My house has too many mirrors.
There’s one in my bedroom; two by my wardrobe; two in the bathroom. Even the windows when it is dark outside, hold the same image as the mirrors do. This house is awash with reflections of myself, and I am ashamed.
I wrote those lines last Wednesday, after a body-image crisis which took up my entire evening. It had taken a while, but I finally settled on the right word, the word which has evaded me for months, the word which describes how I actually feel. It’s been disguised as disgusting, as scared, as jealous. The word is ashamed.
On Wednesday I was ashamed of my body. I was ashamed of what it looked like and of how it felt. I was ashamed of myself for making the wrong choices, for not working for what I want.
Today, though, things are different – but I’m still ashamed.
I’m ashamed of how I treat my body; of how I think about it. I’m ashamed that I let my insecurities define me. In fact, I’m ashamed that I feel insecure in my body at all. I’m ashamed that how I feel about my body shapes how I feel about my whole self. I’m ashamed that I subconsciously buy into society’s concept that fatter bodies are lesser bodies, and fatter people are lesser people.
Thinking about my body in this way means that I am part of the problem. I am a functioning part of this society which actively shames bodies with more fat, because a fat body is associated with character and personality treats deemed negative. A fat body means a lazy person, a thick person, a scrounger. A fat person is not associated with hard work, or cleverness, or a busy social life. It pains me that we are taught to make such negative snap judgements based on a person’s looks, and that such judgements can be disguised as concern for a person’s health or wellbeing.
I don’t want to be part of the problem; I want to be part of the growing community which says no to all body-shaming, and therefore part of the solution. But in order to achieve this healthier mindset about all bodies, I think I need to start with my own.
“There is nothing wrong with my body”
Behold my new mantra. I have no legitimate reason to dislike or feel bad about my body. My body can do everything I could possibly need it to – it can walk, run, dance, lift weights, ride horses, make music and more. It works perfectly, and it’s pretty amazing. The first step is recognising and accepting this as fact.
It’s okay to want to change your body – for the right reasons
Having accepted my body as brilliant just as it is, I’ll then be able to work more on actively feeling happier in my skin. Although my body is great, there are still things I would like to change, but not so I can wear a bikini or post a picture of myself online because I can already do those things, and so can anyone else. Instead, I want to become fitter and stronger, because I know that doing so will help me to feel more confident both in my physical appearance but in my mental perception of myself.
Time to build each other up
We still have a long way to go on the road to body positivity, but things are improving. Many online communities are committed to helping people to feel good about their bodies, but it needs to happen ‘on the ground’ too. One of the best things we can do for one another is provide support and encouragement of others’ individual choices, whether that be losing weight, building muscle in the gym, getting cosmetic surgery or changing absolutely nothing at all about their appearance – so long as they are making those choices for the right reasons.
Changing how you look can have a positive effect on someone’s self-identity and confidence, but in other cases it can have little to no impact because the problem is more than skin-deep. Before we make any changes to ourselves, we need to be sure that we will be making a positive difference to our lives, and that means starting with a healthy mindset and supportive base – and each of us can help create that for those around us.
I’ll be back to doing these posts fortnightly from now on, and in each one I’d like to highlight a few blogposts which are relevant and useful for the week’s theme. So, here are three great posts on body positivity:
- Back in January Tara at Cattitude & Co gave us some straight-talk on why we should all love our bodies
- Megan at bodyposipanda offers five fantastic tips for body positive fitness (it’s now bookmarked on my laptop to refer back to!)
- A bonus here, because Elena the Mermaid has two brilliant pieces on this topic: Spots, Stretchmarks and Wobbly Bits: Why I don’t Photoshop feat. “the Worm” and Cruel to be Cruel: Body Police are Horrible, a powerful response to painful words.
Finally, the #PrettyHealthyProject is at its heart a personal challenge I’ve set myself, so at the end of each post I’ll outline what I’ll be focusing on during the next fortnight to set me up better for a pretty healthy lifestyle. I’ve got a list of things I need to improve on, such as exercising consistently, sticking to routines and being more body-positive, and although they’re all in the back of my head each week I’ll choose just one to really focus on.
I’m hoping that by working specifically on one each week I’ll be able settle into new habits a little easier rather than trying to make lots of changes all at once; what I’m not allowed to do is forget about all the others while I pick one to focus on!
This week my main focus is drinking more water. I’m not setting a specific amount to drink each day, but I’m trying to ensure I drink a glass before and after each meal, and take lots of sips throughout the day to keep hydrated as much as I can.
Next week I’ll be working on making more positive food choices. I’ve come to the conclusion that being more healthy is all about choice and all too often I take the unhealthy option, such as having a handful of biscuits as a mid-afternoon snack rather than choosing some fruit. I’m doing my health no favours when I make decisions like this, so from Monday I’ll make a concentrated effort to step back from each food-related choice I make and ensure I’m picking the right option.
How positive do you feel about your body? What are your main health focuses at the moment? Let me know in the comments below, and feel free to join in with the project on Instagram and Twitter using the hashtag #PrettyHealthyProject!