So here’s a touchy subject and wicked slippery slope that I’m currently trying to navigate: Body Image, body acceptance and self-love.
I would like to start by saying that I am so grateful to those spreading the message of positive body image, self-love, and acceptance. We need more of you and please do not stop doing what you are doing. I express the following not to make anyone feel poorly or that they have in some way not done this “movement” or their message justice.
I grew up in a very accepting home. I was raised to know that my body was mine and that I was powerful and beautiful. This information was given to me as well as modeled by many important women in my life. My mom and grandma have always been the epitome of strength and beauty in my eyes; both physically and mentally. They have–and will forever–encourage my sister and I to be proud of ourselves and our accomplishments: physical, mental, academic, and professional.
I proceeded to grow into an awkward pre-teen and teen, and yet the messaging remained the same: you are beautiful, you got this (whatever “this” was at the moment). But in middle school, things got tricky. I began to feel conflicted and self-conscious for the first time. How do these kids not see me as the same bright and shiny, beautiful person my family sees? I mean, I’m charming; how are they missing this? And why are they so terribly mean about it? Middle school is brutal and in the 90s, the self-love, body-positive, anti-bullying thing was not happening on a grand scale. If it was, it was dead quiet in small town, Minnesota.
Thankfully, not ALL kids were mean, my family was open and loving and available when I needed to share my struggles with them, and I got through it. Plus, I really am charming. Now I’m also older and “wiser”. I am more comfortable with myself and my confidence and self-esteem have been restored (though maybe not to its pre-middle school glory!) This restoration was possible because, just as I allowed all of the middle school voices to negatively affect how I felt about myself, I learned to allow the voices of those who care to positively affect me as well.
Acceptance of self… pride in self is what my mom has been teaching me all along. It has been refreshing to witness this message grow into what I dare call a “movement”. Frequent and positive messaging and affirmation works; it helps change our mindset and believe what we think about ourselves. For me, anyway, this has been the case.
But as beautiful and motivating as this onslaught of positivity and acceptance is, it has also been the source of a bit of personal guilt.
There are times when I feel shamed for not loving and/or accepting my body and its changes 100%. I feel like I “should” be more kind to myself and thus guilty when I experience unkind thoughts. I am here to tell you that as much as I want all of us to love on the increased or decreased size of our thighs or butt, stomach or breasts, nose, ears, new lines, acne or acne scars; it’s okay to not love on them every day. Equally as important as self love, is to acknowledge the unkind or unaccepting thoughts and/or dialogues; reflect on when they happen, how often they happen and/or what triggers them. Just as our bodies are ours and to be cherished and respected; our thoughts are, too. Perhaps in acknowledging we will begin to accept and then to love. This is my hope and my personal goal.
P.S. You are beautiful. Straight up.