Why body positivity isn’t always easy for me

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t told that I was fat. I have memories of being a little girl in dance class, wearing flashy costumes as people poked my belly and told me I was chubby. I didn’t think much of those comments when I was a young girl — there were more pressing issues like collecting Barbies and playing outside with my friends. But as I got older, hearing people call me fat became more and more frustrating.

I began feeling uncomfortable in those dance costumes. My friends started to look like the Barbies we played with while I remained a Cabbage Patch Kid. My grandfather, though I loved him dearly, would comment on my weight, as would my parents whenever I tried on clothes. By the end of middle school — after a boy I liked told me he’d rather date a trash can than someone who looked like me — I learned to hate that irritating adjective reserved for chubby girls: “cute.” It felt more like an insult than a compliment.

As time continued passing, I grew more and more self-conscious. I would look in the mirror, and see a girl who just wasn’t enough. I’d see this lump and that lump; I’d work out until I fell over, and I still wasn’t as skinny as my friends were. Never mind the fact that our bodies are all shaped completely differently and we all carry, gain, and lose weight differently — that wasn’t something I thought about. Instead, I obsessed over their ability to rock a bikini while I was too scared to even wear a pair of shorts.

And that’s why I want to say — as much as people preach about the movement on social media and in online feminist spaces — body positivity isn’t always as easy as it’s made out to be.

When you grow up hearing your family and friends question your weight, hearing your ballet teacher say you’re too big to go en pointe, hearing your elementary school nurse suggest that “maybe you shouldn’t eat so many sandwiches” — when society tells you that being chubby simply isn’t good enough — becoming body positive isn’t as automatic as “just loving yourself and who you are!”

Once breaking away from our ridiculous beauty standards became more mainstream thanks to the body positivity movement, I was thrilled — but skeptical. I feared that this mindset would be gone as quickly as it had come thundering in. But the more articles I read, the more I began feeling that these body positive messages were only reaching certain women.

Specifically, I felt like body positivity was for women who were already comfortable in their skin, who no longer cared what others said about their weight.

But what about women like me who haven’t yet reached that level of confidence? What about women like me who can’t even imagine reaching that higher plane of self-love?

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always thought of myself as a great, interesting person — it’s a skill that you hone after being overlooked by suitors and labeled the funny friend for years. But, oftentimes, feeling anything other than okay with myself just isn’t on my radar. Sometimes, I’m still the woman who considers skipping a friend’s wedding because of how terrible I think I’ll look in a dress.

I feel that acknowledgement of this self-esteem battle is sometimes missing from the body posi newsletters that flood my inbox. There are so many wonderful women who are breaking down stereotypes, but they don’t always say what I need to hear — things like this:

“It’s okay if you don’t feel good about your body right now. It’s okay if it takes some time. It’s not always easy to get to this place, but if you work at it and try to remember that *how you look* is dependent on *how you feel about yourself*, it can totally happen.

So, in the meantime, I’ll say it instead.

I know that there are many of us who struggle with body positivity. We think, maybe if we just lose a few pounds, our crushes will finally notice us. We do tedious “math” to figure out how to lose x-amount of pounds before a certain event. We skip out on taking pictures. We spend hours in the mirror finding our perfect angles to hide our bellies or to make our arms look thinner. We avoid activities that require specific outfits and say, “Oh, no. I can’t try that on. I’ll look too fat in it.”

And it sucks. Of course it sucks. We want to be on the body positivity train. We want to send nudes without scrutinizing them. We want to get tagged in group photos without wondering, “Is it just me or is my double chin super extra in that?” We want to walk around in shorts and dresses and bathing suits and say, “This is me.”

But it might take you just a little longer to get there. I haven’t reached that point yet, either.

Some days, I feel amazing. I think, “Okay, this is my body. It’s not perfect. It doesn’t look like any of the bodies on The CW, but it’s still mine. I can’t let it stop me from living my life. LET’S DO THIS.” Some days, I don’t want to be seen because I’m feeling extra chubby. I don’t even want to take my clothes off in front of my boyfriend.

It’s a process. It’s not always as easy as the Internet makes it seem — and that’s okay.

But we’ll get there, eventually. We’ll forget all of the times when someone made us believe that our worth hinged on our weight. We will embrace that all bodies are different, and all bodies are great because they exist and are full of life. We aren’t worse than anybody else because of the number on the scale. We will thrive, no matter what size our jeans are. One day, we will realize this.

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