolls will go to to offend, is almost detoxing for the mind. Don’t let the derogatory comments head over to that area in your brain labelled ‘Things to Beat Myself Up About’ send it over to the side that will make you chuckle instead. If you can learn to laugh about the things that the trolls are saying to you, it will take the power out of their comment.
YOU ARE ENTITLED TO BODY LOVIN’ GOODNESS
Low self-esteem is something that many people have to live with. As someone who has journeyed from a place of incredibly low self-confidence, to a position of love and acceptance for my body, I am undeniably proud of myself. Being able to shrug off all that society has taught us and making peace with the way that you look is a hell of a journey to embark on. When you arrive at the other side and realise that you have shaken off the mental chains, you are fully entitled to express your body loving’ goodness however you want to. No-one can tell you that you aren’t allowed to absolutely rock it.
YOU COULD CHANGE A LIFE
Whilst the body positive movement has made massive inroads into changing the way that society thinks about body image, we would be foolish to believe that the fight was over. But every time that you express love for your body in public space, know that you are carving out a space in society too – a space that will expand and grow with every person who jumps on the body positive bandwagon. What you’re doing matters – I have people who I owe a lot to, who I looked up to at the beginning of my journey and who continue to inspire me now. Know that you could be an inspiration to someone, you could change a life – for every negative comment you receive, you are reaching a hundred more people with your positive influence.
It can be tiresome and draining dealing with a barrage of negative insults, but as long as you acknowledge the strength that you have within you is unwavering, you can remain a force of nature and watch as the wildfire of body positivity takes over.