Unpacking Body Image Baggage…

tumblr_static_tumblr_m8z7snvl4b1r4d9kxo1_500I owe a lot to the body positive community. The ability to look in the mirror and not cringe, the freedom to wear whatever I want, being able to acknowledge that I am worth my time, knowing that I can conquer my goals, but most importantly, finding the strength to push aside everything that society has told me and learning to love myself. When my body positive journey began you’d have found me hiding behind my hair, avoiding horizontal stripes and taking up as little space as possible. I began researching, reading and scrolling through the social media feeds of badass fat women and finally began to see myself for what I am – taking small steps I was able to throw off the cloak of shame and feel alive. Baby steps prevailed and here I am today. Fat AND beautiful. 

The space around me freed up and I was able to unpack the mental suitcase of self-hate that I had been carrying around with me for most of my life. I realised that not only am I fat AND beautiful, I am a talented writer, I have a penchant for yoga, I can rock a 1950s look, I can succeed in my career, I can fall in love and allow myself to be loved, and that I am a resilient, strong woman. You see, learning that I am fat AND beautiful opened a whole Pandora’s Box to me consisting of positive attributes that I had so far ignored because society had taught me that my fat body meant that I couldn’t be talented, successful, kind or desirable – that I couldn’t be.

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Jes Baker (a.k.a. The Militant Baker)

Jes Baker (a.k.a. The Militant Baker) powerfully says in her book ‘Things No-One Will Tell Fat Girls’:

“Many women find the body positive world while chasing the need to feel ‘pretty’ and there is nothing wrong with this! …[But] allowing our quest for feeling attractive to be our only defining factor or goal doesn’t get us far enough towards our end destination.”

It is important that we acknowledge our worth as an individual and that although we may not be ‘conventionally’ beautiful or pretty by society’s standards, we can rewrite these standards and see beauty in all aspects of our faces and bodies. BUT – remember that beauty is not the be all and    end all of self-acceptance.

Due to the way we have been manipulated by society, we are inherently conditioned to consider beauty  (i.e. thinness, whiteness) as one of the most successful things to be in society. But when you deconstruct this, is it really? I’m hoping that the unwavering conclusion that you come to is, no. But that’s not to say that thin, white individuals can’t be successful, as long as everyone else is recognised too – no matter their gender, age, sexuality, the colour of their skin, the size or shape of their body, whether they are able-bodied or not, whether they have scars, whether they are tattooed or pierced, whether they have had a child or not.

Your success and worth is not defined by how beautiful you are. 

The body positive community is ever-progressing, but as Jes says, “it’s really important to acknowledge that the beauty ideal will continue to evolve, change, and keep individuals imprisoned within their bodies for the foreseeable future…believing that feeling ‘beautiful’ (even our redefined version of it) can’t be the totalistic goal of our body journey.” As I previously mentioned, coming to the realisation that I could carve out my own beauty, opened a Pandora’s Box of positivity that I had shoved so far to the back of my conscience that I was surprised to find it intact. Using my new found confidence, I was able to take my unconventional beauty, my I AM BEAUTIFUL statement and use it as a foundation to build upon.

As I piled up the blocks, I realised that fewer and fewer of them related to my appearance, and learning to accept myself as I am enabled me to dig deeper and acknowledge my characteristics, personality attributes, personal goals and explore a side of me that I hadn’t before. “We must come to appreciate our bodies for what they are and do” says Jes, “[we must] come to peace with them as a whole” – from this, I believe that as a community we should start to learn to love our bodies from a different angle.

Jes’ statement to love our bodies as a “whole” means from your feet, up, from the ground up: from your initial realisation and acceptance of your notion of beauty, to the building blocks that you place upon that foundation to acknowledge, craft, realise and cement your body and mind. Recognise your talents, the personality quirks that make you, you, your desires, goals, dreams, successes, the things that you have been through and the things to come – your essence, what makes you YOU is true beauty.

Navigating a positive relationship between the body and mind can be difficult, but soon, if you can delve into and unpack your own Pandora’s Box – you will realise that you ARE beautiful, yes, but you are so much more than just what you look like – you will soon call this body that you exist in, a home.

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