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How To Cultivate Body Positivity

I have to admit, it is hard to know where to start on a topic that is so encompassing as body positivity. A study in the National Institute of Health found that as high as 95% of humans experience body dissatisfaction at some point of their life. So that means that pretty much all of you reading this relate.

I can easily hop on my soapbox and get to all of the reasons why that is (ahem: systematic fat phobia, pervasive and relentless visual messaging promoting unobtainable thinness, the emergence of filters and photo-editing…), but instead I want to talk a bit today on how to STOP feeling like garbage about yourself and lean into self-confidence.

I have a saying “Sexy isn’t a body type. It is a state of mind” and I hope by the end of this, you adopt that sentiment too. Here are some tips on cultivating body-love:

1) Let go of comparison: Ever heard “comparison is the thief of joy”? Well…. it is. You are you and no one else in this world, so comparing your body to someone else’s is the proverbial apples to oranges. You have your own unique set of characteristics: eye color, skin tone, foot size, fingernail shape, eye brow width. Those traits are as variable to bodies as height, body shape and weight, so comparing yours to someone else’s doesn’t change how you look or appear… it only changes the relationship you have to yourself. The parts of you that are different are the parts of you that are you.

Additionally, did you know that we are hardwired to hyper focus on things that we perceive as a threat? That primal skill is great when we are alone camping in the woods and notice that the sound coming from the trees is a bear, but it is incredibly unhelpful when we have decided that the “threat” is someone who looks a certain way.

I had a therapist once tell me that every time I was hyper-fixating on a particular person (usually someone I deemed prettier or skinnier than me- and thus better) to immediately bring attention to the next 3 people in my sight line. Suddenly, I might notice an aging man, a child, even a baby, serving as a reminder that this world is made up of all types of humans, with varying races, ages, sizes, body types and characteristics; and if it is silly to suddenly base my worth by comparing myself to a toddler, it is just as ridiculous to base it on the looks of another woman.

2) Instagram vs. Reality: We now live in a world that edits almost all posts, pictures and media. When I was growing up, while it was still hard to see pictures of Cindy Crawford and Kate Moss and not feel ugly, there was a general awareness that (a) they were a rare breed and (b) the images were photo-shopped so even they didn’t look like their pics in real life. It is less obvious, today, when we are looking at a pic on social media rather than a magazine and the pic is of your neighbor rather than a runway model.

I was recently at a Cheesecake Factory where I saw a young girl, possibly 9, editing her pictures. My heart broke into a million tiny pieces not only for that little child who already didn't think she was good enough as-is, but for all of her little, impressionable friends who would later compare themselves to that picture, not realizing that she had changed the lighting, fixed her hair, and even elongated her body.

I know that cute little flower halos on Snapchat and the new cat filter on Tik Tok are hard to resist, but when we chronically participate in manipulating images, we forget what normal faces and bodies look like. So next time you are adding a filter, or smoothing the texture of your skin, or brightening your teeth, try to remind yourself that the unedited, real picture of yourself is already worthy and beautiful enough to share; and when you are comparing yourself to someone else, remember that picture is likely distorted.

3) Think of what your body does rather than how it looks: When I am having a poor body image day, I like to remind myself what my body does for me. My legs allow me to climb mountains, take walks, dance. My arms hug loved ones and let me pet my dogs. My belly rolls with laughter and mouth lets me taste both passion and food. Our bodies are meant to interact with the world, not be reduced to what they look like.

4) Pay homage to the changes: Similarly, a practice I promote is thanking our bodies for its changes. We get wrinkles from life and lived experience. We get stretch marks from bearing children and movement. We get laugh lines literally from laughing. Our body’s changes show our stories and our stories are freaking beautiful. They are our life.

5) Notice what is making you feel good, and what is making you feel bad: If you are scrolling on social media and suddenly find yourself insecure or subjecting yourself to comparison, stop… literally STOP. Remind yourself that this engagement and thought pattern is a choice and you can choose to let those thoughts go and redirect attention.

You can also choose to stop following people, accounts, and situations that make you doubt yourself. I have unfollowed most personal accounts and replaced them with mental health, wellness, body positivity and empowerment accounts. How I interact with social media now is an entirely different ball game and it is empowering, liberating and motivating (Note: I am working on a resource listing excellent accounts to follow). So if you find yourself looking at an old high school classmate and suddenly notice yourself feeling insecure, scroll away (even unfollow!). Seriously, it’s that simple.

Along that same line, find clothes that you feel good in. Clothes are supposed to fit the body, not the other way around. Still have a whole “when-I-fit-back-into-these” section of your closet? Get rid of them. Donate or sell them. If your body has changed, that is human. The smaller version of yourself was not better and if you never obtain that body again, that is okay. When we let go of things, we make room for new things. Make room for this new you. Wear clothes that you feel like a freaking goddess/god in.

I have so much more to say on this, and am working on a guide that will highlight more tips. But let this be a starting point. Remember that no body is a bad body and that our size has no moral value. We are all just humans trying to do the absolute best we can, and you are enough, exactly as you are.

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