I’ve tried to write this post a few times over the past few weeks. It was recently Mental Health Awareness Week here in the UK and the theme chosen by the Mental Health Foundation was body image. Given that we are just about to head into summer I thought it was the perfect time to post about how I intend to try and be body positive this summer.
But then two things happened.
Firstly, the words just wouldn’t come. I struggled to write anything that sounded genuine and I realised it’s because I don’t actually feel that positive about my body at the moment. How do you write about body positivity when you don’t love the way you look?
And then secondly, I saw what I consider to be the most hideous photo of me ever taken and it was posted to social media. Cue a depression spiral so bad that, at times, I struggled to get myself out of bed (see my previous post for more on this).
But then I stumbled across this article. It covers a talk by body positive activist Harnaam Kaur, where she talks about the difficulties in encouraging people to love their bodies. She says that for people suffering from mental health conditions it can be too much to ask for them to be body positive. Instead, we should be encouraging people to simply be kind to their bodies.
That really resonated with me because I think that’s where I am right now.
I am not yet at the point where I can look at my body and say that I love it. I can’t put on a bikini or a short summer dress and walk around in it fearlessly. But I am slowly starting to accept my body for the way that it is now.
I hope that I one day reach a point where I am truly body positive, but I also recognise that it’s a process that will probably take some time.
Summer has always been a particularly problematic time for me. A time that brought out my worst insecurities. I don’t know if it will be any easier this year, but I intend to at least try to make it better. Here’s how…
Wear Clothes That Make Me Look and Feel Amazing
When I feel bad about the way that I look, I have a tendency to try to cover up. To hide my body in layers of clothing. Either that, or I will try to squeeze myself into uncomfortable old clothes in an attempt to prove to myself that I still can.
That of course does nothing for the way I feel about myself.
This summer I am determined to look and feel good. To look in the mirror and actually like the outfit that I am wearing. And that also means wearing clothes that I feel comfortable in. Clothes that fit well and clothes that don’t make me feel too self-conscious (which means that short skirts are probably out for this summer).
Stop with the Negative Self Talk Already
I’ve only recently realised just how bloody exhausting it is to spend vast proportions of time criticising myself. It amazes me that I have even had time to do anything else in the past few years with the barrage of self abuse inside my head.
The difficulty with this is that a lot of it occurs largely without me knowing it. It is only recently and with the benefit of therapy that I have started to notice it and understand that it is a problem.
I may not be able to look in a mirror and love every part of my body but I will at least work on respecting it and accepting it without my usual self criticism.
Stop Putting My Own Prejudices onto Other People
This is a pretty difficult thing to admit but another new realisation for me is just how much of my own prejudice I have been projecting onto other people. I have internalised certain views about myself and how I should look for so long but never realised that I was also holding those views about others.
As I have started working on my own self-esteem, my view of other people has started to change. Those prejudices have started to fall away and I am now capable of seeing the beauty in everybody. That in turn is helping improve my own views of myself. I am (slowly) starting to see through all my own prejudices and recognise the things that are beautiful about myself, imperfections and all.
Stop Comparing Myself to Others
One of the reasons I struggle with summer so much is the abundance of people with what I perceive to be perfect bodies, walking around in tiny shorts and strappy tops. My insecurities go into overdrive and I start comparing myself to pretty much anyone and everyone that I see. Assessing their beauty and then assessing my own based on how I compare to them. It sounds pretty fucked up when I write it like that actually.
I stumbled across a beautiful quote on Instagram recently. Of course, I am completely unable to find it now but the basic premise was that it is okay to acknowledge another person as beautiful and then acknowledge yourself as beautiful too. There is no need to feel jealous of or less worthy than another person who you think looks good. You can both be beautiful at the same time and in different ways.
I’m going to try to put this into practise this summer. Try to stop comparing myself to other people and appreciate that we are all beautiful in our own ways.
Do Exercise That Makes Me Feel Good
This is another new revelation of mine. I don’t have to hate exercise! I can actually do exercise that makes me feel good and that I actually ENJOY. Shock horror.
Up until last year, I only ever exercised as a way to lose weight. I would push myself and push myself and hate every last second of it. But more recently I have been embracing exercise as something that helps improve my mood and makes my body FEEL good.
I now enjoy running for the hit of endorphins I feel afterwards. I do yoga on a weekly basis because it helps me relax and keep my body flexible. I do Muay Thai because I enjoy how strong it makes me feel.
If you’re suffering from depression and struggling to exercise, check out my blog post on how CBT helped me start exercising again.
Nourish My Body
I can’t talk about being kind to my body without talking about the importance of eating. For so long I have restricted what I put inside my body. Stressed over it and cried over it and spent hours counting up calories in my head or on whatever new app I could find at the time.
This summer I intend to eat. And I intend to eat whatever I want. Whether that be a salad or a chocolate bar. To me, I cannot be kind to my body if I am constantly starving it.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and what you do to be kind to your body. Just drop me a comment below 🙂