I’m in a somewhat self reflective mood and since I’m sat on a train with no where to go, I thought I’d take the opportunity to reflect on the past year of my life being a “body positive” person.
It’s something I’ve been thinking about since this photograph appeared in my Timehop feed two days ago:
The first picture of me in a bikini!
My body positive journey was already well on its way by this point last year, but the purchase of a bikini really was the start of the solidifying process for me. There were many more milestones to go though.
A journey of body positivity is personal to each and every one of us. The reason we embark on it I suppose is the same; to be able to look at ourselves in the mirror and to not hate ourselves. Instead, to love what we see. The reason behind that hatred, however, is different, and personal…just like the resultant journey to combat it.
Personally for me, since my early teens, I’ve been fat. Being “fat” was my thing. I was bullied at school for being fat and in a way I was bullied at home too, one of the taunts thrown my way being that I was a “fattie”.
Then vs. Now
On the surface the fat shaming faced at home was very mild but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realise how much of an impact subtle behaviours and remarks can actually have on a young, impressionable mind.
When the time came that I started to develop crushes, no one at school would look at me twice. Well, there was one boy who admitted to liking me “like that”. Unfortunately I didn’t like him back. I remember when I was about 15 or 16, one of the popular boys told me, in the way that I knew he wasn’t trying to hurt my feelings but of course, it still hurt anyway, that I had a pretty face, and if I lost some weight I’d be stunning.
(I know that as a fat girl, I am definitely not alone in hearing such a sentiment.)
I thought I would never find love. That no one would be able to see “me” because they’d never see past the fact I was fat.
I was proven wrong. I met my husband when we were 18. Within about a month or two of starting to date, we were spending most nights at each other’s places. Within 2 years we had moved in together officially, at the 6 year mark we married, and this December we will hit 14 years together. Not bad for a girl who was convinced she would never find love! And the funny thing is, with Michael, maybe the first couple of times he saw me naked, I was nervous, sure. But after that, I think I can honestly say I never was again.
I have completely and totally digressed. And that’s okay, this is supposed to be a reflective piece.
Moving on though, finding acceptance with one person is good, sure. But finding acceptance within society, but more importantly, finding acceptance within yourself can be so much harder. Especially when all the messages and images we are bombarded with day in, day out, are trying to convince us that we should all be striving for a very narrow definition of beauty perfection.
(That’s not to say at all that I look down on anyone who either has that body type, or anyone striving to achieve it. All bodies are good bodies. All I hope is that those striving are doing so out of love, not out of hate for themselves.)
I digressed slightly again. When we are bombarded so much by the media with photoshopped imagery of how we are “supposed” to look, it’s very easy to understand how we can develop negative self images of ourselves. How we can start to look at ourselves and hate what we see.
So, how do we start to challenge this?
I don’t believe that there is a one approach fits all method. For me however, the “fake it til you make” approach has been successful. You see, people seem to have this strange idea that I am confident. I’m not. Or at least, I don’t believe that I am. But I pretend to be. When I want to do something that is new or scary, I pretend to be that confident person that I want to be. And at some point along the way, you pretend so many times that it’s just no long an “act” and you aren’t pretending anymore.
Because if you can pretend to be confident….hunni, you ARE confident, whether you want to believe it or not!
At the start of my body positive journey, I found a community on Instagram brimming with positive and inspiring people and I found myself thinking “if they can do it, so can I!”. I had in a sense started along the way already….my wardrobe had expanded outside of my usual t-shirt and jeans; for the first time in years I was wearing leggings, skirts, dresses. Clothes that were tight fitting, that showed off my form, not attempting to conceal and hide it.
Patterned, tight leggings? Never!
Finding the community helped me to build on that. I bought my first bikini…. But then I then had to WEAR it when swimming; where other people would see me in it. Which I did eventually, once I built up enough courage to do so! 🙂
View this post on Instagram
I went swimming. I've gone swimming in this bikini three times now. Each time gets easier. Each time, I realise more and more that generally, no one gives crap whether I flaunt what my momma gave me, or cover up every inch of skin. And if someone DOES decide to judge me, why should I let it bother me? I have spent 21 years of my life, since the age of 10 when it first really dawned me me that I was bigger than the other girls, feeling ashamed of my body. Hiding it. Not loving it. I want to be healthier. Not to lose weight, not to fit society's idea of what a perfect body should be. But just…to be healthier! And if a journey of health means I lose weight, then so be it. Because body confidence means trying to love your body regardless of it's size. I used to think a skinnier me would be happier. I used to look at girls skinner than me and be so envious. I used to use being fat as a reason to not do stuff. To be a wallflower. I'm still like that; there's part of me that doesn't want to shine, because she was told from a very young age that if she didn't fit a very narrow, defined ideal, that happiness WASN'T for her. I'm trying to not be that person anymore. My worth IS NOT determined by my weight. Being beautiful and being fat ARE NOT mutually exclusive; beauty transcends the size of your clothes. So. I'll keep wearing my bikini, and feel amazing every time that I do. #FATshionfauxpas
Three times in, still going strong!
My hair become bright red. This might not seem to be the most obvious of body positive actions but to me, it was. Having grown up being told time and time again by my father that I wasn’t allowed to dye my hair, the act of doing so, and to increasingly brighter colours was a one of defiance, of self validation….of breaking free. Of taking control of my body for me.
Red hair in pigtails? Hella cute!
I finally, after over a decade of wanting one, got my first tattoo. Another thing that wasn’t permitted by my father. I actually just got it added to four days ago.
I couldn’t love this more if I tried.
My new found confidence, in both my body and myself….be it fake or not, possibly reached its pinnacle in February this year. Julie, of Be Quirky Be You, got in touch with me asking if I would be interested in modelling in a photo shoot for her, that would require some semi-naked and fully naked shots. Despite my nerves, I took the leap and did it. I have already blogged a bit about the experience here, but here are 4 of the photos from the day. I think the happiness is clear to see on my face.
Credit: Julie Mullin.
Body positivity is something I am so utterly ridiculously pleased I found. It is not a cure all in life, but it has allowed me to let go of so much worry, so much stress. It has been life changing for me.
In the name of honesty…
Let me up front with you; I want to lose some weight. But not because I hate my body. Not even because I am unhappy with my body. Over the past year, I have noticed that my knees hurt a lot more than they used to. I’d like to take a little bit of the strain off them. That’s it. I don’t hate my body as it is now. Honestly, my body image is probably the best it has ever been. I don’t want to lose much weight. I came to peace with the fact I am a plus size woman a long time ago. I’m not looking to “fix” myself because there’s nothing to fix.
Also, I won’t lie. I have bad body image days. I’m sure anyone who claims to be body positive does, and it would be misleading of someone advocating it to try and suggest that every day is filled with complete self love and sunshine and that you’ll never hate your body or part of it again. It doesn’t work like that. Roads are seldom smooth and straight. They twist, turn, they have bumps and cracks.
(Or at least, here in the UK they do!)
Bad days will come. But they also go, and are replaced with better days. Just like everything else in life. You take the good with the bad, the rough with the smooth.
Like all things that are genuinely worth working towards, working towards being body positivity will be hard. After all, if it were easy, why aren’t we all doing it already? Anything that pushes you outside of your comfort zone usually is hard, but the reward is worth the effort.
Timing is a funny thing. The writing of this post reached beyond the train journey I was on when I first started writing it; in fact as I write this paragraph, I’m on the return journey home! Towards the end of the first journey, I received a direct message from Dawn on Instagram. Here is a screenshot of the message she sent me, shared with her permission:
I don’t receive a lot of messages like this, but I have received some over the past few months and every time I do, I am completely and utterly bowled over. I can never get over the fact that someone has decided to follow me….look at my pictures, read my words, and actually takes inspiration from that. When I replied to Dawn, she replied saying that she was in awe that I had. That again amazed me. Of course I replied! She took the time to send me such a wonderful message, it was the least I could do. Considering all the reflecting I have been doing, her timing was almost perfect, and served as such a poignant reminder to me. I don’t have grandiose delusions of importance; I’m a small minnow in a large online world. And that’s okay. I never had aspirations to be anything more than part of the online community. I don’t need to be prolific. But knowing that there are people out there who do draw benefit from my account; it is nice. It drives me to keep sharing, which in turn helps me on my own journey, just as much as it helps anyone else on theirs.
In therapy, my therapist always extolled the virtues of repetition; the more we hear something, the more we practice and do something…the more it becomes habit.
You don’t just become body positive overnight. Again and again, we have to practice.
- Practice not hiding our wobbly bits.
- Practice looking in the mirror and not immediately recoiling.
- Practice deploying the blinkers when we walk down the street.
- Practice telling ourselves we are beautiful and are worth of self love exactly as we are.
Thank you so much Dawn, for letting me know about your journey so far. I am so so pleased that you are finding that positivity for yourself and hope it continues to grow. And if you have a bad day, don’t despair! We all do.
Finally, I want to end this post by acknowledging one more thing that the online body positivity community has done for me; allowed me to meet some absolutely amazing people!
This year, I have met in person 10 babes who I knew first on Instagram. I consider myself extremely blessed.
Beholdeth the selfies…
I look forward to the next year (and more!) of my life as a body positive, embracing life as much as possible, person!