I am a writer, who loves clothes and fashion and who puts that love out there on the internet and I sometimes find myself falling into the body positivity influencer community. (But, I don’t love the term “body positivity.” More on that later.)
I talk a lot about loving yourself/myself, embracing and accepting our bodies, and fighting back against society’s beauty standards. But, all of this didn’t start at birth for me and it surly did not happen overnight. I had to work pretty hard to get to where I am today and I am still working on loving myself everyday. And I will probably be working on it everyday for the rest of my life.
This part of my life coincides with my mental health journey because at a time when I was at my lowest state of depression, I dove first into loving my body and then into loving myself all together. These two tasks are lifelong and are enhanced by therapy, medication and the support of my loved ones.
I tell this story to show folks that it is possible to accept yourself and it is worth the struggle.
I don’t have much memory of hating or loving my body when I was really little and I can’t remember the first time I was called, “fat.” I do remember my height being talked about. I was always taller than everyone else in my class and that eventually translated into me being the biggest girl in the class or sometimes the biggest person in the class. I wasn’t wildly liked by boys and I didn’t have many boyfriends. I was an athlete. I was strong. That fact was sometimes praised. I remember adults complimenting me on my hair or my eyes, but I couldn’t hear those nice words from people whose approval I wasn’t seeking. I wanted my peers to think I was hot and worthy of dating, however superficial that may sound.
I didn’t know who I was or what I believed in, I just knew I wasn’t skinny and I wasn’t what boys were looking for. I didn’t put that much weight in fashion until much later and I mostly dressed like a stereotypical tomboy or I wore what everyone else was wearing, which was mall brands like Hollister and American Eagle.
I was hyperfocused on certain things about myself that I hated more than other things, one of those things was my hair, but like most girls, I got picked on and picked on other people for just about anything that we could grasp on to. I even got picked on for having big lips once. The irony of the booming lip filler industry is not lost on me now, but I was still hurt.
My first diet coincided with wanting to be in great shape for basketball try-outs and to impress a boy. When neither one of those things worked out, I was okay after awhile, but was definitely more aware of my body and its impact on my life. I remember looking into the mirror everyday and pushing on my hips to imagine what they would look like if they weren’t round. I was thin, but I couldn’t see it. I was never going to be “thin enough” or later, “good enough.”
I started dating the love of my life when I was 16, so my body went to the back burner. I was in love and, for the record, that boy is my husband now and has loved me at every size.
I went on a lot of diets and experienced a lot of other mental health struggles while I was finishing grade school and all throughout college and grad school. Losing weight was the thing to do. None of us talked about our bodies in a positive way and loving ourselves or being confident was never discussed or taught. It wasn’t until I got out of grad school and was unemployed that I started to realize that I hated my body and I had for a long time. This was when the body positivity movement was taking shape on social media.
I was at my lowest place mentally and I started to reflect. I had nothing to think about except myself, so, as you can imagine, a lot of shit came up.
I had spent my life wanting and hoping that one day my body would change and be skinny. I yearned for that one day when I would lose the weight for good, but that day never came and I hated my body through all of it.
Then, between the ages of 24 and 28, I decided I didn’t want to hate myself anymore. I was comfortable hating myself for the longest time and, over time, that comfort became uncomfortable and I decided to change. Something clicked and I chose to start taking steps towards loving my body and loving myself because I really couldn’t take it anymore. I was so tired of hating myself.
So, I dove into the body positivity movement and took in as much content as I could. I learned about thin privilege, fatphobia, the toxicity of the diet industry, body neutrality and, of course, body positivity. I watched plus size influencers do hauls on YouTube and I saw that being beautiful and fashionable wasn’t exclusive to only thin people. (If you want me to do posts about any of the above subjects, let me know.)
I would keep learning and working on myself pretty regularly for a couple of years and start this blog and start posting outfit photos regularly on social media. My confidence skyrocketed and taking photos of myself became a celebration of my body and something I started to enjoy for the first time in my life. I began by not wanting to be seen taking photos or wearing particular things in public and I even had a hard time using the words “plus size.” I wrote this blog post and threw away the fear that I had of saying that plus size people can be hot and stylish too! I gave myself permission to love myself loudly.
Though my perception of myself has been on the up and up, it is ever-evolving. Recently, I have started to tackle even more of my body-related issues and have found myself in a predicament with the community I found solace in, the body positivity community.
The premise of body positivity is loving your body no matter what it looks like. It’s that simple, right? It may have been at one time, but now the movement has been co-opted by thin, cisgendered, white, able-bodied folks who leave out and talk over fat, disabled, queer and non-white bodies. I see this and I don’t like it, but the movement allowed me to save myself from myself, how could I turn my back on it?
I also learned that some folks identify more with the concept of body neutrality, where you accept your body as it is and work to build neutral feelings towards the vessel that carries you through life. We are, afterall, so much more than our bodies. I pondered for awhile if this was truer for me than body positivity.
There also is a corner of the body positivity community that is anti-weight loss. I can’t get behind that concept, although I respect other’s opinions, because if you want to change your body, you should be able to. It’s no one else’s business.
So, where am I in all of this and what am I going to promote? Here’s what I came up with:
I want more than anything for people to feel what I feel, that my body is good and that all bodies are good, but I also don’t want to make people feel like they have to love their bodies. I have worked tirelessly to love myself because neutrality doesn’t feel like the right emotion for me to have towards something I’ll have my whole life.
But, that’s just how I feel. Of course, you can see it differently. My sincerest hope is that more people can learn how to strip away the negativity that they feel about their bodies and move forward in celebration and/or awareness and appreciation of their bodies.
I now sit comfortably with the idea of acceptance and without the idea of self-hatred and that’s what I encourage. I love every bit of my body through the good days and the bad. I love my body when it fails me and when it is triumphant for me. I express gratitude towards my body regularly.
I am wading through my own sea full of doubts, fears and lies that I have let society convince me of and this fight will never be over, for that I am certain. I hope that you can or are already on this journey with me and will walk with me in spreading this message to present and future generations.
We all deserve love and acceptance and it has to start with ourselves. I know that for me loving and accepting my body was the first step in loving myself in totality. I am enough in every way, mind, body and soul, and so are you. My dream is that we all are one day certain of that.
Beautiful article Colleen. I have always believed you were beautiful inside and out!
Thank you! ❤️
Hey Colleen…I try and celebrate my body (but I certainly did not for the first 35 years of my life) …most especially my feet, since they are responsible for having brought me on many, many great adventures. It is so easy to hate one’s body and to wish for a different body … I try and trust in the creator that this body was given to me for specific reasons, to complete certain tasks…and I may never really fully understand that. I may never understand why I was given strong calves and huge hips…but this is what I have and I want to do my best to navigate though life with my given body and love myself, mind, body and soul. Your writing and photos can hep a lot of people to appreciate their earthly vessels. Thanks for being brave!
Thank you for your kind words, Sam! I’m glad you are in a good place with your body.