7 Easy Body Positive Routines That Can Be Incorporated Into Your Daily Life
As anyone who has worked at learning to love their body might attest, self-acceptance and body positivity are ongoing processes that sometimes feel far from easy. On days when the work of self-love seems overwhelming, easy body positive routines can help you break up the nebulous goal of body acceptance into small, concrete, repeatable actions. When it comes to my own journey towards learning to accept and appreciate my body, the most important step I've taken has been to learn to see beauty and value in as many different forms as possible.
One of the big downsides to living in a Euro-centric culture is that we've been conditioned from birth to accept and appreciate a very specific set of visual traits and personal values. Often, these arbitrary beauty standards are presented as "natural" or "inherent" preferences, masking the artificial nature of our biases with familiarity and comfort.
As I've learned to combat these ingrained prejudices, it has been extremely helpful for me to expose myself to as many different forms of beauty, personal expression, and lived experience as I can. Instead of obsessing over my own issues, retraining my eyes and brain by celebrating the unique beauty around me is a quick way to snap myself out of a funk and focus on having a more open mindset. Here are seven of the easy techniques I use to practice body positivity every day; try them out and see what resonates with you.
1. Spend Time In Nature
When I was a young teenager, bubbling with insecurities and anxiety, going outside and losing myself in the natural world was my first unconscious step towards body positivity. Surrounded by beauty in a thousand different forms, from the shimmering wings of a vibrant dragonfly to the subtle gradations in the earth along a river bank, I realized how many infinite ways beauty could express itself.
When I compared myself to the images in fashion magazines, the contrast felt painful and unavoidable, but next to the unstudied elegance of a blooming lily, my own body seemed far easier to appreciate. The next time you feel yourself spiraling into self criticism, head outside for a breath of fresh air, and see what you can find to admire that falls far from the bounds of cultural aesthetics.
2. Expose Yourself To Other Body Positive Women
I cannot overstate how important this action has been to my ability to love my body. There are so many absolutely amazing women out there who have showed me how to treasure and celebrate myself in the face of a society that so often views me as valueless.
Bloggers like Kellie Brown and Jes Baker, musicians like Mary Lambert, and Instagrammers like Olivia Campbell have all given me shining examples of what it means to accept and appreciate diverse bodies, regardless of how they do or don't fit into American beauty standards. Attending events like independent burlesque shows that often celebrate queer and non-normative bodies has made me less afraid of revealing myself to others as well (you can check local event pages in your area for performances, or attend a regional festival like the Southwest Burlesque Showcase, New York Burlesque Festival, or the Oregon Burlesque Festival). Reading books by authors like Hanne Blank, Virgie Tovar, and Kate Harding has also provided me with invaluable tools and advice from body activists who have come before me.
By surrounding myself with images of and words by radical, powerful women, I've been able to develop my own body positivity, and have grown into a confidence in myself that I never thought possible.
3. Allow Yourself To Be Inconsistent
For the longest time, I tried to develop a clear, visual style so that I could define myself to the outside world. And while I still believe that defining ourselves on our own terms is deeply important, I've stopped putting so much pressure on myself to have a consistent look. Inevitably, I would get caught up in "needing" to look a certain way so that I could feel acceptable.
Now, I purposefully encourage myself to keep trying new things by experimenting weekly with a new beauty look I haven't done before, visiting retailers that carry my size and trying on outfits I wouldn't normally wear, and going makeup-free at least one day a week so I don't feel dependent on my favorite lipstick or eyeliner to feel good about myself. I make sure to constantly check in with my body and emotions by journaling and meditating, asking, "How do want to feel today?" Sometimes, the answer is "glamorous vixen," and I pull out my fitted dresses, heels, and mascara. Other times, my beloved black jogger pants and sneakers are what I need to feel comfortable.
By consistently mixing it up, I don't allow myself to unconsciously place self-imposed limits on my personal expression, or get caught up in broadly defined expectations of how I "ought to" look. Instead of trying to find the perfect mold to fit myself into, I just enjoy the process of fashion and style without attaching arbitrary values to my experiences.
4. Create A Feel-Good Soundtrack
Sometimes, when I'm having a really bad day, the only way I can change my mood is with some good music. I have several playlists I've created just for these moments, full of Beyoncé and glitter and girl-power. When someone makes a negative comment about my body, or I can't seem to meet my own eyes in the mirror, I pop in my earbuds and crank up "Grown Woman" as loud as I can, then shut the door and dance the gloom away.
It doesn't matter what kind of music you prefer. As long as a song makes you feel good about yourself, add it to an Emergency Good Vibes playlist for whenever you need to hit the "refresh" button on a particularly tough bout of anxiety or insecurity.
For more body positivity, check out the podcast below, and be sure to subscribe to The BodCast for more radically inclusive voices!
5. Collect Inspiring Content
I have a special Pinterest board where I keep all my favorite articles, quotes, projects, and artwork about beauty, fashion, and body positivity. Whenever I see a story about a new inclusive clothing line, an interview with one of my body positive icons, or a critical essay that deconstructs an issue that's been bothering me, I add it to my collection so that I can go back to it whenever I need a dose of smart inspiration.
You can create something similar in a lot of different formats. Maybe you want to go analog with a scrapbook of magazine clippings, images, and quotations. Maybe you'd prefer to dedicate a shelf in your bookcase to all your favorite body positive books so that you can re-read them at a moment's notice. No matter what style works best for you, having a well of inspiration and helpful content to draw from when you need it is a powerful weapon in your body acceptance arsenal.
6. Ask For Help When You Need It
This was perhaps the hardest thing for me to learn when it came to valuing myself and taking care of my own needs. Because I believed that my body (and by extension, the rest of me) was worthless for so long, asking for help or accommodation from anyone, no matter how slight the inconvenience, positively terrified me.
I remember getting my first massage and feeling guilty that the therapist had to touch my fat. Even though they had seen countless different bodies, had specifically gone into a profession centered on touching bodies, and were getting paid to perform a service, I felt a sense of shame that I was "forcing" someone to come in contact with a part of myself that I despised.
Learning to truly love my body required that I stop apologizing for its presence and silencing its needs. Now, when I need something, whether it's rest, a snack, a back rub, or even just someone to snap a picture of my latest outfit, I ask for it. I know that I can't just say I love my body; I need to back up my words with actions and have the courage to be my own best advocate.
7. Encourage Other People
Finally, I try to be a constant source of encouragement to those around me. I'm always looking for something to compliment, whether it be a friend's new haircut, a co-worker's earrings, or even a total stranger's fantastic manicure. I feel responsible for helping to make the world a more accepting, inclusive place in whatever small ways I can. I also find that, as good as it makes other people feel to hear a kind word, it also somehow makes me look more lovingly on my own body when I notice the beauty in others.
A friend once told me that when you criticize someone else, you're really trying to repress the same perceived flaw in yourself. So, I try to do the opposite; by celebrating the unique beauty of the people around me, I also learn to be more gentle with myself.
No matter where you are on your own body positivity journey, learning to accept yourself as you are can be a challenging task. By implementing small, achievable actions that encourage you to celebrate your body and appreciate diverse forms of beauty on a daily basis, you might gradually find yourself looking at the world from a new perspective.
Images: Mariah Carrillo