Quick note: If I had to choose one post for my readers to read, it would be this one. I’ve been looking forward to putting this up on Apple of My Eye for a long time. Meet Kelty, my best friend and one of my biggest inspirations when it comes to keeping a positive body image. She is the most caring, thoughtful, and loving person I know and has a lot of wisdom to share. Listen to her words. Take them to heart.
Hi everyone! My name is Kelty, and I’m Christine’s roommate/soulmate/dance partner/partner in crime. I’m a second year Feminist Studies and English major, and a women’s rights and LGBTQ activist.
Something that comes up a lot in my field of study, as well as in conversations with friends almost daily, is body image. I tend to be asked about body image a lot; among my friends I’m known for my own body confidence and positivity, and I’m constantly encouraging others to also “practice radical self love.” Of course, that isn’t to say that I never have a bad body day, or that I always feel fantastic about how I look. Unfortunately, we live in a culture that profits from us hating ourselves. Learning to love yourself is not just a journey- it’s a battle. However, throughout my (barely) twenty years of life, I have figured out some tricks and tips that have really helped me with my battle. Every person is different, but I think a lot of us tend to do the same things to ourselves. So here are some weapons I’ve used against self hate, I hope you can use them too!
P.S. These are mostly for women. I know men can have a hard time with self esteem too, but women are told every single day that our worth is based on our looks, so those are the people I’m addressing today.
1. For the love of all that is holy on this earth, stop comparing yourself to other women. I have days where I have a hard time following my own rules, but I am very proud to say that I have gotten to a place where I almost never compare myself to other girls anymore. But it’s so easy to, right? To measure every feature on a beautiful girl and decide that since you do not fit those measurements, you must not be as beautiful, or as sexy, or as important. Eradicate this way of thinking. Here’s the thing. You don’t look like her. You just don’t, and you never will. You look how you look, and unless you want to invest a pretty penny in plastic surgery, that isn’t going to change. The sooner you accept that, the better. In fact, don’t just accept it, embrace it. I have fat thighs and a hourglass figure that I got from my mom, and a round face and bright eyes from my dad, and the biggest ass you’ve ever seen from both of them. My ass is a family heirloom. I will never be thin and tall! I was built to be short and sturdy, and that is a fate I cannot escape. Everything about me is built from generations of curvy, pale people who share my name. Your big feet carry you forward, your spotty skin feels warmth from the sun, your stretchmarks record your beautiful growth, your dark skin should never be made to feel that it needs lightening cream or shade from the sun. You don’t look like other girls. You just don’t. Accept it. Embrace it. Love it.
2. Get naked. Women tend to have this fear of our own bodies. We bleed and leak and smell and gather fat in places that make us lumpy and uneven and asymmetrical. And for some reason, this freaks us out. The more time you spend looking at your naked body, the better. It’s hard to love something you never let yourself see. Take time every single day to be naked and don’t shy away from mirrors. Personally, I like to sleep naked every night, because there’s actually nothing better than waking up all warm with soft covers on your skin.Sometimes it’s hard if you don’t have a fantastic roommate like Christine who doesn’t care at all if I wander around naked. I got lucky on that one. When you’re alone, take some time to actually look at your body, look at the parts of you that you try to cover every day, look at the parts of you you hate when other people touch. Don’t be scared to touch yourself everywhere and anywhere. Touch yourself in ways that feel good! I cannot emphasize enough: your body is yours and yours alone. You should be the number one authority of what it likes, what it needs, and what it wants. I know that my body likes strawberry ice cream and having my hips squeezed. What does your body like?
3. This is very important and should be repeated several times a day, especially when you’re naked. Tell yourself how much you like yourself. Tell yourself how much you like your body, how much you like your face, how much you like your laugh, and your brain, and your little quirks. This can be really hard, especially when one of those days come along where there is not a single thing about yourself that you want to praise. Here’s the secret. You’ve got to do it anyway! If you don’t actually feel this way, lie to yourself. It’s okay, I give you full permission to lie about this. It’s the classic “fake it til you make it.” If you get into the habit of saying loving things to yourself, it will become exactly that: a habit. It’s behavioral therapy. Condition yourself to say beautiful things to yourself and to stop saying negative things. Trust me, this really works. Just practicing telling myself good things has gotten me to a place where I naturally think to myself “I’m so cute!” at least twice a day while looking at myself. Don’t be afraid to shower yourself with compliments, there are literally zero consequences to this. There are no repercussions to feeling good about yourself.
Let me repeat that: There are no repercussions to feeling good about yourself!
Here’s the thing about being women in our society. Every day, we have a million messages thrown at us telling us that how we look is the most important thing about us. That it doesn’t matter if you’re smart, it doesn’t matter if you’re driven, or funny, or talented, or kind, or inspiring, if you don’t fit our standards for beauty. I’m going to challenge you, if you’re willing. I challenge you to question every assumption you make about your body and the bodies of others. Think about the fact that every opinion you have about appearances is shaped by companies trying to sell you things, shaped by messages sold to us, shaped by the parts of our culture that are still stuck in sexism, racism, and classism. And forget everything you’ve been taught about what makes a body “good” or “bad.” It’s your body, and you only have one. I challenge you to love every inch of it.
“This is about my own someday daughter, already stung, stained, with insecurity, begging, “Mom, will I be pretty?” Will I be pretty? I will wipe that question from your mouth like cheap lipstick, and answer, “No. The word ‘pretty’ is unworthy of everything you will be, and no child of mine will be contained by five letters. You will be pretty intelligent, pretty creative, pretty amazing, but you will never be merely ‘pretty.'”
To my readers, please, if you have the time, take a moment to share Kelty’s words. I think all young women could gain a lot from this post. Comments and thoughts, as always, are appreciated!