In the age of social media, most of us have seen #bodypositivity and #bodylove being shared across multiple platforms as well as photos of people of all different sizes sharing how they love their body despite its "flaws". Body positivity has become a movement. But there are flaws in this movement. It is a positive step in the way we view and talk about bodies - for love to be felt, expressed, and shared regarding all bodies, but it is still too tied up in outward appearance and cultural definitions of beauty. "Body love" also continues to reinforce the ideal that our worth = our body; that we are bodies first and people second. There is still a lot wrong with that.
Not to mention, there are many people who still aren't able to identify with this movement. Finding a place of love for their body seems absolutely so far-fetched and body positivity therefore impossible. It has also been twisted into the ideal that changing your body is a form of or will result in loving your body.
Based on the statistic that over 90% of women are dissatisfied with their bodies, I would venture to guess that most aren't able to identify with #bodylove. After all, when we live in a culture that praises thinness and flawless looks how can we possibly love every inch of our body?
I'm here to tell you that it's okay to not love your body. It's okay to be so far from body love. And even if you have found a love for every flaw and less-than-perfect part there will be moments when that love will be difficult to feel and exude. This is where body acceptance comes into play.
What is Body Acceptance?
Body acceptance is just as it sounds - accepting your body just as it is today. Body acceptance is taking all of the parts and pieces you love and the ones you don't and accepting that their collection is what makes up your body. Body acceptance is acknowledging and accepting that we only get one body in this lifetime and this is it. No matter how you feel about it, this is the body you've always had and the best one you'll ever have. Even if you don't love what you see in the mirror, body acceptance is being able to step back and know that that's okay.
Frankly, only a minute piece of body acceptance has to do with your actual physical appearance. Body image is not an objective standard. For one, your body is constantly changing, as it should be, so focusing on a stagnant appearance is relatively counterproductive to accepting your body. Additionally, your body is only our outward appearance, your "earth suit". Your body is simply a vessel for who you actually are - your personality, values, beliefs, memories, and experiences that truly make you YOU. Body acceptance is more about how you treat your body and finding respect and appreciation for all it does and all it contains. Body acceptance is also finding a life outside of your body and appearance.
How Do I Practice Body Acceptance?
In practice, body acceptance is providing respect and care for your body no matter what size or shape it comes in and despite how you feel about it. All bodies are deserving of being treated with respect, even yours. If body acceptance is a new venture you're stepping into, here are some ways you can start your journey today.
- Give Yourself Space and Time.
If you are coming from a place of feeling a lot of negativity towards your body, transitioning to a new way of thinking about your body will most likely be a difficult process. It may make you sad, confused, angry, and it will most certainly take time. After all, our struggles with body image are not rooted in our actual physical appearance but rather in our mindset and our perceptions. Changing your mindset is not an easy task but you can start today. Give yourself the space and time you need to adapt to this new change.
2. Find Values Outside of Your Body.
If you were to make a list of everything you value in your life, where would your body (or appearance) fall? Would it even make the list? Although "body love" is a positive message and may help short-term, it isn't the ultimate goal because it continues to put value in outward appearance. Rather, respect and accept your body while finding love and worth in your LIFE. As therapist and body image expert, Jennifer Rollin puts it: You don't need to fall in love with your body but fall in love with your life.
3. Express Body Gratitude.
When is the last time you thanked your body or even thought about all that it does for you? When you are having a vulnerable day in your body, step away from the mirror and and focus instead on your body's many amazing capabilities - your heart pumping life through your body, your legs that carry you places, your arms that share warm embraces, your mouth for sharing your day's experiences. Make a list for a day and you may be surprised by all the things we often take for granted.
4. Surround Yourself with Positive Influences.
Body acceptance becomes a slightly easier process when you're surrounded by an environment that cultivates body acceptance. Analyze your environment - does it contain social media accounts and email subscriptions that make you feel bad about your body? Does it contain magazines and books telling you your body isn't good enough? You have the power to unfollow and get rid of these things. Give yourself permission to create an environment that allows you to feel good about yourself.
5. Wear Clothes That Fit.
Part of showing your body respect is providing it comfort. Fill your closet with clothes that fit your here and now body. Make the choice to invest in clothing that fits, is comfortable, and you feel confident in.
Eating is one of the best ways you can provide care for your body. Establish an eating pattern that allows you to frequently nourish your body according to your hunger/fullness levels and satisfaction needs. This may look like 3 meals and 2-3 snacks. Your body needs this nourishment every day, no matter what or the amount you ate yesterday.
Body acceptance is not a permanent destination, rather it is an ever evolving process. It involves continuous practice and putting in the work to accept your body. There will still be triggers, messages, and "bad body image days". But body acceptance is possible in your here and now body.
You don't have to love your body to be kind and generous to it. You don't have to love your body to accept that it is worthy of respect and care. You don't have to love your body to love your life. You are worthy just as you are.