If you spend any time on Instagram, it’s hard not to notice that body positivity is a thing.
I took notice of it but never really thought about it being “for me.” After all, I’ve lost most of the extra weight. I’m past it. But am I?
I’ve never had a healthy relationship with food or my body. My earliest memories are of using food to numb myself from toxic family situations. When I became a teen I thought that sticking my fingers down my throat to lose the contents of my latest binge was a novel idea. The first time I ever took an amphetamine I thought that this was the magical answer to all of my weight and introvert problems. I never became a full blown bulimic, it was eclipsed by drinking but the fact that I even thought to do it in the first place was a little problematic.
Over the past decade my life has taken a few plot twists. When dystonia first appeared in 2010, my neck took a hard twist to the right and stayed there. Not only that, but I was shaking. I took a look at myself (now having to navigate Walmart in a wheelchair) and it was devastating. I didn’t want to be photographed or even look at myself in the mirror.
When the ulcerative colitis diagnosis came last year, naturally I took to social media to find others who were living with it. There was no way of escaping the colostomy bags that were outward signs of the big IBD surgeries. I stopped looking. I couldn’t let my mind go there.
But like I did with the dystonia, I was determined to make lemonade out of the lemons. I dug my heels in and resolved to fight this thing. So far I’m stable even with the severe pancolitis version that I have (it affects my entire colon) but who knows if that will always be the case?
I know that sooner or later a diagnosis will come that I can’t fight my way out of. I have to learn to begin to accept myself the way I look at this stage in my life and what I’m capable of on any given day. It’s a big struggle for me. I still want to be supermom. I love to do those endorphin pumping workouts for an hour that give me that amped feeling, but every time I do them I wind up sick within a day. So I have to force myself to stay within my limitations which right now is about 30 minutes of yoga and 15 minutes of cardio walking.
Will I look like a Crossfitter? No, but I can say I’m doing reasonably well for a woman who’s turning 57 this year. Then a few months ago I decided to embrace my natural curls (which are very spiraly in the Florida humidity) and as of two weeks ago, decided to start growing out my gray hair, even if I do wind up looking like Lily Munster with a big grey streak.
I’m finally at a point in my life where I’m learning to accept..and even embrace..the real me. My son who has Down Syndrome has been my teacher. I’m sure he doesn’t care about his physical differences (though he does care about what he wears!) and doesn’t notice them in anyone else. Ask anyone about my son and they’ll tell you about how he makes them smile. This is a lesson all of us can learn!
Body Positivity Isn’t About Your Weight
Like me, some people see all the Instagram pix about body positivity and they immediately think that’s it’s only about how much or little someone weighs. But it’s more than that. Body positivity is about celebrating your unique self.
The very thing that you dislike about yourself may be what makes you stand out from the crowd. For me, it’s my slightly off posture. For you, it might be the stretch marks you bear as a proud badge of bringing little lives into the world. Maybe your face tells the story of the addiction or chronic illness and pain you’ve lived with for years. Maybe you have scars from past surgeries or accidents. Maybe you live with PCOS. Or maybe you’re living with an eating disorder.
In a world that focuses on Instagram (and often Photoshopped or filtered) perfection, these “flaws” can often leave you feeling “less than”, insecure, and cause you to doubt yourself. However, you are no less worthy than anyone else just because you look or feel different.
Learning to Own Who You Are
In the recent movie, The Greatest Showman, one of the characters is Lettie Lutz, played by Keala Settle. Lettie is an overweight woman with a beard who’s been convinced she must hide herself away and that nobody would love her just as she was.
When she gets past her weight and lets her gift flow, she belts out This is Me about owning who she is. This song is what embracing body positivity is really about—coming out of your hiding place to proclaim who you really are.
Why Body Positivity Is Empowering
Body positivity isn’t just for a certain kind of body. And it’s not about being a particular age or ethnicity. It’s about embracing every aspect of who you are and not allowing the people or the world around you to make you feel like you’re not good enough.
Body positivity is simply about being proud of who YOU are and simply owning it. It’s about realizing we all have imperfections and flaws. Some of them may be visually obvious; and some are not. Stop hiding (speaking to myself here!) Own who you are and let those who are uncomfortable with the real you deal with their emotions.
Remember it isn’t your job to enlighten them! It’s essential because we all have many more things to accomplish in this one life we’ve been given that are more important than obsessing over how we look.
One of the best ways to learn to love your body is to find body positive role models. If you don’t have any in real life, start following body positive bloggers on social media. Follow my friend Tish at Shining Self as she navigates her journey of self awareness and acceptance. She’s a rock star!
A few more women you may want to follow include: Ragini Nag Rao (@kittehinfurs), Megan Jayne Crabbe (@bodyposipanda), Isha Reid (@pic_pixie), Jessamyn Stanley (@mynameisjessamyn), Kirsten Womack (@kirstenwomack), Clarence Womack (@movewithmack), Marie Denee (@mariedenee), and Kobi Jae (@kobi_jae).