Body Positivity Is Not About Feeling Beautiful 24/7
Accepting your appearance can sometimes be an uphill climb.
Social media plays such a huge role in our daily lives that it’s easy to be influenced by what we see online. Catchphrases like “bikini body” and “lose 10 pounds fast” usually get the clicks, making us believe that a Victoria’s Secret model figure is the only acceptable type of body. That anything more or less than that are considered “flaws.” Well, times are changing, and this year we are tossing that toxic mindset out the window and embracing body positivity.
Vielle struggled with her body image for years, getting teased for being heavier than others. Even her family members made offensive jokes about her weight.
“My teenage years were really tough emotionally, because I did not get the support that I was expecting from my own family,” the 26-year-old shares. “Instead, they were the ones who kept pulling me down.”
As a kid, Vielle did not think there was anything wrong with her weight. She participated in events at her elementary school, she sang in front of crowds, and she was confident with herself.
“It was in high school all the way through college that I started getting insecure about my weight, because that’s when I would observe the other girls at my class. I noticed that I couldn’t wear the clothes they were wearing, because [shops] didn’t have my size.” Since then, Vielle would dress herself in loose clothing, and would seldom go out due to her insecurity.
“In college, I started going to the gym and would spend 2 to 3 hours there, which was not healthy. I was tiring myself out until I could barely stand, because I thought it would make me lose weight faster.” Movies and mainstream media instill the idea that for our imperfect bodies to be worthy of love, we must change it.
According to wellness coach Kaila Prin, “body positivity” may sometimes come off as a “candy-coated” movement to help us feel beautiful. Many weight loss campaigns call themselves “body positive”, but if you dig deeper, their message is that you cannot feel good about your body as it is, that you need to change it to feel acceptable.
“Instead of starting from a place of love and acceptance and not needing to change your body, the idea behind their messaging is that you should be able to love yourself, and since you can't do it [with] the way you look now, we can give you a body that you CAN love.” As soon as it becomes a marketing tool, its message is not about self-love anymore, but about branding and sales.
How many times have you heard the common misconception that not being up to society’s standards means you have “let yourself go”? Kaila emphasizes that it’s not about eating junk food all day and not caring about your health.
“The idea that a body is ‘let go’ simply because it's not being weight-suppressed and beaten into submission and creamed and Botoxed and tightened and toned is semantically wrong,” the wellness coach adds.
Another misconception about body positivity is that you need to feel incredible every moment of every day. Contrary to popular belief, it is not like that at all.
“Whenever I would read articles about body image, they would always say, ‘You should feel beautiful!’ ‘You should never feel insecure!’, but right at that moment I would question myself, ‘But why don’t I feel beautiful?’, then I would feel even worse,” says Vielle.
Being body positive is not about forcing yourself to feel great 24/7. You do not have to adore every aspect of your appearance, because in reality, there are good and bad days and that’s okay. In Vielle’s experience, this mindset made her beat herself up, instead of help her feel better.
When asked if there is something she wanted to change if given the chance, Vielle says she would have been kinder to herself.
A reminder: body positivity should be inclusive, too -- to the disabled community, people who are on the heavy side, genderqueer people, and those who are size small. Mallorie Dunn, founder of body positive fashion line SmartGlamour, says, “Whenever you're erasing one group, you're missing the point. Many large retailers, for instance, promote a very narrow image of body positivity as a bunch of light-skinned women who are ‘small plus’ and shaped like an hourglass – this is often referred to as ‘acceptable fat.’”
If there is one thing Vielle learned about her journey to self-love, it is completely separating her appearance from her worth as a human being. “I am not a bad person for feeling insecure on some days, and I do not deserve any less for not fitting into a particular size.”
As a society, we need to stop tolerating fat and skinny jokes, because they will never be funny. Negative body talk from our relatives and loved ones should not be common conversation at every family reunion. And yes, this includes the “mukha ka nang tingting!” at “magpapayat ka nga!” we hear from titas and titos over and over again. These seemingly “harmless” comments can affect a person more than we know.
Our appearance should not dictate the treatment we receive from ourselves or others, because no matter what we look like, we deserve to be shown kindness, and we deserve to be loved and respected.
Your feelings are valid. You are valid. And there is no shame in asking for help.
If you need someone to listen, call the National Mental Health Crisis Hotlines at 0917-899-8727, (02) 7989-8727 or 1553 (toll-free landline) anytime, 24/7.
You may also call hotlines 0917-8001123 or (02) 8893-7603 for free telephone counseling in the Philippines.