Think of how many springs you spent trying to get the perfect bikini body for the summer, though you never felt good enough to wear your swimsuit on the beach.
Think of all those times someone told you you were too skinny and needed to eat a burger.
Think of all those times people assumed you were more promiscuous than your friends because of your curves.
You weren’t wrong. Your body wasn’t wrong. Society was.
It’s no secret that our culture is awash in images and slogans of body negativity: “Don’t eat that, you’ll get fat.” “Real women have curves.” “Don’t wear heels that make you taller than your date.”
On behalf of the fat, the thin, the tall, the short, the “average,” and all other varieties of human out there, I’d like to say that we’ve had enough. Enough of the body shaming, enough of the impossible standards, and enough of telling people that they aren’t enough. It is emotionally, financially, and societally costly to be poisoning the public with these ideas.
Unfortunately, it won’t end just because I say it should. As long as there’s money to be made on advertising, diet pills, padded bras, and everything else we do to “enhance” ourselves, we’ll constantly be inundated by these messages. What matters is how we receive them.
Body positivity happens on a societal level. We can seek out communities that accept our bodies as they are and recognize the beauty and worth of every size. The best way to start these communities is to find one within yourself—to find self-love.
There are plenty of books, YouTube videos, and blogs that explain how to find self-love. It’s a process, and it can take months or even years to achieve. Just think how long you’ve been subliminally (and overtly) taught not to love your body. Twenty, thirty, forty years? It’ll take time and healing to reverse all of that.
Remember that health does not always have a direct relationship to size. Sure, obesity can often cause health problems, but that doesn’t mean there is one type of healthy body. Being thin doesn’t make you in the clear from health problems either. Choosing an active lifestyle and eating nourishing foods are body positive; however, starving yourself or overtraining at the gym to burn off your muffin top is body negative. Which do you think will further you in your quest for self-love?
Look at yourself in the mirror. Admire yourself and appreciate yourself just because you deserve it. Do all of the things you never thought you were adequate enough to do. Surround yourself with people who see who you truly are and love you for that.
Get rid of all the products you bought to make yourself more acceptable to others: the makeup, the padding, the clothes, the diet shakes, etc. If you choose to use these things, do it for yourself, not for other people.
Our journey to self-love starts now.
Krislyn Placide is a student at Northwestern University and an intern with New Dream.