Having and for that matter, holding, onto a positive body image seems to be like finding a mythical fairy creature that everyone talks about, but hardly anyone sees.
What does having positive body image really entail, and what does it feel like? Maybe having a positive body image means never having to imagine your body at all, or maybe it means thinking about how much you love your body all the time. I experienced glimmers of this feeling occasionally, or so I thought. Like when someone takes a flattering photo and you think, “my legs really do look good in those jeans.” Is that it?
I, for one, have struggled with my body image ever since I became conscious that my body existed. It felt like suddenly all these ideals and rules and labels had been superglued to my body rendering me stiff and voiceless. I won’t write them here because they’ve had enough publicity. This idea that my body, my temple, the vessel that holds me and my ideas and personality must fit into an outline is so limiting, so incorrect. I tried to follow more body-positive women on Instagram, I shared my insecurities with my therapist, and faced the ugly thoughts that had been living in my head rent-free and tried to dismantle them.
I yelled, “NO!” and “get out!” and that only seemed to make those thoughts and insecurities louder.
I vented to my therapist and she asked me point blank, “what do you think having a positive body image means?” All I knew was that it was something other people had, but not me. There are all these presumptions of having a positive body image, and I realized that these ‘myths’ really were just myths. A work of fiction. We went through them one by one and I wrote them in my journal—and now here—because they DO deserve all the airtime & publicity.
1. If you don’t actively dislike your body, then you have a positive body image.
I always believed that by default, if someone doesn’t hate their body then, boom! They love their body! They have a positive body image! But I was wrong. Having a positive body image means actively nurturing your body and taking a gentle approach to the love and care that you give your body. It isn’t a default setting. It’s a conscious thing.
2. Having a positive body image means loving everything about it, every day.
You can have a positive body image and still hate your thighs every once in a while, it’s fine! It’s a mentality, not a rule. And it requires a delicate balance. Go easy on yourself.
3. It’s harder to have a positive body image as you age.
This idea that young=beautiful needs to just be thrown out the window. Beauty comes at all ages (and sizes and shapes for that matter!).
4. Receiving a lot of compliments on your appearance will give you a positive body image.
A positive body image only comes from within. Give yourself a compliment every once (or twice!) in a while.
5. Having a positive body image means you don’t have to take care of your body.
Loving your body still requires just as much upkeep, care, and loving nurture.
6. It’s easier to have a positive body image if you have a “nice” and “normal” body.
There should be no definition of what a normal body looks like. This mentality comes from within, so please keep your external appearance out of it.
This year, there are a lot of important things to let go of. And this is one of them. Let go of the negative energy that is, and I repeat, living rent-free in your head. Give yourself room to just be, and grow, and experience joy. Give yourself permission to live as you are and celebrate that. Build a castle around the sacred joy of loving yourself and stay there. Don’t give anyone else the key.
Written by: Laurel Kho