Without knowing it I think I began to dip my toe into body positivity in high school. Though I was painfully insecure about myself and my own body following years of bullying in Catholic grammar school, I was always encouraging of others. One girl I was friends with was squeezing herself into size 8 jeans though they no longer fit and her belly spilled over top, because she refused to wear a size 10. To be in the double digits felt like being a failure of some kind. I remember telling her that no one could see what the tag on her jeans said and even if they could it didn’t matter. If she’d just dress in clothes that fit her properly she’d look amazing and no doubt feel a lot better too without her waist band cutting into her constantly; taunting her.
My body has changed a lot over the years. I’ve been bigger than I am now and about two sizes and forty pounds smaller. I’ve had insecurities, doubts, days of crippling self-hatred at every size and weight I’ve ever been. I’ve watched women larger than I strut with confidence. I’ve listened to people much thinner than I obsess over a fraction of a pound. The lesson I’ve gleaned from it all is simple. We’re all fucked up. The long and short of it is that we’re all being targeted and manipulated by standards that no one can live up to. Chasing this impossible goal has filled us all with insecurities no one should have. I’ve talked before about the effect Snapchat filters had on how I feel about the skin texture of my face. As a teen I worried about my belly or waist size and now I’m a 33 year old woman who also worries that my face is not airbrush smooth at all times? What is happening?!
Going through these body changes throughout my life, listening to the endless debates over body positivity vs health, I have often tried to fake it until I made it. I believed strongly in body positivity and so, even if I wasn’t feeling that way about myself I would try to put my best foot forward…until recently. I had heard comments stating that overweight people all aspire to be fit and thin. Despite my own struggles that could not have been further from the truth for me. Even when I had been 40lbs lighter than I am now I was still considered overweight by the standards of the BMI, got endless compliments on my appearance, and actually thought I occasionally looked like a bobble head and may have lost too much weight. I did not aspire to fit society’s idea of how I should look. Furthermore, I learned that my body probably couldn’t ever meet those standards without being dangerously unhealthy.
With this fire ignited inside of myself I took a picture of my body as is; rolls, creases, curves, all the unpleasant bits we’re taught to dread and hate. And here is where I will be completely, utterly honest with you. I thought I looked amazing. I looked at my semi-naked body, without my head attached to it as it was taken from the neck down, and it was as if the disassociation of being removed from my own self made it possible to love what I saw. I felt the veil lift from my eyes. I saw all the figures I adored drawing with charcoal in my drawing class; the soft, uneven, bodies requiring just as much shade, texture, and interest as the muscular ones. We are taught to fear ourselves, distrust our own eyes, to treat the vessels that carry us through every day with contempt when they are utterly perfect in that they simply exist and work and leave a mark on this world.
As we go through our day to day lives we are all searching for love in one form or another. We seek connection, companionship, camaraderie. We want to succeed, to be happy, to be…enough. And yet, as we search for these things in others we cannot seem to do them for ourselves. We cannot treat ourselves the way that we seek to be treated by those we meet along the way. The body positivity movement is maligned for promoting unhealthy living under the guise of concern by people feeling the same pressures, insecurities, and need for connection in more acceptable bodies. At the risk of sounding terribly cliché, what would happen if we looked at others’ bodies the way we wish or hope that they look at our own? What if we looked at them like art? What if we all lifted the veil?