If you’re human, you have probably heard countless statements about your body and how you ought to feel or look which have either helped you or caused irreparable damage to your psyche. It’s tough to know exactly how to feel about yourself in this modern world in which positive thinking is seen as the only valid form of thinking. Being body positive shouldn’t mean lying to yourself. I’m here to say I don’t like myself and that’s okay!
At first, I was happy to see this body positive movement targeted at women who were now speaking out about things like masturbation, the freedom to go topless if we choose, and embracing their curves. It was so refreshing to see the media begin to embrace bodies of all shapes and sizes. But as time went on, I found these posts honestly just made me feel worse about myself. This sentiment is not one that I alone carried either, many of my female friends started saying the same things to me:
I know I’m supposed to be all empowered and feel that I am beautiful the way I am, but I still can’t help the fact that there are things I don’t like about myself. Is that wrong?
Look, I am not here to say that you should feel bad about yourself and that female empowerment is wrong. I’m not against this at all, and I really do think it’s a good thing and I am glad we are starting to openly talk about all the various topics surrounding women and our health. But I also want to acknowledge that we’re still human with doubts and insecurities which can manifest themselves for a myriad of reasons other than outside forces.
Ever since I can remember I have hated my nose. I have that weird “bump” on the bridge of my nose and I have always felt that my nose was too large for my face; particularly in contrast to how small my eyes and lips are. Once I learned what rhinoplasty was I knew that the moment I had enough money for it, I was going to get a nose job. I can’t recall a moment where anyone actually made fun of my nose or told me anything about it really. I’ve never been teased for it, nor has any man (or woman) ever made me think I needed to change it. It’s just something I’ve always personally disliked about myself. Since I cannot afford plastic surgery I do try to use makeup and image filters to change the look of my nose. I do this for me simply becauseIam unhappy with how it looks.
On the flip side, I have also been very unhappy with my breasts ever since puberty. Most of the women in my family have an ample bosom and I was disappointed to learn that my breasts would never fill more than an A-cup. Everything about my breasts bothers me; shape, size, and every little detail. But unlike my nose this is something I have been made fun of for. I have had women tell me that I’m not a real woman because of my bust size. I have had guys tell me that I might be prettier if only I actually had some boobs. During intimate relations I have had people insult my breasts in appallingly negative ways which are too graphic and inappropriate to even discuss in polite conversation.
My initial dislike for my breasts was something I had developed on my own. I simply did not have the shape of beauty that I like in my own mind. But on top of all of that, I am surrounded by people who constantly have something to say about my chest. I hear bustier women talk about how “lucky” I am because I can always find cute bras in my size and how I could go bra-free if I wanted to, even though that is not the case for me. And I heard both sexes talk to me about how my small boobs somehow make me less of a woman. In the end I hate my boobs for all the right and all the wrong reasons. I feel the need to warn anyone I become intimate with that my boobs are not as awesome as they might seem. I do anything I can to add volume and lift to my chest while I pray for the day that I can afford plastic surgery for this as well.
But let me be totally real with you here. You can take away all the terrible things people have said to me. You can make me feel like a goddess walking among mortals that should be worshiped. You can tell me until you’re breathless that I am gorgeous and don’t need to change. And I can tell you that as a woman, I am beautiful. As a human being I am beautiful.
But. . .
I can also tell you that I do not meet my own personal standards of beauty.
AND THAT’S OKAY~!
There are things you’re not going to like about yourself. Things that most people probably don’t even care about or even notice. But you do! You are the one who has to wake up every day and see yourself. If someone doesn’t like something about you, oh well. Not your problem. They don’t have to look at you if they don’t want to. They don’t have to like the selfie you shared, they don’t have to have sex with you, and they certainly don’t even have to be in your life.
You can’t leave yourself. You can’t break up with yourself. You’re human and that means you’re going to have a wide range of emotions both positive and negative which should be experienced and felt. It’s okay if you don’t feel pretty unless you are wearing a signature accessory! It’s okay if you don’t like to show off your stomach so you wear loose fitting tops. It’s okay if you wear fake eyelashes, push up bras, high heels, fake nails, hair extensions, waist trainers, or whatever other body changing device you want!
It’s okay if you want or have had plastic surgery. It’s okay if you want to start working out to not only feel better but look better too. It’s okay if you want to put on a few more pounds. It’s okay if you want a bigger booty. It’s okay if you want to cover yourself in tattoos or piercings.
Being body positive does not mean that you have to pretend to like things you hate. We shouldn’t have to feel bad about not liking something about ourselves because it “disempowers” us in some way. We shouldn’t be mentally shaming ourselves (or others) because we haven’t yet reached a level of body positive thinking that our peers demands of us. What is important is that you don’t allow those things that you dislike to rule you. If it is something that you can change, or if there is something you can do to improve your own views of yourself, then by all means do it. Do what you must to find that happiness within yourself. But please don’t beat yourself up because you’re not happy. Personally, I find it more empowering to embrace the flaws and things I hate about myself as something I don’t like. I would rather be honest with myself and be aware of the changes I want to make than to force a feeling that is fragile and false.
Stop dismissing negative comments, thoughts, or feelings with generic positive clichès. I think for me the worst part of how I feel about myself isn’t my own thoughts, it’s how others speak to me when I express my thoughts. How many times have you had someone tell you that you’re not what you say you are, you’re being stupid, or have otherwise shut you down when you talked about things you dislike about yourself? Or, has anyone ever used the body positive movement to make you feel like an asshole for disliking something about yourself? I know I have! This sort of response is dismissive of the individual’s thoughts and feelings. In all of my relationships I completely stopped communicating my thoughts or feelings to my partner because of these types of replies. It’s hard to believe what someone says to you when anytime you try to express yourself they brush you off.
The next time someone tells you that they think they look bad, or ugly, or that they don’t like the way they look ask them why. Listen to what they have to say. Share your honest thoughts and give constructive feed back. “You’re being stupid, you’re beautiful!” might be well meaning, but it ignores the listener’s feelings and it’s also easily dismissed by the listener as well. It has no impact.
Being body positive shouldn’t mean that you are forced to only think positively at all times. To me, body positivity is about understanding your negative feelings and embracing them, then making the necessary changes in your life to pursue your happiness. Dwelling on the negative feelings and doing nothing to change them is where it becomes toxic. Some things take a long time to change, they take hard work or even a lot of money which you may not have, but it’s important to work towards them anyway. If you can’t, find ways to learn to love the things you hate! I used to hate my hair because it’s a wild, untamed mane of uneven curls that tangles into huge knots at the slightest bit of movement. Now, I kind of like how unruly my hair is. Sure it’s impossible to brush and a nightmare in humid weather but I can pull off some wild-child, Helena Bonham Carter style shabby-chic looks with my hair! I learned to love all the things I hate about my hair, even on the days I just want to shave it off.
It’s okay if you don’t think you’re perfect, if you did you wouldn’t have anything to look forward to. Your body is going to continue to change no matter what you do. As you grow you’re going to be faced with new things to love and new things to hate. What matters most is how you choose to handle those challenges. Bitch about it all you want, go ahead and have bad days, feel free to blame your sibling for getting the “good” genes, but don’t let any of that stop you.
I want to challenge you to make a change in yourself. Pick something you don’t like about yourself, anything at all. Every time you have a negative thought about that thing, you have to do some kind of action to help you work towards improving that thing. For example; if you hate that you’re not in shape, for every bad thought you have about being out of shape you have to do 15 reps. of some sort of exercise that day. Or let’s say that you don’t like the way your nails look, for every bad thought you have you have to put $1 into a jar which will be used towards a manicure. If what you hate is something that you cannot change or improve upon, then for every negative thought write down a positive thought an put it somewhere you can see it everyday. Let that list grow over time to remind you that there’s beautiful things about you even if you can’t see them right now. Turn your negative thinking into positive action.
Let me tell you, that you’re worth the effort and you’re worth the time. Your thoughts and feelings matter and it’s completely normal if sometimes you’re not feeling okay. Just make sure you’re not abusing yourself. You’re not a static, finished canvas; you’re an ever changing work of art.