Size acceptance. Fat activism. Positive body image. Self-esteem. Self-love. Self-acceptance. Body positivity. I live here now. It's taken me a long time, but I have citizenship now in the Nation of Bopo and I catch myself taking it for granted that not everyone lives here. For some, they're just visiting. For others, they're shipwrecked, but maybe they can see our welcoming shores. Some people are at war with this Nation, but we're a feisty bunch and we hold as steadfast to our beliefs as we do to one another. Some people don't have a clue that Bopo even exists. Today, let me name myself Ambassador and take you on a brief tour of this diverse and magical place ...
Here's an example of what I mean when I say that I take my body positivity for granted: a friend came over today and was trying on some clothes of mine to borrow before leaving for vacation tomorrow. Running from room to room in my house, becoming increasingly frustrated, she finally asked, "Don't you have any effective mirrors in this house!?". Funny, eh? I really don't. There's a little vanity mirror in the bathroom, one on the medicine cabinet, and then this sliver of a full-length mirror on this sliver of a wall in my bedroom. The sliver mirror is especially useless though. It's a wavy design and, because of the door and the slant in the roof, you really can't see yourself well in it at all. Why haven't I noticed this mirror deficit? She wanted to know. "I guess I just go with how I feel instead of how I look", I answered honestly. We blinked at each other in the silence then. She in her boat, one foot tentatively on my island. Me standing proudly in Bopo Nation, but without any judgement or superiority. Then, we just went about sorting through clothes and chatting about life; she from her boat and me from my island. In moments like these I am grateful for my practice because what was once hard work through avoidance, comparison, assumptions, acceptance, and back again, has become so comfortable. That's what it feels like in the Nation of Bopo: comfort. Comfort to just be. Comfort to allow others to be as well, even if their being looks, sounds, or feels much different than yours.
Here's why this blog is entitled "Let's start at the very beginning ...": your self-image is the lens with which you define yourself and see the world around you. Deeper than "body positivity" - a term, unfortunately, being coopted by the very powers that be that this movement was created to rebel AGAINST! - a positive self-image isn't necessarily about being positive about your body all the time. It's about weeding out external imagery and rhetoric defining what a "good body" is (and, by default, what a "bad body" is) to discover what you believe about yourself. You don't have to always feel positive about your body to be body positive. Body positivity began as an inclusive movement to promote the right to exist and participate regardless of the body you're in. That includes the right to have a full spectrum of feelings about your body. In fact, I might argue, that this exploration is necessary to start to unpack what you REALLY believe. Positive or negative, how have you come to integrate these feelings about yourself with the messages you're getting from others in your life and from the wider world around you? What do you like about your body? Can you start to notice those thing more? Can you waive the white flag when it comes to you vs. your body? Your body is made up of tissues that respond to stimulus ... it's not out to get you. What lies at the heart of your body issues? (Psssst ... the answer is not your body)! Can you root out the emotion that is at the heart of this symptom? Who can you rely on for support down the rabbit hole? Can you define for yourself what beauty is? Can you start to see beauty in all its forms - in nature, in art, in architecture? Can you recognize the diversity of all of the things that you define as "beautiful? Can you start to practice gratitude to your body for what it can do and what you do have?
As an internal practice, body positivity is a reclamation of our right to define ourselves.
Slowly, gradually, on the long and winding personal journey towards body positivity, we start to see ourselves differently and, as a result, start to see the world differently. In Bopo Nation, we can all eat, watch, wear, date, say, and do whatever we'd like bravely and unapologetically. Here, we understand that all bodies are worthy of love, of expression, and of taking up space. There are no "after" bodies. All bodies are valued, just as they are, as people. As a result, we all get to live life to its fullest. We each have equal potential and the possibilities are endless.
Like I said, it's a pretty magical place.
Now what do we self-loving, body accepting humans do with all this possibility? You've made it to Bopo Nation and you want to see the sights! Here's the map: you START within, at the very beginning, with your personal work towards body neutrality and, eventually, maybe, most days, body positivity. Give yourself permission to shift your mindset gradually with dedication, patience, and persistent practice. Then, like most practices, expect to cycle back to the same old shit over and over again each time your lens becomes clearer. From this place of body positivity, we find ourselves making room in our hearts for the individual experiences of those around us. Start to blur the lines between inner self-love and just love.
Now, you'll see what the locals know: Bopo Nation isn't really about body acceptance or body love at all. Well, it is, but that's only half of the journey. Fuck the idea that "all bodies are good bodies" and embrace the PEOPLE - the individual right of every single human being to exist and participate in the world and be seen as equal to every other other human being. THAT'S BODY POSITIVITY!!! Not my fat body as valuable as your skinny body. Body positivity isn't measured by my waistline, but my whole body (physical form, mind, heart, and actions) as valuable as your whole body. The body positivity movement has laid the foundation for pushing back against the oppression by rebelling against the claims that certain bodies have more value than others and look at how far we've come. Now, we can use those same pathways and push back against racism, ablism, discrimination, societal gendering, sexism, and all the other oppressive hierarchies designed to benefit few on the backs of many.
That's the magic of body positivity. That's radical change. That's our birthright and that will be our legacy.