Perfect Isn’t Real: Why the Body Positive Movement Is so Important

The world tells us an overwhelming amount about how we should view ourselves. We hear feedback about our bodies constantly. Eat better. Eat less. Tone up. Slim down. Ask for the dressing on the side.

The media glorifies one type of “perfect” body. Friends and co-workers talk. And let’s be honest, you’ve been self-conscious in a swimsuit since you were 9.

Rarely do people — women especially — express love for their bodies because we’re conditioned not to. We’re taught, though subtly, to pick apart our flaws and to shame our bodies (and other’s). This self-hatred epidemic ignited the body positivity movement.

What’s the Body Positive Movement?

The definition of being “body positive” is accepting the idea that all bodies are beautiful and valuable. The movement says you alone, not everyone else should decide what feels good.

Throughout the 20th century, beauty standards shifted drastically — from Marilyn Monroe’s curves and iconic hourglass shape to Twiggy’s tiny, rail-thin frame. Today, a fit culture is trending in which muscle definition and strength become markings of a desirable body. Corinne Santiago behind BodyPositivity.com says, no moment in time was ever inclusive of all bodies. The body positivity movement was born in the 1960s and has had a recent resurgence. It aims to celebrate all body types and sizes — inclusive of all genders, ages, races, people with disabilities and those of diverse sexual orientation.

Can I Be Body Positive?

Yes. Anyone can! It seems there is more pressure on women than men to have perfect bodies, but the movement includes men too, as well as those who identify outside our gender binary norms. At this point in our culture, there is also more pressure on plus-size women.

BuzzFeed recently gave a voice to five women who are black and body positivity influencers on the pro-plus-size scene. These leaders represent what it means to be big, yet “also seen as beautiful, intelligent, desired, loved,” says Lauren Nicole Coppin-Campbell, blogger and plus-size model.

Wait, So Is This the Same as the Fat Acceptance Movement?

No, but we get why you might get them confused.

Fat body positivity can be misunderstood as critics condemn the movement as an excuse for being obese. Body positivity, however, is rooted in loving your body and gaining self-confidence, rather than trying to replicate a prototype specially crafted by society. That could mean a curvier, heavier body or a straight and narrow body, as both types can yield self and outside judgement.

The movement encourages everyone to lovingly accept stretch marks, cellulite or sagging skin, which have nothing to do with the number on the scale. This is a movement that doesn’t try to normalize obesity but invites people to dare to like what they see in the mirror.

Does the Media Influence This?

You betcha. Think about how women in the media are portrayed. Petite, not disabled and light-skinned are what society has decided is attractive. Consider Victoria’s Secret Angels and Guess Girls, for example — women we’ve seen in ads and on billboards and on talk shows so many times we subconsciously think we too can be like that with a little work. Men experience it too. Not every guy looks like the cover of Muscle & Fitness Magazine but they sure are encouraged to strive for it.

Businesses like diet programs and gyms and fashion brands thrive off this idea of achievability because it makes you buy more stuff from them. Some businesses have even been accused of taking it too far for sales purposes. Of course, there are also brands who do good with their message. Body positivity campaigns from brands like Dove and Aerie feature models who aren’t photoshopped and promote self-acceptance and diversity.

How About Social Media?

Of course. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter — social media is a perfect storm for a digital space that empowers body self-confidence, as well as perpetuates people feeling like they don’t measure up.

About 500 million people use Instagram daily and 1.37 billion active users on average log onto Facebook every day. Every account, every post, every photo makes an imprint on another person in some capacity.

Social media can become a home for people to connect with others and find support — a place where a powerful message can go viral. Instagram sensations like model and body activist Ashley Graham and Iskra Lawrence, NEDA ambassador and AerieReal Role Model, garner millions of followers who scroll through positive images and messages about body liberation. Following someone whom a person can relate and look up to can make such a difference in their own self-perception.

But it can also be a toxic environment. In the pursuit to live better and healthily, people follow fitness and food accounts. “Fitspo” and clean eating photos can have the reverse effect though, deepening people’s body insecurities and creating reactions of emotional self-judgment. A survey of social media users conducted by researchers for Spring Open Choice found that social media has “negative effects on body image, depression, social comparison and disordered eating.” Instagram users interested in eating healthily have been linked to orthorexia nervosa, a detrimental obsession with healthy eating.

This Is Cool. Where Can I Find More About This?

This movement to free people from societal ideals about the size and fight inequities that make certain bodies worthier than others is important! Organizations and platforms like The Body Positivity, The Body Image Project, The Adipositivity Project and BodyPositivity.com took action and gave a voice, as well as a supportive community, to all who suffer from low self-esteem and body discrimination.

Choose Body Positivity

Choose to bravely love your body. It’s an everyday struggle to stop hating your body. Every day you have to make the choice to shift your perspective. If you need help with low self-esteem or body consciousness, there’s always a listening ear and professional support available. Connect with a certified therapist at Thrivetalk.

Uncover ways to grow the connection between your mind, body, and soul. Work out and eat well to be kind to your body and nourish your soul. Stand up for social equality in body size and shape. Surround yourself with people who believe in your ideals on body positivity in a community where people boost one another up rather than tear each other down.