“I wish I were thinner”
“I have such a fat nose!”
“Why can’t I look as fresh as the actor in that movie when I wake up in the morning?”
“If only I were taller and fairer, I would have been married by now…”
Sounds familiar? All of us have at some time or the other criticised at least some aspects of our appearance. Unfortunately, these are negative messages that we may have received while growing up, from the people around us, our culture and even from our family and loved ones. In the Indian context, besides body shape, there has always been an emphasis on skin colour, with a fairer skin being considered more beautiful, and somehow superior.
In all of this negativity, there is a relatively new trend emerging: Body Positivity!
This movement is about promoting and accepting the belief that all bodies are equally valuable. It is about telling yourself that you are worthy of love, praise and respect. It is about inclusivity rather than judgements and segregation. Also, very importantly it is about unlearning the idea that only certain bodies are worth receiving approval and praise.
Here are five ways to start incorporating body positivity into your own life:
- Fat, thin, fair, ugly, strong, weak are social constructs that are ingrained in all of us, but need not be used to describe people. Learning not to label oneself and others around us helps us to see other traits too and think beyond image. It means we don’t look at someone and judge them on the basis of how they look, but we also attempt getting to know them, their personalities and capabilities.
- Pay attention to the messages received from social media, society, friends and family. Once you are able to identify which messages work for you and which do not, you will be better equipped to filter these messages for yourself.
- Assume responsibility for your body and what it needs. A common misconception is that body positivity is about “letting yourself go” and not worrying about looks at all. However, with that can also come the decline of health! This means acknowledging the fact that exercise and healthy habits can also benefit us!
- Be kind to yourself and don’t beat yourself up for the assumed “mistakes” you believe you have made, for example, eating an extra piece of chocolate or missing a day of exercise.
- You are more than just your body! To keep everything in perspective do not forget that the way we look is only part of the bigger picture. Our thoughts, feelings, intellect, achievements and personality are also part of what makes us who we are. While you may not be able to choose the colour of your skin or the shape of your face – what you are in control is how you would like to live your life, the good you want to do for others, what you want to learn in your lifetime and so much more!
Do remember that there will be days when you dislike the face staring back at you from the mirror, or days when you “feel fat” in your outfit. However, it is a skill that can be developed and just like a habit, a positive outlook about our image can also be created through time and consistency!
Take a few moments to close your eyes and list all the qualities you love about yourself and remember to be patient and kind to yourself!
If you are struggling with issues related to body image, it could help to discuss with an understanding yet objective person. Talk to a counsellor.