When a curvy girlfriend of mine posted this on Facebook a few weeks ago, I realized we're still getting this body love thing all wrong:
I mean, look. I did it for years.
Checking for arm flab. Looking for cankles. Watching for cellulite.
The judging, the criticizing, the comparing.
I would do anything I could to make myself feel better about my own imperfections.
Only when I started figuring out why I felt the need to do this -- to pick other women apart to feel better about my own "flaws" -- could I really open my eyes to my own issues. My own self-hatred. My own fears that those "imperfect" women were living their life more fully than I was, even if they were four sizes bigger than me.
And this is the component of body love that we aren't fully addressing.
Yes, body love starts at home. With me. With you. In the mirror. Naked. Looking at those parts of us that we've been told are flawed by a slew of magazine editors and personal trainers and loving those parts anyway.
It starts with us. But ladies, it doesn't stop there.
Body love is about accepting everyone around us just as much as it is about loving our own bodies.
It's crucial that we learn to love ourselves -- even the parts that we've hidden for years -- but it doesn't just stop there. Body love is opening up our eyes and learning to love and accept every other body that we see -- no matter what weight, what fashion choices, what color skin.
Body love is about sitting on the beach and not picking apart any woman that walks by in a bikini. It's actually ignoring the women who walk by and just indulging in our own beach day. Yes. I'm serious. Ignoring them. Their fashion choices are never, ever going to cause us any pain. I promise you this with every last living breath inside my bikini-wearing body.
Body love is about going to the gym and doing what we want to do for our own bodies rather than trying to make ourselves feel better by scrutinizing someone else's muffin top. (By the way... muffin top. Let's just retire that phrase already, OK?)
Body love is driving to work in the morning and not judging the different-sized women that run past us on the sidewalk.
It's going shopping and not eyeing up the woman next to us trying on clothes that we decide are too tight on her.
It's walking through a restaurant and not even noticing what the fat people or skinny people at the other tables are eating.
It's what Virgie Tovar calls "hate loss, not weight loss."
Body love is a way of living that doesn't involve comparison to other bodies or using other people's flaws to make ourselves feel better.
Because here's the thing about flaws.
If you had never seen a fashion magazine, or a Victoria's Secret commercial, or an advertisement for a gym, would you still see your body and my body as flawed as you see it right now?
If no one had ever told you what a "pooch pouch" was, would you know to hate your stomach as much as you do?
If you had never seen an issue of Self Magazine with Cameron Diaz on the cover representing the idea of "healthy," would you still think that your body is imperfect?
If you had never heard of the term "plus-sized," would you still identify with it? Or would you just live your life assuming you have a completely wonderful normal usable healthy body?
I mean, seriously ladies, if we had never seen or heard any of these things, how could we possibly know that any of these things are "wrong" with us?
This is what we need to be talking about. Not the blue hair, not the mom with all the tattoos, not who should have bikini privileges and who shouldn't. No one ever talks about the fact that all the "flaws" and "imperfections" we have identified in ourselves were created by the media and the fitness industry. And that's what we need to keep in mind as we move forward.
In the midst of taking on the body love movement and bringing it into our own homes, it's crucial to also take it with us out into the world. All of us can benefit from less judgement, less comparison, less ignorance.
Because at the end of the day, what is really the underlying issue with women wearing and weighing whatever they want? Why are stretch marks considered so heinous? What really offends us about the jiggling thighs?
It's fear. It's absolute, utter fear. Of failure. Of success. Of the unknown.
It's completely intimidating to see someone else who couldn't care less about what they are expected to wear just go ahead and play by their own rules while the rest of us cower in a baggy bathing suit cover-up.
It's beyond frustrating to pay thousands of dollars for a personal trainer and a dietician each month but we still don't have the balls to play with our kids on the beach in a two piece like that mom over there with the protruding stomach and the evident stretch marks.
And it's these fears and these frustrations that are causing all of this messy, nasty, ignorant controversy. If we want the body love movement to continue successfully, we have to raise awareness on these issues just as much as we have to fall in love with our own skin.
We have to bring the body love home, but also include all other bodies.
We have to be the body love we wish to see in the world.
That's the only way things are going to change.
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