Here’s a fact that will probably not surprise you in the least: body image positive quotes in literature aren’t all that easy to come by. Still. (And that’s why I’m glad I live in the same world as Mindy Kaling.) I mean, sure, there’s the totally relatable Bridget Jones, whose fictional diary made ladies everywhere feel understood, and others, like writer-ahead-of-her-time Kate Chopin who, back in 1899, wrote the female body as something to celebrate, rather than conceal, restrict, and repress. But on the whole, books that celebrate the diversity of women’s bodies aren’t exactly running a-dime-a-dozen, if you know what I mean.
Granted, self love and body image positivity has come a long way since I entered my first post-puberty girls’ locker room, back in the days of high school gym class, and realized hating one’s body was the obligatory entry fee (and easiest path to peer bonding.) Just the other day, for example, having used up all my adult coloring books (again) I found myself standing in line at my local bookstore, face-to-face with a bikini-clad Ashley Graham, sultry-eyeing me from the cover of that one annual swimsuit edition. “I could wear that,” I actually said to myself, acknowledging that a little natural Vitamin D on parts of my body that haven’t seen daylight since my early twenties might not feel too horrible. Why I needed a magazine that yes: caters to men, and yes: objectifies women’s bodies, even as it celebrates them, to tell me this isn’t a fact I’m especially proud of, but it does seem to be the world we live in at the moment. And, after all, who am I to turn down the power of a gal like Ashley Graham rockin’ all she’s got?
But if you’d rather sidestep all the bikinis, and head straight to the books (I totally feel you) here are 13 body image positive quotes from literature; because everybody has those days when you need a lil’ reminder of just how fantastic you really are — just as you are. And yes, several are from Mindy Kaling, because she’s everything I need and more.
1. “People's reaction to me is sometimes ‘Uch, I just don't like her. I hate how she thinks she is so great.’ But it's not that I think I'm so great. I just don't hate myself … And the scary thing I have noticed is that some people really feel uncomfortable around women who don't hate themselves. So that's why you need to be a little bit brave.”
― Mindy Kaling, Why Not Me?
2. “You are imperfect, permanently and inevitably flawed. And you are beautiful.”
― Amy Bloom, Dear Every Woman I Know, Including Me
3. “You have to care about how good you are and how good you feel, but not about how good people think you are or how good people think you look.”
― Amy Poehler, Yes Please
4. “She put her arms around me and felt my shoulder blades, to see if my wings were strong, she said. 'The bird that would soar above the level plain of tradition and prejudice must have strong wings. It is a sad spectacle to see the weaklings bruised, exhausted, fluttering back to earth.'”
― Kate Chopin, The Awakening
5. “Whatever is deeply, essentially female — the life in a woman's expression, the feel of her flesh, the shape of her breasts, the transformations after childbirth of her skin — is being reclassified as ugly, and ugliness as disease. These qualities are about an intensification of female power, which explains why they are being recast as a diminution of power. At least a third of a woman's life is marked with aging; about a third of her body is made of fat. Both symbols are being transformed into operable condition — so that women will only feel healthy if we are two thirds of the women we could be. How can an "ideal" be about women if it is defined as how much of a female sexual characteristic does not exist on the woman's body, and how much of a female life does not show on her face?”
― Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth
6. “ ‘Whore is just a cheap word people use to cut each other down,’ he said. His voice softer. ‘It makes them feel better about their own mistakes. Using words like that is easier than really looking into the situation. I promise you, you're not a whore.’ I looked at him, into his warm gray eyes, and suddenly understood what he was trying to tell me. The message hidden beneath the words: You're not alone.”
― Kody Keplinger, The DUFF: Designated Ugly Fat Friend
7. “This is what a woman is: unadorned, after children and work and age, and experience — these are the marks of living.”
― Zadie Smith, On Beauty
8. “Why push to attain an ideal state of being that no two random people will agree is where you want to be? Faultless. Finished. Incomparable. People can never be these, and anyway, when did creating a flawless facade become a more vital goal than learning to love the person who lives inside your skin?”
― Ellen Hopkins, Perfect
9. “Being a woman is worse than being a farmer there is so much harvesting and crop spraying to be done: legs to be waxed, underarms shaved, eyebrows plucked, feet pumiced, skin exfoliated and moisturized, spots cleansed, roots dyed, eyelashes tinted, nails filed, cellulite massaged, stomach muscles exercised. The whole performance is so highly tuned you only need to neglect it for a few days for the whole thing to go to seed. Sometimes I wonder what I would be like if left to revert to nature — with a full beard and handlebar mustache on each shin Dennis Healey eyebrows face a graveyard of dead skin cells spots erupting long curly fingernails like Struwelpeter blind as bat and stupid runt of species as no contact lenses flabby body flobbering around. Ugh, ugh. Is it any wonder girls have no confidence?”
― Helen Fielding, Bridget Jones's Diary
10. “Though I am a generally happy person who feels comfortable in my skin, I do beat myself up because I am influenced by a societal pressure to be thin. All the time. I feel it the same way anybody who picks up a magazine and sees Keira Knightley’s elegantly bony shoulder blades poking out of a backless dress does. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen my shoulder blades once. Honestly, I’m dubious that any part of my body could be so sharp and firm as to be described as a “blade.” I feel it when I wake up in the morning and try on every single pair of my jeans and everything looks bad and I just want to go back to sleep. But my secret is: even though I wish I could be thin, and that I could have the ease of lifestyle that I associate with being thin, I don’t wish for it with all of my heart. Because my heart is reserved for way more important things.”
― Mindy Kaling, Why Not Me?
11. “You are not a mistake. You are not a problem to be solved. But you won't discover this until you are willing to stop banging your head against the wall of shaming and caging and fearing yourself.”
― Geneen Roth, Women, Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything
12. “If you retain nothing else, always remember the most important rule of beauty, which is: who cares?”
― Tina Fey, Bossypants
13. “I will leave you with one last piece of advice, which is: If you’ve got it, flaunt it. And if you don’t got it? Flaunt it. ’Cause what are we even doing here if we’re not flaunting it?”
― Mindy Kaling, Why Not Me?