Many negative things can be born out of social media. But every once in a while, something magical is birthed. And though I imagine it has been years in the making, it has been an absolute joy to see the courage, bravery, and unspeakable beauty that has come from the body positive movement.
Personally, I was always referred to as “the skinny one” in my family. My aunts and uncles had a collection of names for me to reiterate just how skinny I was. All of this, though, was followed by warnings of the weight I was destined to gain after I hit 23.
I let the warnings roll off my shoulders for as long as I possibly could. I still looked great in a bikini. I was always able to find my size in almost any store; I was still “skinny”.
I spent years watching my mom and sisters fight weight issues. We would all try and go to the gym, eat healthy, and try different sweat suits and workout regimens. Whatever you can imagine, it was tried and tested in my household.
But all of this had conditioned me to fear fat, even the slightest bit of it. It was always talked about as if it were Voldemort in a house of Potters.
This year, when I turned 23, and subsequently gained a couple of those pounds I was destined to, and I really only mean a couple, I began to worry. I would come home after work and look at my naked body. I would pull at the skin around my stomach, find different ways to measure whether my love handles were growing—or was I just being crazy? If you were to ask anyone who had seen me within the last year, they’d answer yes. But as we all know, how others see us is often very different than how we see ourselves.
In the last few months, the body positive movement flooded social media. On any given day, the explore page on my Instagram is covered with women who do not fit into society’s standard of beauty. Yet, they’re courageously flaunting their bodies like the Kylie and Kendall Jenners of the world. They’re embracing the aspects of themselves we’ve been conditioned to despise, and also spreading very positive messages about self-love and acceptance.
And although they don’t fit into society’s standard of beauty, these women are fitting into another category of beauty: real beauty. Despite all this, the photos made me realize my own initial discomfort with seeing this body type strewn across social media platforms in the same way my body type had been for the longest time.
I imagine my own discomfort to be similar to how people felt when interracial dating became a thing. It’s a necessary discomfort; a feeling that surfaces even if you support the movement, simply because it’s something you’re just not used to. Conversely, the stigma goes away the more you see it, which makes the body positive movement very essential to our society.
For years, the media has bombarded us with a very narrow (pun intended) body image type. The constant glorification of bones, the visibility of rib cages, but more importantly, the absence of real bodies, has put so many women in danger. The emphasis has been removed from health and instead put on beauty, and a very flawed perception of it. And where has that landed us?
Anorexia is the most fatal of any mental illness. An estimated 4% of anorexic people die from complications of the disease. Only 1/3 of those struggling with anorexia actually get treatment.
The fact is, eating disorders affect almost 7% of women throughout their lifetime, and many of them subsequently die.
So after the initial shock of seeing women who were brave enough and courageous enough to embrace the exact opposite of what society has deemed beautiful, I was thrilled.
I was thrilled that the pressure of being skinny had not only been alleviated, for some of us at least, but that it hadn’t broken these women. It hadn’t stopped them from feeling beautiful; a feeling that not enough women get to celebrate, and certainly not enough get to share.
I’m able to see that the initial sense of discomfort must be what fuller-figured women feel when they never see reflections of themselves in the media. Or when women of colour can’t seem to find someone with their skin tone and hair texture on television shows, runways and in magazines.
The message is changing–all thanks to the brave and beautiful women of the body positive movement.
And I’m just here to let every single woman who is on her journey, in the movement, or perhaps not ready just yet, know that there is room for all of us. And I must say, it’s about damn time.