It pains me to admit this, but there has been more than one occasion when I've enthusiastically tried to explain body positivity to my friends, only to be met with body language that suggested they didn't want to hear it. I get it: Not everyone identifies as body positive, and not everyone needs or wants to spend time extolling the virtues of self love. It's not wrong or right. It's just not part of everyone's narrative, and I always respect their reasons to either participate or disengage.
Then again, for every time that the body positive convo has been dismissed or flat out rejected, there's been another experience in which a friend's interest is piqued, whether they initially supported the fundamental ideas of body positivity or not. Those moments are why I keep talking and sharing, with the hope that maybe they will inspire someone else to start their body positive journey too.
Don't get me wrong: I'm not talking about preaching to your friends at every opportunity, endlessly steering the conversation back to why they must love themselves no matter what. What I'm talking about here is a chance to have a meaningful conversation on what it means to practice self love that just might change someone's mind. And if you're not sure how to start those conversations, here are some points to hit on.
1. It's Not All About Being Fat
I've actually had friends tell me that they assumed that body positivity was directed primarily at fat women as a way for them to reclaim the beauty of bodies that society otherwise dismisses. That's certainly true for the fat acceptance movement, which is specifically geared towards fighting anti-fat bias in society. However, body positivity is about the act of loving your body at any size: Fat, thin, or anywhere in between.
2. Body Positivity Is Really, Truly, For Everyone
This goes along with the first point, but extends beyond the idea of size. Unfortunately, much of the criticism I encounter of body positivity stems from the fact that only a certain group of people get to feel included; primarily fat, white women who wear makeup, buy fatkinis, and post images on social media. However, at its core, body positivity is for everyone: Men, people of color, the disabled, the elderly, and even anyone who chooses to completely remove conventional beauty standards and practices from their formula to achieve self worth.
3. It's Not Magic
People can often be cynical about those who practice body positivity, assuming that it's just a bunch of people who woke up one day and decided to love themselves without a second thought. However, that's simply not the case. Body positivity takes real work, and it's not always easy.
4. Body Positivity Can Make You More Thoughtful
I was introduced to the concept of body positivity about three years ago, and since then, I've become an infinitely more sensitive person. This doesn't mean that I weep at the beauty of my own fat rolls, but rather that I take into consideration what it might mean for someone else to love themselves when society tells them not to. When I converse with anti-body positive people, I always mention this, because why wouldn't you want to practice something that makes you more receptive, kind, and empathetic to others?
5. It Exists Outside Of Social Media
The body positive community often connects on social media, but just because you're not into selfies doesn't mean you can't be part of the conversation. In fact, one of the most significant ways that the movement can proceed forward and grow is by removing it from the confines of Instagram and Twitter and putting it into practice in the real world.
6. It's OK To Ask Questions
If you're talking to a naysayer and they're not really getting it, take some time to let them do the talking. They might bring up issues you hadn't considered, and it also helps you take an inventory of where they're coming from.
7. If You're Not Ready, That's OK
Like I mentioned before, body positivity takes real work, and some people simply aren't ready — or don't want — to do it. That's OK. Body positivity is just as much about the individual as it is about the community, but it's not your job to recruit people. Instead, acknowledge their feelings about it, and let them know that you're always down to talk about it more, should they ever want to. And maybe, someday, they will.
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Images: Amanda Richards; amandakater/Instagram