Let me begin by stating the obvious: We can eat up affirmations on how to be body positive all day long, but saying them and actually believing them are two different things. That's where simple hacks come in, one of my personal favorites being talking to yourself as you would a friend. Body positivity is something that's really hard to achieve without first learning how to silence your inner critic, after all. Even as I type "tips on how to..." into Google, the first thing that pops up is “lose weight,” which is right ahead of “save money” and “quit smoking.” Because many of us are taught to always keep weight on the mind, body positivity isn't just something we decide to have one day. Rather, it's a new and oftentimes intimidating path we need to work our way through.
When you start to enter the conversation surrounding body positivity, you'll likely learn that you're beautiful just as you are. You'll be told that curves are not ugly, and that anything “different” is just that: Different. You'll hear that a piece of bread is just nutrients, and not the equivalent of an hour on a treadmill. And that going up a size in the dressing room isn’t a personal failure, but simply a choice to opt for jeans that aren't makeshift girdles. You'll probably grow to know all these things deep down, but boy do those mean thoughts still creep up on you every once in a while.
I go through this all the time. I know that I’ve been conditioned to look at my body through broken eyes. What I see is something lovely and normal — sharp angles, softer dips — but what I sometimes interpret is "unacceptable" lumps and bumps. Before I can stop myself, groans and vows of only living off of kale for the week are made. It's a bold move, really, because who actually likes kale?
During moments like these — when the mean voice pops in like a knee-jerk reaction — I activate my other voice; the one that I trained and cultivated myself. It’s the one that sounds like me patiently trying to tell my best friend — warped in the head as she is— that she needs to check herself. If she can learn to hate her body, then she can learn to love it, too. By talking to myself like I would a friend who was being similarly cruel to herself about her body, I realize I would never have such thoughts about her.
The important distinction here is that the voice isn’t supposed to be aimed at yourself, but at a woman who's important in your life (who just happens to be you). It has the tone and the kindness you’d reserve for taking a loved one's hand in yours, looking her right in those uncertain eyes, and saying with certainty, "You’re so beautiful, in every way. Now knock it off."
Whenever I've tried this, I've been able to see the woman in the mirror as she truly is. I can see that her history, her quirks, and her differences only make her all the more interesting. She sees Viking thighs that make her uncomfortable in short shorts. But I just see thighs.
The thing is, if you can create voices in your head that tell you you need to change, then you can create voices that roll their eyes and tell you that you don’t. The mean ones will still slip through, but the kind ones will be chasing right at their heels. And after a while, you'll only listen to the ones that speak reason. After a while, you'll treat yourself with as much compassion, excitement, and love as you would your BFF.
The other day I came out of the shower and, curtain whipping open, I expected the bathroom mirror to be foggy. But there it was, steam-free and staring back at me as my body was smack dab in the middle, ready for the usual pick-through. Before I had a chance to groan at my boyish torso and my mosquito-sized boobs, however, I instantly felt myself be pulled back. “Uh, I see a curve or two over there,” a friendly voice interrupted. Then taking a teasing tone, it continued, “I mean, you’re no Sofia Vergara, but let’s put the measuring stick down, shall we?”
And the wonderful thing was, I saw it. The usual grievances I mentally run through sort of melted away, and instead I saw my body for what it was. It wasn’t perfect, but it sure was lovely. The annoyances weren’t able to work their way through and bother me, because I saw them as lies — and I just didn’t buy them anymore.
Images: Marlen Komar