Body positivity is a social movement formed to empower and highlight plus size people, while challenging society’s representation of the ideal physical body. The movement advocates the acceptance of all bodies regardless of physical ability, size, gender, race, or appearance.
Dr. Jill Andrew, Toronto MPP and cofounder of Body Confidence Canada, explains that body positivity is both a feeling and a social movement, and it owes its actuality to the fat activist movement. The fat acceptance movement combats anti-fat bias in social attitudes by raising awareness about the obstacles faced by fat people. Dr. Jill explains, “It’s about accepting ourselves, celebrating our bodies and recognizing that they are different and unique.”
No one experiences body positivity all the time, and that’s ok
Aisha Fairclough, Dr. Jill’s partner and cofounder at Body Confidence Canada, explains that not everyone experiences body positivity. “Some people are body neutral, which means that it gives room for people to fluctuate in how they feel. Some days are good and some days are bad. Really what we’re moving towards is self-acceptance.” Body neutrality is the more or less comfortable place between celebrating our body and frowning on it. It is a neutral place of acceptance. The important thing is the forward progress towards the positive end of the spectrum.
Aisha points out that there are glaring gaps in the body positivity movement, explaining that the popularization and commercialization of body positivity has further marginalized underrepresented groups, such as overweight, racialized and queer gender bodies.
Dr. Jill also cautions that because the body positivity movement does not speak to everyone, we need to arm ourselves with our own toolkit. “Resources like affirmations and ideas and tips and tricks, to help you embrace your beauty in a world that would otherwise prefer to sell you a book or a cream or some sort of garment to help you feel better about yourself,” she cites.
We asked Dr. Jill and Aisha how to embrace beauty and feel more confident in one’s body, and they shared their personal toolkit with us.
8 tips to help you embrace your beauty, your body, and your self
- Listen to your body.
It knows exactly what it needs. Your body knows when it needs rest, to move, to eat. Don’t ignore it.
- Surround yourself with people that make you feel good.
These are the people who make you feel loved and respected. Cancel the people who bring you down.
- Remind yourself that you are powerful.
Self-affirmation statements are very important. Dr. Jill shares her personal daily affirmation: “I’m a big bright shining star and I’m going to shine forever.”
- Follow people on social media who inspire you to achieve amazing things.
Unfollow people who bring you down. This includes those friends who are always speaking negatively about their own and your body.
- Foster healthy relationships.
Whether it is a platonic or romantic relationship, do not let people walk all over you.
- Avoid diets.
Excessive dieting and yoyo dieting can lead to health complications that threaten your life. It can lead to eating disorders and negative body image.
- Do not compare yourself to others.
Because each organism’s DNA is unique, it is literally impossible to look like someone else. So stop worrying about it, because it is a waste of time.
- Do things that bring you joy.
Get creative. Get outside. Just go get yours. This includes self-care activities, and reveling in your happy place(s).
Dr. Jill leaves us with a visceral quote from writer, feminist and civil rights activist Audre Lorde, which she delivered in a speech to Harvard University in 1982 entitled “Learning from the 60s”: “If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies of me and eaten alive.”
We cannot let other people’s expectations define us or we will lose all sense of agency, self, and the things that makes us unique. We come in all shapes, sizes, hues and abilities. You are the only you in the world, and that is beautiful.