In my transition from having breast implants to having them removed, I've learned a lot about myself and the way we approach our own image. Body positivity has happily gained traction all over the internet, but at times it seems to be synonymous with plus-sized women rather than women of all shapes and sizes.
It got me wondering what exactly it means to be body positive?
I have thought quite a bit and, for me, I believe practicing bodpos has two components: the presence of respect and the absence of shame, both for yourself and for others. You may notice I do not include love or self-love, and there is a good reason why.
"Many awful things have been done in the name of love, but nothing awful can be done in the name of respect." -Magda Gerber
Magda was speaking about raising children but she might as well have been reminding the whole of mankind that we have justified all sorts of bad behaviors as forms of love while neglecting the most important part of true love: respect. Love without respect is like a benevolent slave owner - it does not matter how well the slaves are treated, how dear they are to the master, they are still slaves and the master is a slave owner. If he respected them as human beings, they would no longer be slaves.
The same is true for how we view ourselves. If the aim is self-love rather than self-respect, we risk loving ourselves while being disrespectful to our body: starving it, punishing it with excessive exercise, injecting it with harmful substances. Even if we don't chase a specific physique, and we just love ourselves no matter how we look, it is disrespectful to fill our bodies with junk food, do minimal activity and practice poor hygiene.
Love without respect is a recipe for abuse.
We respect ourselves by eating fresh foods and giving great attention to both the quality and quantity we consume. We respect our bodies' Mother-Nature-given-ability to move - however we're capable - by seeing it as a blessing and practicing those movements in ways that enrich the way we feel. We respect our body by listening to its signals of hunger, thirst, satiation, tiredness and muscle/joint soreness, and responding to its needs in healthy doses.
Respect, by definition, should mean the absence of shame. But I think it is important to underscore that sneaky little demon. Shame haunts the back of our thoughts and laces snarky comments or jokes with poison. Body positivity, for me, starts with not shaming others. It could be true that someone I see is not respecting their body. It may be they're not doing as good a job as I am. But I will honestly never, ever, know. Because that person may have a thyroid problem, may be in forever-recovery from childhood abuse, may have never had the knowledge or role model to know better, may be dealing with challenges I cannot comprehend. Whether or not someone is being respectful to their bodies is a question for them to ask and answer by themselves.
The issue of shame does not end there though: we must not shame ourselves and we must strive to let the shame of others (either real or imagined) roll off our backs. I have used self-shame as a motivator for much of my life, and I am still unlearning that habit. I remind myself that there is nothing shameful in respect - if I respect my body, there is nothing about it to be ashamed of, no matter what anyone says or thinks about it. A conscious absence of shame is necessary to cultivate the self-respect that will lead to healthy self-love and eventually, at least according to my definition, a true sense of body positivity.
So I am building a new habit: when I recognize that I am shaming myself or feeling down about my body, I ask, "Are you treating your body respectfully?" It helps me be fair with myself.
For me, body positivity is not solely about plus-sized women. It's about human beings. Tall ones with long limbs, apple and pear and potato shapes, short ones, skinny and fat ones, ones with scars and missing limbs. It does not matter. It is about treating our own human body respectfully and eliminating shame from our consciousness, no matter who it is directed at.
What I'm Wearing
Barefoot Dreams CozyChic Robe