How do I fit in? Finding my own path to self love through body positivity...

Hello readers,

So much is swirling around in my head that it's hard to keep track right now, so get ready for a roller coaster ride.

As some of you might know, I recently started a new instagram account specifically devoted to a challenge I created for myself. I call this the Body Positivity 100 Challenge. The account name is bodyposi100 and my goal was to do one body positive action each day for 100 days. I'm currently on day 23. This is a marathon!

Admittedly, when I started this account I did not know much about what body positivity is, or if I truly fit in with the movement, or where this challenge would take me. The whole point was to learn more about it and heal my relationship with my body in the process.

For background, let me just briefly talk a bit about my history with my body. I know that I have what some people would call a "privileged" body. I'm white, I'm average sized, I'm healthy, etc. But my experience growing up did not feel like a privilege. I was teased about my weight, teased about my face, my acne, how my legs looked, how my eyes looked, how my jaw was crooked, how I was chubby, how big my boobs were, how big my butt was, told to diet, forced to weigh myself in front of my family, told to drink diet soda, told no one would ever be attracted me, told I wasn't "that kind of girl," meaning the kind of girl who was loved and pretty. The list goes on. Later in life I was also desired by men, catcalled, taken advantage of, sexually harassed, seduced, and used. The messages I got about my body from the outside world were LOUD, and very quickly completely changed the way I felt about myself. I became super self conscious. I began dieting when I was only 10 years old. I wanted to fit in, to be pretty. What I thought was important in life was to live up to an image of perfection. I became obsessed with my own image.

Not only did I diet, but I exercised and overate and medicated myself with food or punished myself by with holding food.  I was bulimic for a short time, and convinced I was a compulsive eater and had body dysmorphia. I was an active alcoholic and put my body in hundreds of dangerous and precarious situations.

I avoided doctors, avoided the dentist, avoided healthy habits. I abandoned my body in many ways.

I cared about how I looked to others, but struggled to care about myself from within.

Recently I met a young woman who was reclaiming the word FAT. She was like, "I'm fat and I love it! It's not a bad thing!" And I was like..."WHAT?!??" My mind exploded. I thought, who is this bad ass woman and why does she feel so emboldened? Why does she like the word fat? How is that possible? To me, this word was so painful, so mean. When I called myself fat, I was truly at my lowest point.

So she inspired me to look further, to dive into this movement call Body Positivity. I started following a bunch of people on instagram who I thought seemed to be body positive leaders or influencers. I started reading some books and articles. I started thinking about ways in which the way I feel about my body is still so dictated by the messages I got from others and the messages I get from society.

I felt like, "This could be it!" I could finally heal myself. I could finally be done with the self-hatred, with the body abuse and shame I had suffered from for so long. I thought Body Positivity would save my relationship with my body.

I have to admit that the images I was seeing and the messages I read were confusing. It seemed to be about embracing the body you are born in, stopping diets, claiming your own beauty, rejecting society's beauty standards, and supporting representations of all body types in media. I'm all about that! But when I scrolled through my feed of all of these curvy women, I was a bit disturbed.

Why were so many of them posing in their underwear or naked? Why are they wearing so much makeup? For a movement that claims to be anti-establishment, why did so many of the people who claimed to be a part of it seem to be hell bent on being "beautiful." Is this a beauty movement or a body movement? Is this about acceptance or about image? Is it more important to be healthy or sexy? It seemed like a lot of the people I was looking at for inspiration were focused on saying, "Look at me, I'm sexy too!" "You can be fat AND beautiful!" It looked more like body exhibitionism and sexualization than empowerment.

So what is the goal of this movement? To be beautiful? Because isn't that still a shallow goal? And aren't we still playing into the male dominated culture that says that women's worth lies in their image?

Maybe I'm off base here. But a few weeks ago, I watched a webinar with two body positive activists. They are both lovely and very young. They were dead set on making sure the world knows the difference between body positivity and body confidence. These are not the same thing, they said! Body Positivity is a political movement for people with marginalized bodies. Body confidence is about self love, acceptance, etc. They were pretty intent on the black and white separation between the body and self awareness and political activism. That seemed naive to me.

I guess what they were saying is that the body positive movement is about accepting ALL bodies, it's about society. Body confidence is about YOU.

First of all, who is to say what is and is not a marginalized body. Just because your body image might be represented in the culture as acceptable, it doesn't mean that you have not faced discrimination and pain because of your body. I know for a fact that women who are considered beautiful by the cultural standards, and may not face body hatred when they walk down the street,  are harassed daily, and many of them have suffered from sexual abuse. So is body positivity not for them because they are traditionally pretty?

I believe it is a political act to reject society's notions of beauty, to reject diet culture, and to claim your worth, regardless of what you look like, not BECAUSE of what you look like. Maybe it's my privilege talking, and that's fine. But this focus on image and beauty just seems like more of the same.

So I'm heavy and I've had a baby and I have stretch marks, but you can still love me because I'm beautiful, see????

Why? Why is that what this is about? Shouldn't you love me because I'm kind, or smart, or loyal, or funny or something else other than how I look? If I were a man, would we even be having this debate?

Aren't I worthy regardless of how I look? Isn't my body entitled to walk the earth because it's living and breathing, not because it's pretty?

What if the focus was on our humanity and not on our looks? What if it was about healing ourselves and the world, not by looking good, but by being good? What if we didn't accept fat people because we thought they were pretty, but because we saw them as people who deserved to take up space on this planet!

Can you imagine a time when a woman could run for President of the United States and no one would mention the size of her ankles? Or the way her dress fits?

If we want to even fantasize about a time when women are treated equally, we have to shift the conversation. Not to our bodies and how we look, because people have been talking about that for centuries, but to our ideas, our actions, our full, amazing lives.

Women are powerful and inspiring. Not just because we look good naked or in a dress, but because of who we are.

For this reason, I am changing my username and changing my challenge. I am continuing the challenge with my original intention, which is to heal my relationship with myself and my body.  I want to celebrate what makes me, me. I want to document the ways in which I do not fit into ANY mold, not society's beauty standard, and not a movement called Body Positivity.

I am uniquely and wonderfully made, and I am going to spend 100 days treating myself like the creature that God made me to be, with love and respect. Hopefully doing this for 100 days will help me to treat others the same way, and will help me to see all people as sentient beings, deserving of love and respect.

My new instagram username is selflove100. You can follow my journey there!


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