I’ve been reading recently of body positivity and loving oneself. A complicated notion that many women and men, can’t quite get their heads around. Myself included.
I’ve struggled with body positivity since my teenage bulimic years that lasted until my early twenties, right through to my thirties and my Bipolar prescription ravaged body that I live within now.
Baz luhrmann’s ‘sunscreen’ says, ‘you are never as fat as you imagine’ but as I looked at myself at 5’8 and 7.5 stone at the impressionable age of 17; I remember so clearly hating myself, my mind, my body, my style… everything that made me who I was. The hatred I had for myself would manifest itself in bathroom purging, pouring the remanence of each day down the toilet, everyday for 7 years.
As I’ve grown older, that hatred rarely wained… the bulimia gave way to other vices that would rip holes in myself in other ways. And every year when I’ve looked in the mirror I have felt overweight, whether size 8, 12 or 16, I have felt alien in my own skin.
Manic Bipolar moods would infrequently give myself the ability to look myself in the eyes and feel beautiful. Those moments were fleeting and in there own way demoralising and destructive.
Recent conversations with friends both male and female around body positivity made an impression on me. Every one of them unhappy with some part of themselves; muscular arms, a paunch, wide hips, thin hair. You name it, and there’s someone who would hate that part of themselves – justified or otherwise. Always otherwise.
It made me realise how, no matter what we say to others they will channel their loathing into that part of their anatomy – no matter how often you say they are beautiful.
As I sit here, now twice the weight of my 17 year old self and a size 18 (which I swore to my younger self was the most awful and ghastly size – I mean really, my knickers could help sail ships), that every stone I have ever been, every hair colour, every bra size, every addition to the label -that I have been unhappy in some way with how I look. I wasn’t happy at a size 6 nor at a size 12… but does that mean that I’ve never loved myself?
I follow some amazing ‘plus sized’ women (note they are not that label to me) on instagram and I look at them shaking and jiggling and shaming the haters and embracing themselves so confidently and I look at them in awe; wishing I had the confidence to show all of myself in such glory and not care what the comments may bring.
In trying to be body positive I have in fact started an unintentional battle with myself because surely now that I am ‘plus sized’ means I should be like them, in their magnificent confidence and love of themselves, right?
In thinking this way I’ve dialled up the pressure that if I’m going to be ‘bigger’ then I should look like these gorgeous ‘plus’ women, act like they do and wear those beautiful smiles the way that they do.
Set your arms down
Despite this unintentional war I’ve started, it doesn’t mean I don’t love parts of myself just because I can’t see the glory in my own rolls and cellulite.
I think you might not always like or even love what you see in your reflection but that doesn’t mean you don’t love other parts of yourself.
I love that on occasion my eyes are so green that they look like wise oak trees, I love my lone dimple on my right cheek, I love that I am a chameleon and can colour my hair whatever colour I choose and somehow pull it off. I love many things about myself.
Yet this doesn’t mean I have to love my stretch marked tummy and wide hips. Nor does it mean I have to love my inherited cankles. Sure I can accept the fact that my butt will never look good in disco pants (sob) but I think it sets unrealistic expectations if we are expected to try to love all of ourselves.
Instead I am trying to focus on those things that I love about my body; my little feet, my child like complexion and a scar on my left knee from falling over playing kiss chase when I was 6.
And on good days those things will be all I see and all I need to see. I may not love every ounce of my being and perhaps I never will… but you don’t have to love everything so completely in order to love it with your whole heart.