What do you love about your body?
Ask the average person that question and they may mention how they like their eyes, or their hair, or their hands.
But, ask them what they dislike about their body…
…and they’ll have a laundry list of complaints, ranging from height or shape to skin color and wrinkles.
The body positivity movement aims to change all that.
One quick scroll through Instagram hashtags such as #bopo, #bodypositive, and #bodypositivity will bring you a wealth of images that feature non-airbrushed people trying to celebrate their bodies.
Unfortunately, this movement often comes under fire as being unhealthy.
Some see photographs of people who are living in bodies that don’t fit society’s current standards for fitness and attractiveness, and insist that #bopo is merely a way for people to make excuses for unhealthy lifestyles.
And this isn’t limited to those who have larger bodies…
Young women and men in recovery from eating disorders who flash the #bopo hashtag are shamed for promoting anorexia.
Same goes for those dealing with any number of health issues that may affect their appearance, or those who are embracing their natural aging process instead of fighting it.
If you scroll through any of those hashtags, you’ll see that just about every positive, self-affirming post has a raft of comments from random strangers.
These comments will range from the genuinely uplifting and affirming to the seemingly helpful (but actually condescending) to… yes, you guessed it… the cruel and insulting.
It would seem that to some, you’re only allowed to be positive about your body as long as it fits in with societal ideals of conventional attractiveness.
Is that what #bopo is all about?
Body Positivity Is About Loving Your Body Unconditionally, In Whatever State It’s Currently In
Body positive activist and mental health advocate Lexie Manion says:
Body positivity is a movement focused on shining the spotlight onto marginalized bodies – people of color, LGBT, disabled, fat, etc. – because they are not well represented in the media.
Fat bodies, bodies of color, queer bodies, disabled bodies and bodies that bear the battle scars of diseases.
Those who decry #bopo as an excuse for people to wallow in an “unhealthy” lifestyle really don’t seem to get that.
One can look at another person and assume all kinds of things about them, but unless you know them well, you likely have absolutely no idea what their struggles may be.
People who take part in #bopo may include:
- A woman with PCOS struggling with excess body hair or stubborn weight gain.
- A trans person learning how to love their changing body as their hormone treatments start to kick in.
- People whose skin tones aren’t considered ideal where they live.
- An anorexic person finding beauty in a body that’s starting to get healthy again.
- People in recovery from life-threatening illnesses, accepting their new body shapes and surgery scars.
- A man who has always struggled with body image issues because he doesn’t fit society’s definition of masculinity.
- Those with vitiligo who stop hiding their unique skin pigmentation.
- An amputee who’s adapting to a body that’s alien to them.
- Aging people who are celebrating their wrinkles and silver hair.
- A burn survivor who can finally bear to face a mirror (and camera) again.
- People with genetic conditions that make them noticeably different from most others.
- Someone with alopecia who’s decided to stop wearing wigs.
- A mother who chooses to cherish the loose skin and stretch marks her pregnancies gave her.
…or any number of other physical qualities that aren’t portrayed (or supported, or even acknowledged) by the mainstream media.
All bodies shift and change over time, and pretty much everyone will have difficulties with body acceptance at some point in their life.
This isn’t just an issue that one gender struggles with more than any other.
Life takes us on many different journeys, many of which we never expected…
Sure, we all know that we’re getting older, but injuries and illnesses can strike out of nowhere and change our physical forms forever.
People may lose or gain a lot of weight thanks to a disease or medical treatment. Hair can be lost, or grown in places it isn’t wanted.
What’s important to remember is that we were gifted a body to inhabit during this particular life journey, and it’s important to love and appreciate this body, no matter what state it’s in at the moment.
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#BoPo Reminds You That Your Body Is Your Friend
Think about all the amazing things your body does for you every day.
Go on… try it now.
It allows you to do countless different things, to feel, to enjoy all kinds of different sensations and emotions.
It’s constantly healing and replenishing you, and is a veritable marvel of engineering.
This may be a difficult thing to remember if your body has been badly damaged, or if it’s a shape or gender that makes you feel alienated from it.
It’s so hard to navigate that, but if we can remember that we’re spiritual beings currently inhabiting a body that works so hard to keep us alive, we can try to treat it more gently, with gratitude and love.
Blogger Stephanie Nielson is a great example of body acceptance and appreciation.
In 2008, she was in a plane crash and suffered third-degree burns over 80% of her body.
Her beautiful face was ravaged by scars, she’s been through countless skin grafts and surgeries, and feels some type of physical discomfort or pain every single day.
Despite all of this, her body was able to gift her with another healthy child a few years after her accident.
She speaks at conferences about the importance of body love and self-esteem, and is an amazing inspiration for those struggling with body image issues.
We live in a startlingly ableist society that’s obsessed with conventional beauty and youth.
Think of how many people struggle with whether or not enough people find them beautiful…
…and then consider how much happier they’d be if they let go of those crippling expectations.
Imagine how much freer they would be if they didn’t feel a constant need to be something other than they are; if they could love and accept themselves unconditionally.
THAT’s what #bopo is all about.
Whether you’re a fan of the #bopo movement or not, you can be kind about. If someone posts a photo that you don’t find attractive, scroll past it.
Shaming another person for being “unhealthy” because their body type doesn’t fit your (or society’s) standard of attractiveness doesn’t do anyone any good.
You’re not helping them, even if on some level you think you might be. Same goes for suggesting electrolysis/waxing, tattooing, or makeup tips.
Remember the saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”?
If they want advice, they’ll ask for it. If they don’t, they’re taking steps toward self-confidence and self-empowerment, and that’s something everyone can encourage.
It’s important to remember that people don’t exist for the sole purpose of being considered sufficiently sexually attractive to others.
Everyone has a right to be here, to be seen and acknowledged.
They have the right to be respected and appreciated for the amazing individual they are, regardless of their age, skin pigmentation, cultural background, size, shape, or gender.
They’re not just posting photos of themselves for attention, or for a need to justify their existence as being okay despite not looking the way you’d prefer them to look.
They don’t need your approval.
They’re good enough just as they are.
This may not sit well with you, and of course, you’re absolutely entitled to your own opinion.
You’re also wholeheartedly encouraged to keep it to yourself.
You’ll never regret an opportunity to be kind, and you never know how much you’ll brighten someone else’s day by doing so.