In case you missed it, be sure to check out Ruby’s advice on body image. She talks about the media aspect of body image, and I go into a little more detail about that here while sharing my experience.
As I was growing up, my measure for a good outfit had a lot more to do with what felt comfortable to me than with what other people were wearing. I liked playing sports and feeling my body move. I didn’t read fashion magazines (and my mom was careful about what kinds of media she allowed in our house). This was before Snapchat and Instagram started barraging girls and women with photos encouraging us to compare our bodies to each others’. So all in all I was fairly protected from a lot of toxic messages about my body that equate worth with size or a certain kind of look.
But still, as I was about to enter junior high, I started feeling dissatisfied with my body. I was uncomfortable. I thought I looked overweight. It was a seed of anxiety that kept growing through high school. I was slender and athletic, but whenever I tried on pants I felt like I was fighting a war with my waistline. I just couldn’t see my body truthfully, and I developed a lot of shame around it. Somehow (maybe through watching movies, being around friends, or observing others) I had internalized a cultural obsession with size, weight, and being skinny. I didn’t feel beautiful. I felt flawed.
So here’s the surprising truth: You can be unhappy with your body at any size and at any weight—even at your natural healthy size, which is not the same for everybody. (Besides, isn’t that great? The world would be a pretty boring place without each of us in our amazing individuality.)
Looking back at pictures of myself, I can see now how I was just the size my body at its healthiest is meant to be. It was my thoughts that were distorted. It is easy to believe the media’s harmful messages that value having a certain look over celebrating the incredible things our bodies can do.
That’s where Beauty Redefined comes in.
Rock star twin sisters Lexi and Lindsey Kite created the organization Beauty Redefined while they were PhD students studying harmful messages about bodies in media. They help women and girls address their body anxiety (read the story of their own body anxiety here) and develop body positivity. They write, “Developing positive body image—or feeling positively about your body, regardless of what it looks like at the moment—is key to health, happiness, progress and empowerment.” Amen, sisters!
You deserve to feel good about your body and be empowered in who you are every day. Your body is an incredible tool for doing strong, important, fun, beautiful, amazing things on this earth. Your size or look does not define all the wonderful facets of you. Plus, our bodies change size and shape during our lives to accomplish significant things (like having babies and nurturing them). You are beautiful just as you are. You deserve to know that.
If you find yourself thinking negatively about your body, consider how you are defining your beauty. Is it based on how well your clothes fit or how your physique measures up to someone else’s or whether you match a standard of beauty you have seen in the media? Do you think you need to look like women in a fashion magazine for your body to be worthwhile? The kind of media diet you have and your ability to correctly interpret the messages you take in can have a powerful influence on your perception.
Based on the work of Beauty Redefined, here are three ideas to help you develop body positivity:
- Take a social media fast. Lexi and Lindsey have developed a program for developing body image resilience. As part of it, they recommend taking a media fast, avoiding as much media as possible for a few days or a week or more. This helps women become re-sensitized to the distorted messages they are receiving about their body and their worth.
- Place body-positive mantras on your mirror. Two of my favorite mantras the Kite sisters developed are “My body is an instrument and not an ornament” and “My reflection does not define my worth.” These are true words and they can empower you to see your body differently every time you look in the mirror. Don’t you feel strong saying those words to yourself?
- Follow uplifting accounts on social media. If you need some body-positive media in your life, follow Beauty Redefined on Instagram or Facebook, which features quotes from celebrity women who brilliantly speak out against body shaming and encourage self-love. Follow accounts that speak the truth about the great worth of every soul and that show some of the amazing things women can do. Be one of the uplifters, too, with your own social media posts.
The change from body negative to body positive might not happen overnight, but every little shift in your thinking counts. Like good nutrition for your body, body positive thoughts will nourish your mind and soul and help you see beyond limited ideas you might have taken on. You’re a rock star!
Be sure to tune in next Saturday for Part 2, where I’ll talk about the scriptural view of bodies.