Let’s talk about our ongoing battle with self-confidence.
Body positive, love your curves, #nofilter – everyday we’re inundated with positive messaging encouraging us, as women, to love ourselves just the way we are, whatever shape or size that may be. It’s awesome, and it’s about time; but just because body positive is our new favorite buzzword, does it carry the same weight in real life?
I have always been thin. Blessed metabolically, lucky maybe. But just like many, if not all women, I’ve struggled with self-confidence my entire life. Living in New York City comes with its own unique set of pressures, appearance included. In my early twenties, I didn’t have to do too much to keep myself at a size two, but the fear of getting any bigger always loomed. Getting older, joining the adult workforce, pondering far-off thoughts of marriage and procreation, these all added to the increasingly common thought, “maybe I should do something.” One of my colleagues introduced me to Pilates and suddenly I belonged to a community of people obsessed with how to get a toned ass like “front row girl” at SoulCycle. It was an ass I never knew that I needed, until now. I developed an obsession that took me to the gym twice a day and cost me a significantly unaffordable $400 each month. But I had abs and zero cellulite, and other girls were jealous of me and that felt so fucking great.
That was now two years ago, and I look back at the time, eyes a little glassy, like an Olympian remembering her bygone glory days of gold medals. In those two years, I moved twice between continents, left a five-year long relationship, switched jobs three times and celebrated a quarter century on this earth. Subsequently, I’ve grown a lot — inside and out.
Amongst all of these life changes, it’s only been this recent summer that I ripped my five favorite pairs of jeans (all in the same month, all while getting ready for work) and about half of my clothes fit much more snugly (if at all). I’ve gained weight; there is no mystery there. It’s been a noticeable physical shift, but I’m not mad about it.
What puzzles me, though, is that other people seem to be. When talking about my bigger butt, my friends and family responded with, “Don’t worry! Just go on a diet.” I told a friend that I had gone up two pant sizes and she began to console me as if a relative had died. A guy that I was briefly seeing told me that I “didn’t look like this when we met.” I told him to fuck off.
Everyone around me has automatically assumed this as a problem that needs addressing, regardless of my feelings towards it. Instead of being supported for embracing these newfound curves that life threw my way, I’ve felt discouraged, like I’m disappointing those around me for no longer having a figure fit for idolizing. I’ve just finished replenishing my wardrobe with more forgiving jeans, do I now need to search the recesses of my insecurities and retrieve my self-deprecation and loathing for the benefit of others?
I don’t know how to make sense of this; I jumped on the body positive bandwagon and damn is it lonely on here. Just as the idea of community so easily coerced me into an obsessive-compulsive fitness regime, so did the idea of a different community, where women support one another wherever they’re at, love-handles or not. Its aims are toward encouraging acceptance and forgiving and affirming attitudes towards all diverse body types; a community effort is implied. Body positive is an umbrella statement; It’s a Ryan Gosling meme saying, “Hey girl, you do your thing and that’s beautiful, whatever it is.”
So why, for everything that it stands for, is body positivity so challenging?
Learning to love yourself is a constant practice, an ongoing conversation full of fierceness and self-affirmation. I don’t think many women are inherently blessed with those qualities. As girls, we grow up challenged by the notion of creating an identity that can oscillate in and around societal pressures. We are bombarded with language that quantifies our haves and have nots – too fat, too thin, too tall, too short – bogged down by the rhetoric of others. We’re told to build our own confidence, yet around which the parameters have already been set.
Some days, I’m stoked on my curves. Others, not so much. I admit these insecurities more often than not, and that might just be the toughest part of this whole thing. In an effort to become body positive, I’ve realized just how body negative, neutral, ecstatic, hateful and every feeling in between our society is. I’d like to say this – the unconscious bias – is changing, because I genuinely think it is. But we have to continue acknowledging the struggle; the success of this movement hinges on community.