Being a girl is confusing and hard (sometimes). Not only do we have to deal with the pressure to be a certain size, dress a certain way, and behave a certain way, we also have to deal with pressure to be confident and exude self-love no matter what. Don’t those two things feel contradictory? Why is society telling me to strive my hardest to to have a bikini-bod – whatever that means – while simultaneously encouraging me to love my curves?
Body negative thought patterns can start when you’re super young, and as girls we’re taught and encouraged to nit-pick our bodies. Our bodies are to be seen as projects we’re always improving, which can turn into really unhealthy behaviors and internalized false beliefs about our self worth.It’s hard to undo the damage wherein we tie up our worth and potential for success in the same bundle as our body image. Even worse, the damage from thinking, “My body needs to be [fill in the blank] or I won’t find love and I’ll be worthless.” These demons are real and they can steal years of happiness, money, and health from you.
I struggled with these demons, personally, for many years and have finally landed in a state of confidence I’m most happy with. But do you want to know the secret about being confident and body positive I wish someone told me from the very beginning? Being perfectly body-positive is almost as impossible as having a perfect bikini-body. What does that mean? It’s a process, it takes time, and you’re never going to feel like you truly arrived at some magical state of perfection. What’s more, I’m not here to tell you that *~eVeRy OnE iS bEaUtIfUl~* in their own way because that’s trite and patronizing and to be honest, I think we’re all tired of hearing it. At a fundamental base level, here are 9 secrets about being body positive no one is telling you.
Focus On Your Good HealthReally, let's dial it back 8,000 notches. If you are able bodied and in good health, be thankful for that (If you are disabled or any other chronic condition: good freaking job. You are dealing with daily stresses the rest of us would cave under. Go, you!). Take a step back and really try and be grateful that your body digests food in healthy way. Say thank you to your bones and muscles for comporting your body through space all these years. Breathing is easy, your heart pumps blood to the rest of your body, really basic every day things you take for granted and don't treat like a miracle. Not everyone can be that lucky. Just take that in. Anything else that happens to your body in addition to functioning in a healthy way? That's just bonus. Source: iStock
Don't Hate On Your MomWhat do I mean by this? My grandmother, my mom, and I all have the same legs. Incidentally, they are two of my favorite people. We have fluffy, strong thighs and comparatively small, skinny calves. I used to hate my thighs and how weird I thought my legs looked. But, since I connected them to my family, hating my thighs is like saying I hate my mom and Sittoo's legs, which is a hurtful thing to think about two of the people I love most. I stopped right away. This is how I got over nit-picking my thighs. This picture is my phone background. It's my grandmother, Frieda, being glamorous on the Jersey Shore in the 1940's 🙂
Forgive Past NegativityIt's really hard to move forward in being confident when you're busy holding a grudge on someone for destroying your body image in the past or beating yourself up for hating your body for so long. Mind you, forgiveness doesn't mean saying that is okay. Forgiveness, in this situation, means disavowing any responsibility for whatever caused the negativity in the first place. You did nothing wrong in the past that made your parent/teacher/coach make you feel ashamed. Their negativity has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them and their own struggles. Forgive yourself for your own struggles, too. Source: iStock
Be Patient With YourselfBeing body confident is a process, not a one-cure fix-all. Can I tell you it took me maybe 10 years to actually like my skin color? I'm obsessed with it now, but growing up in a predominantly white town as a mixed kid can make you internalize a lot of self-hate (Real talk: in third grade, my two friends told me Zac Hanson only liked 'girls with freckles' and I knew what that meant and it KILLED ME for years). Everyone told me that I would feel differently when I got older and I was like, "OK, random grown up. Whatever you say." This is not to say I didn't put in an insane amount of work to undo this thought pattern, but I wish someone just told me to be patient with myself and let my confidence arrive naturally and that like they say, time heals all wounds. Source: iStock
Don't Punish Your Body With Food Or ExerciseOf course eating healthy is great and working out is awesome, but there's a fine line between extreme dieting and eating well. Same goes for working out to gain strength and stamina v. punishing yourself for those Oreos on Saturday. Did you know exercise bulimia is a thing? Really take sock of your motives behind your diet and exercise habits. If they're rooted in self-hate or punishing your body, you need to change your thoughts before you can change your habits. Stop your current behaviors, take some time out to reevaluate, then come back with a way to eat and exercise that isn't about punishing yourself. I especially see this a lot during the holidays. Eat when you're hungry, stop when you're full, and don't beat yourself up about it. Turkey is delicious. Source: iStock
Stop Criticizing OthersI can admit hat gossiping with my girlfriends is fun and I've had my fair share of making fun of other girls. I justify it by saying that these girls were bullies toward me, but it really helps no one. Calling someone else fat doesn't make you skinnier, calling someone dumb doesn't make you any smarter, blah blah, we've all been there. But, having the criticizing and comparing part of your brain activated can only be good for so long. Did I think you looked sad and greasy during your wedding? You bet. But am I really lonely and just masking that? You know it. Source: iStock
Only Wear Things That Make You Feel AwesomeKeep in mind, this does not mean, "if you hate your belly, wear looser clothes around your midsection." Sometimes when we're focused on dressing for our flaws, we stop at "well, this shirt hides my arms, so that's enough." You deserve better out of your wardrobe. Toss anything that doesn't make you feel like a rockstar, and I mean it. You aren't going to paint something one day and need that awful shirt. If it's not helping you feel awesome, and it's only there to make you feel less self conscious about your butt, toss it. If you're short on cash, sell them to a thrift store and use that money to buy new, different clothes that (I can't stress that enough) make you feel like you're in a Beyonce video, not like you're hiding from the world. Source: iStock
Cut Out Triggering MediaInstagram accounts of impossibly pretty girls you're constantly comparing yourself to? Unfollow. Same goes for Tumblr blogs, magazines, anything that activates body-negativity - cut that sh*t out. I stopped buying a popular magazine in high school because I realized I was only buying it to fix myself and I didn't need fixing. Only you know what's triggering for you. Of course, you can't cut everything negative from your life - commercials exist, you can't hide from billboards - but you can put it on mute or go down a different block if it's that bad. Source: iStock
Be Your Own SexyThis goes back to not comparing, but once you disassociate your desire to become a version of sexiness or desirability that doesn't feel authentic to you, not holding yourself to that false standard becomes easier. Of course you're not going to be sexy like Chrissy Tiegen, unless you are in fact Chrissy Tiegen. Everyone has their own brand of awesome and trying to literally be someone else is a huge waste of time and will only set you up to feel bad about yourself. Focus on things you feel awesome about yourself (the more non-physical attributes the better) and follow that. Source: iStock
Which of these body positive secrets was your favorite? How do you feel better about yourself? Tell me in the comments!
You can follow the author, Aliee Chan, on Twitter.