In the last few years, the body positivity movement has really become A Thing in it's own right. It's hugely powerful, whether you're looking at advertisements or scrolling through Instagram. There are body positive bloggers, body positive speakers, body positive brands — it's endless. But body positivity is really pretty complicated.
There are totally legit critiques of the movement, from people who say that body positivity has been co-opted by people who, in reality, deal with little to no discrimination when it comes to their bodies. Just take a scroll through the body positive tag on Instagram and you'll come across dozens on dozens of posts of pretty small women doing a side-by-side photo where, in one picture, they look "fat" (like, a roll or two), and on the other hand are suddenly standing up and don't have rolls. Too, people have been talking more and more about how body positivity doesn't include much racial diversity, or gender diversity, or many disabled women and people at all. While this has started to shift, it's also shown just how messy the phrase has become.
What good is a body positive movement that only celebrates a handful of body types? And what is body positivity, really, at its core?
But another thing many people, including myself, have struggled with, is the pressure that comes with body positivity. I've heard more than one friend say that, outwardly, they're body positive. They support other women and do their best to fight the nasty comments and structures in place that cause harm to people with bodies beyond the "norm." But internally, it can be so, so hard to love yourself regardless of what your body looks like.
So we asked you guys about your relationship with your body, and how you go beyond the basic goal of loving your body to see yourself as so much more than what you look like. Here's what you had to say.
How would you describe your relationship with your body?
“Like a puppy. Sometimes cute, sometime furry, sometimes frustrating, mostly love.” - Madison
“A work in progress. It is getting better step by step.” - Beth
“I’m really hateful towards myself. I know I need to be more positive, but it’s tough.” - Megan
“Complicated — I fight with my skin but am learning to accept and appreciate my body as mine.” - Laurel
“Good. It hasn’t always been that way but, low-key, the more nudes I send, the better it got. 😂” - Charley
“Love and hate relationship.” - Queenie
“I struggle to find reasons to love it. I don’t think I’ll ever feel good in my own skin.” - Andra
Why should you love yourself for more than your body?
“Because you are going to be with yourself for the rest of your life! It’s healthiest to love yourself.” - Ashleigh
“It could give you the serious confidence-boost you thought you never needed; it breaks down self-imposed barriers.” - Ioana
“Because looks fade and what is on the inside lasts longer.” - Jamie
“It’s healthy and that type of love positively affects everything you do with your life.” - Maria
“Because if we lived off others’ compliments and kind words, we would be empty inside.” - Ambi
“Because your body is just a container and, like all containers, it gets old but your soul is worth more.” - Larona
So what can we do now to have a more positive relationship with our bodies?
We took to an expert to see how we can, if not love our bodies, have a better relationship with our bodies. Aly Nagel, Founder of Don't Call Me Pretty, explained, "So many people in the body positive space say, 'Stop comparing yourself or your body to someone else's,' but what does that really mean? I think it means taking time to be present in your own body and instead of thinking of all the ways it’s inadequate, thank it for being so dang amazing."
Aly says it's better, and often healthier, to thank your body, rather than wishing it was a different body. "Thank your body for being able to do things like dance, give warm hugs, taste delicious food and laugh with friends. When you find yourself feeling small or self loathing write a Body Gratitude List to be reminded of all that your body does for your besides trying to fit into a certain box."
What if you want to be more than "pretty?"
"It’s a cliché we’ve heard over and over again, 'The longest relationship you have is the one you have with yourself.' There’s a reason clichés stick around, it’s because everyone knows that they’re probably mostly true. When we put so much value on the way we look, we forget to acknowledge all the other beautiful parts that make up the rest of who we are. Women are resilient, thoughtful, tough, tender, empathetic, strong, warm and badass human beings."
"We take on so many unique roles over the course of our lives and most of what we do has little to nothing to do with what we look like," Aly says. "I suggest that young women work towards something they will be really proud of that they have to work for like learning a trade or going to school and getting an education or starting a blog. Making things and working towards goals give us lasting satisfaction where as being praised for the way we look only stays with us for a moment."
*Names have been changed.