In a world where we are constantly engaging with celebrities, Instagram models, gym memberships, advertisements, Photoshop, social media, crazy fad diets, and other negative influences, it can be hard to feel good about the body you have. We’re constantly told we need to be slimmer, more muscular, curvier, taller — and other unachievable body standards. Learning to practice and genuinely believe in body positivity is no easy task. It means changing a huge part of how you view yourself, treat yourself, and talk about yourself. While it’s a long journey, here are a few small but important beginning steps on your lifelong journey to becoming body positive, because you deserve it!
6. Clean out your social media
Let’s be honest, social media (and the media in general) can have a hugely negative effect on anyone’s self-esteem and body positivity. Every day, we’re inundated with images of everyone living their “best” lives. It can be so hard to remember that every post and picture you see on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram is only a teeny, tiny fraction of a person’s life. Firstly, when looking at the things your IRL friends post on social media, it’s important to remember that they’re posting the ideal. That ideal shot of them, with the ideal lighting, in the ideal outfit, with the ideal filter — you get the picture. It’s important to remember that this isn’t *really* how your friends look or feel every day. We don’t get to see things like insecurities, self-doubts, or other troubles on Instagram – unless, of course, you’re perusing your friend’s Finsta.
Sometimes it can be hard to remove toxic people from our social media. It can be our closest friends, classmates, coworkers, family members, etc. who sometimes post things that make us feel bad about ourselves. Even if you can’t unfriend those people, there are lots of other people you can cut from your social media feeds to make yourself feel a little bit better. If you follow accounts like fitness accounts, “thinspo” accounts, weight loss pages, high-fashion models, celebrities, or anyone else who enforces conventional (especially thin) beauty values, it’s time to hit unfollow. It may not seem like a big deal, but every time you see one of these posts, it’s a small blow to your self-esteem. Body positivity has to come from yourself; it’s not going to come from agonizing over the body of a fitness guru with eight million Instagram followers.
5. Find a healthy hobby that suits your lifestyle
This one can be a little tricky. When it comes to “healthy” hobbies, some people automatically think that means becoming a marathon runner or going to the gym for two hours every day. The notion of “healthy” is totally personal based on your body type, your fitness level, your ability, and your personal tastes! There’s nothing more healthy than body positivity, so it’s hard to find hobbies that are healthy while avoiding hobbies that can further negative self-esteem. Find an activity that you do because you love it, not because you feel like you must.
If you genuinely enjoy going for runs, more power to you. But don’t torture your body by running for an hour every day if you hate it! You’ll never feel good about yourself if you see healthy activities as a punishment. Try something small like meditation, a weekly hike, a tiny bit of yoga, or just adding a stroll around the block to your daily routine. Any kind of activity that’s fun and easy for you based on your physical abilities is sure to make you experience more body positivity. Not because you’re exercising to lose weight, but because you’re experiencing and appreciating the small things your body is capable of.
4. Adjust your language
A huge part of body positivity comes from changing the way you talk about yourself and other people. That’s because body positivity isn’t about changing your body, it’s about changing your mindset. The point of the body positivity movement is to change the way we view ourselves, and a whole lot of that comes from changing our language. It’s not easy — but eradicating negative comments about your appearance from your vernacular will eventually change the way you think. It sounds unbelievable, but if you just keep telling yourself that your body is beautiful, special, and perfect as-is, you’ll eventually believe it.
It comes from changing the things we do every day. Instead of agonizing over the “perfect” outfit in the morning, try sticking with the first outfit you try on and walking out the door. If someone compliments your makeup, just say “thank you!” instead of offering a self-deprecating comment. Instead of thinking “wow, that girl’s thighs are thinner than mine” think “wow, we have different body types, but it doesn’t mean that hers is better than mine.” You get the picture. It also helps to change the way we talk – and even think – about other people.
If your first thought is to judge the body of another person, you’re way more likely to compare yourself to them and to assume that everyone else is judging you as well. Try to appreciate and notice things about people besides their body. And most importantly, catch yourself and adjust your thought process every time you think something mean about someone. Body positivity means just that, thinking positively about bodies — even ones that aren’t your own. It takes time, but by holding yourself and your thoughts accountable can drastically change the way you actually feel.
3. Stop counting!
One of the biggest enemies to body positivity is our society’s obsession with numbers. The number on the scale, the number of your pants size, the number of hours you spend in the gym, the number of calories you’ve eaten — it’s completely out of control. The problem with numbers is that they seem so objective. Size 4, it’s the pants size everyone should be, right? So, so, so wrong! There’s not one right number for everyone, and that’s why numbers are pretty much meaningless. Every body type, ability, height, age, etc. requires its own unique set of numbers, whether it’s hours of exercise or the number of pounds you weigh.
That’s why one of the kindest things you can do for your body is to stop confining it to numbers. Throw away your scale. Delete your calorie counting app. Stop trying to fit into a smaller pants size. And don’t freak out when these numbers change! The scale can in no way determine what the healthiest weight is for you — that shifts on a person-by-person basis. Plus, the same goes for calorie counting apps. People of different body types will require different caloric intakes, and some days you might eat a thousand more calories than usual — it’s going to constantly change, because you’re a changing, growing, non-static human being. Stop restricting yourself with numbers that are ultimately arbitrary. Do what makes you feel, happy, healthy, and of course — full of body positivity.
2. Be thankful for all the things your body can do
Another hugely important tenet of body positivity is giving your body love for every little thing it can do. Every body is capable of different things, each one important, unique, and worth being proud of. If you’re good at art, thank your body and your mind for giving you the energy to be creative. If you’re good at yoga, thank your body for becoming more flexible and strong. If you like going for hikes, thank your body for allowing you to get out and enjoy nature. It doesn’t matter if it’s an ~athletic~ activity, your body allows you to do the things you enjoy doing in a way that no one else’s body can. Even if you’ll never fully love the way a certain part of your body looks, body positivity isn’t all about looks, it’s about appreciating your body and all it can do — exactly the way it is.
1. Never apologize for loving yourself
Finally, body positivity is about shamelessly, consistently, and radically loving yourself. In our society, women especially are taught that they should be ashamed of or self-conscious of their bodies. We are taught that pride is unattractive, and it’s better to be modest. That’s a bunch of nonsense. Throw away that mindset, and never apologize for loving yourself the way you are. Obviously, no one’s perfect, but taking the initiative to stop criticizing yourself and focusing on self-love can make you a better person all-around. Don’t hide your new outlook on yourself, share with others that you’re proud of who you are and the body you live in. Not only is confidence contagious, the less you criticize your body, the more you’ll really and truly love it.