The body positivity movement has brought some considerable changes to attitudes, but not all of them are positive. I am not against the movement. However, I sense a backlash – a growing unhealthy preoccupation with looks. Rather than praising diversity and flaws, the movement is turning us into watchdogs, often looking for things that are not really there; the brands often seemingly alter their policies to show that they value the movement but in reality, it is only a PR move.
An objective to catch a brand on retouching of their photos can be a good thing when talking about representing cultures, races and characters; but scanning models’ bodies and looking for ‘too good to be true’ details is leading us to an unhealthy obsession with peoples’ and our own physical attributes.
Personally, I didn’t always have a good relationship with my body. In my first year of uni, the huge workload that resulted in massive amounts of stress has contributed to something that I now think could actually be a full-on binge eating disorder. It was bad. Therefore, the topic of body positivity is particularly dear to me, especially in the run-up to the summertime. Back in the day, I would feel pressured to go to the gym and maybe lose a kilo or two so that I could look better in dresses and shorts (mix and match micro-bikinis did not even exist in my wardrobe, and I could not even imagine myself wearing anything that shows my tummy).
I still have those moments, but every time I feel the creeping urge to self-deprecate, I remind myself of brands such as ASOS, that changed their photo-retouch policies for the better. Instantly, I feel better about my own stretch marks and because everyone has them. Some have more of them than others, but it is not a sign of disease – we have to stop reinforcing these harmful connotations with weight and skin conditions! We need to be grateful that perceptions are changing as instead of seeing the models with their perfectly false, photoshopped selves, we can see actual people, with real bodies.
And if you are serious about your fitness and mental health, my advice would be to set realistic, achievable goals. What I have grown to realise (although it took me probably five years to do so) is that summer is there for us to enjoy it (duh), not sit at home loathing our bodies or skins, and, definitely not biting ourselves up that we didn’t achieve that perfectly Instagrammable BBG body transformation. Very often, even if we get some fast results, we don’t succeed in maintaining them. Something as superficial as having a ‘flawless’ body for the summer and going back to bad habits as soon as the autumn comes around is not just a vicious cycle but a horrible pattern that could be potentially harmful in the long run.
But let’s be real, we all want to look ‘hot’, but ‘hot’ doesn’t necessarily mean looking like that one particular Instagram blogger you’ve been stalking for months now. Create your own definition of ‘hot’, be your own unique version of ‘hot’. However cheesy it might sound, no one can do ‘you’ better than yourself.
Rather than focusing so much on your body and those of others, think about working towards a positive mindset, show love to yourself, your friends and family, empower your girlfriends and support them. You’ll receive it back tenfold and start to feel better in your own skin. Seriously, treat your body as a temple, be respectful to its past and its present, give it the right fuel and indulge once in a while.
Despite body positivity being originally based on good intentions, today, brands often claim to be promoting body positivity while they really only stick a label of body positivity to their old habits. Remember Zara’s ‘love your curves’ campaign? In reality, nothing changes. And just to put it in perspective, think of how many super thin and super plus-size models there are, now try to think of a famous size 10-12 model. In my opinion, it shows how much work we have to put in to get to the most genuine level of body positivity the brands and media claim to be bringing about: especially when now, even the ‘average’ size is under-represented in the media.
At the end of the day, it all comes from within: self-love, respect, and patience are the fundamentals of happiness. Be your own ally, your own best friend and your own number one fan through all the highs and lows. Block out the negativity and do what feels right and what makes you happy. Stick to your goals, take note of advice and most importantly – stay woke.