A couple years ago the media spread [fake] news that Jennifer Garner, mom of three, must be pregnant because she had a “baby bump.” Countless tabloids started reporting this as “fact,” so Jennifer addressed the rumors on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
“I do have a baby bump,” said Jennifer Garner. The audience began cheering and clapping, but Jennifer interrupted, “Hold up, I am not pregnant. But I have had three kids and there is a bump. From now on ladies, I will have a bump. And it will be my baby bump, so let’s just all settle in and get used to it.”
As we all nod our heads in agreement and say, “you go girl” or “preach it,” let’s think about how often the media shows realistic depictions of female bodies.
Recent polls show that 80% of American women don’t like how they look. Sadly, it isn’t just adults who are unsatisfied with their body image. Fifty-three percent of 13-year-old American girls are unhappy with their bodies. And, this number grows to 78% by the time girls reach 17.
This is why the body positivity movement is so important.
What Is Body Positivity?
Body positivity is “unlearning the idea that only certain bodies are worth acceptance and praise, and instead recognizing that all bodies are equally valuable,” according to BuzzFeed.
We deserve to love our bodies and live our lives without shame, judgement or societal pressures.
It’s also about you defining what health means to you. Not the tabloids, not social media, not even your friends or family. And, it’s about letting other people decide what health means to them.
“There’s an epidemic in our country of girls and women feeling bad about themselves based on what .5% of the human race looks like. It starts very young. My message is that as long as everybody’s healthy, enjoy and embrace whatever body type you have.” ― Melissa McCarthy
Why It Matters
How we think about our bodies relates to our self-esteem.
When society projects ideals of how our bodies should be (like the illusive thigh-gap, which by the way cannot be physically achieved by most women), we internalize these messages, giving us a negative self-image. This produces lowered self-esteem, which can cause eating disorders, mental health issues, and a myriad of other problems.
With social media, we can instantly compare ourselves to millions of people that first, we’ll most likely never meet (let’s face it), and second, have taken their pictures with a perfect angle and copious amounts of filtering. (We all do it!)
“We don’t recognize our own beauty because we’re too busy comparing ourselves to other people,” said Kelly Osbourne.
Ladies, we’re tough on each other and extremely tough on ourselves. Let’s stop the comparison game early, when we’re young, so we can change the world for our daughters, nieces, sisters, friends, and all the generations of beautiful, strong women to come.
How To Promote Body Positivity
Now that you know what body positivity is, here are four ways people are practicing it right now.
1. Be Inclusive
Fashion is known to be an exclusive group of thin women. Recently, designers have started creating a more size-inclusive industry. Take Ashley Nell Tipton, from ‘Project Runway’ who designed clothes exclusively for plus-sized women. She was the first ever plus-size designer to win in 14-seasons of the show.
2. Raise Awareness
Since 1996, bodypositive.org has been raising awareness of healthy body images for women. Through workshops, articles and videos they are “re-connecting youth and adults to their innate body wisdom for more balanced, joyful self-care and a relationship with their whole selves that is guided by love, forgiveness, and humor.”
3. Think about how you feel
Our idea of what our body should look like, is our own. There are so many factors that contribute to how intrinsically lovely and wonderful the human body is. Health comes in many forms; it’s a spectrum, not a checklist.
“Being a healthy woman isn’t about getting on a scale or measuring your waistline. We need to start focusing on what matters—on how we feel, and how we feel about ourselves.” ― Michelle Obama
4. Ignore society’s standards of what your body is supposed to be
Don’t let anyone tell you how you’re supposed to look. We are not telling you to defy doctor’s orders, but don’t let society define how you should look or how you feel.
A special shout out to all the moms out there who’ve given birth. Whether through vaginal birth or cesarean, you are AMAZING. Your body has done something incredible—it’s grown a human being. Your bodies are strong and beautiful.
Also, it doesn’t matter if you’re a mom or not, or what stage of life you’re in, remember this: you can change if that’s what you want.
“I’ve come to feel that loving yourself and desiring to change yourself are two sentiments that should be able to peacefully coexist,” wrote Kelly deVos, author and mother, in a recent New York Times article.
Tying It All Together
How we view ourselves and our bodies, matters. Whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever you wear, or you weigh, be proud and confident. And, if you don’t feel that way, change it. But first, know that you are a phenomenal woman.