If you’re not familiar with the #BoPo trend on social media right now, where have you been?! You can’t scroll through social media these days without stumbling across a Body Positive post, and I for one am not complaining.
Because as much of a cliché as I know this, body positivity has changed my life…and in more ways than you might expect!
Incase you’re unfamiliar with it, let me give you a little background. The Body Positivity movement officially began back in 1997 with its roots going back much earlier, but with the rise of social media and – in particular – Instagram, the movement has enjoyed more publicity than ever before in recent years. A quick scroll through hashtags such as #Effyourbeautystandards and #CelebrateMySize will fill your screen with more diverse body imagery in a few swipes than you’d usually see in a month.
The focus tends to be around celebrating bodies that carry more weight than is usually deemed acceptable by societal beauty standards but the body positive movement is about much more than this. It’s easy to confuse body acceptance and body confidence with body positivity but they are actually very different things.
Body acceptance is the strive to accept your own body as it is, with no conditions attached. Body confidence is pretty self-explanatory. These things may both come about alongside body positivity but they themselves are not what the movement is about.
Rather than focusing purely on your own body, the body positive movement is about the acceptance and celebration of ALL bodies…inclusive of all sizes, races, sexualities, gender identities and abilities.
I first stumbled across the concept of body positivity toward the end of 2017, when I found myself looking at Instagram photos belonging to a gorgeous woman with the most incredible purple and pink hair who went by the username BodyPosiPanda. Her Instagram account was like an explosion in a candy shop – she wore the cutest outfits, used so much colour in her photos that it was impossible not to feel instantly happier looking through them, and she was curvy. Far curvier than anyone I’d seen rocking a bikini on Instagram before, and I felt empowered by her.
The more I read her words promoting the celebration of all bodies, the more I wanted to learn.
Over the following months I found more and more accounts celebrating marginalized bodies – ranging from fat bodies, to bodies with various disabilities, trans bodies…the list goes on. And the more I found and the more I read….the more I learned. Not only about the movement and the importance of fighting for equality, but the more I learned about my own prejudices too.
I’d always considered myself to be an accepting and tolerant person so recognising that I had prejudices at all was uncomfortable, but the truth was….I found myself challenged by some of the images I was seeing on the #bopo hashtags.
I was surprised and horrified to find that my first thought in reaction to seeing photos of some of the larger bodies was initially a negative one. Followed immediately by shame and regret at my first thought, and a desire to change my initial reaction. I’ve heard it said that the first thought we have in reaction to something is what society has taught us to think. The second thought is our own. That gave me hope that I could change my negative reactions, and I set out to do just that.
I wanted to learn not only to love and accept myself in the size 22 body I live in, but to learn to see the beauty in others too – to truly learn to appreciate the diversity of the human form. I followed as many accounts as I could find belonging to marginalised people – I read their captions, admired their images and took in their stories and messages.
And over time, I felt a shift in my mind set.
The more I exposed myself to a variety of different types of person, the more I understood that beauty truly does not come in one form. That there is diverse beauty far beyond the narrow ideals set out for us by the media.
Over the past 8 months, the body positivity movement has not only given me a confidence and appreciation for my own body that I’ve never had before but it’s also given me a new found interest in the importance of feminism and politics, a new awareness of societal injustices, and fresh insight in to my own privilege in society.
And I’m so pleased that my initial negative reactions – both to other people outside of the societal norms of beauty AND myself – has truly faded in to the background, replaced by one of appreciation for beauty in all of its many and varied forms.
It’s incredible to realise how much the media molds and shapes our ideas and opinions around beauty without us even noticing it, and to start to feel able to see beyond that.
It’s amazing how much beauty there is out there in the world when you stop looking for flaws.
photo credit: zeevveez Can Can Dance via photopin (license)
Hayley is a 36 year old Liverpudlian Mum of 3 boys aged 5 and under, currently living in Devon. She has wanted to be a writer since the age of 5 and stumbled into a career as a blogger in 2013 when on maternity leave with her first baby. Her proudest achievement (kids aside!) has been writing for Essentials magazine, and her dream is to figure out how the hell to become a “proper writer” one day. She fills her time starting books she’ll never finish, watching too much Netflix and eating biscuits.