Pieces of Work,  Words of Wisdom

Thoko’s Take on Body Positivity

I am a writer for an online publication called The Bridge. It’s a magazine documenting the experiences and thoughts of women of color at UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke University. Here is an article I wrote towards the end of last semester about loving our temples (that’s what I call bodies). 

The journey to appreciating yourself will be long and arduous, and sometimes lonely. These are some of my tips to get you started, but by no means do you have to follow any of these steps to a T. Criticize these. Adapt them. Adopt them. Chuck some out. Add your own in. It’s your journey.

  1. Find beautiful and empowered womxn who look like you. Sometimes, it takes someone else’s confidence to help us find our own. There’s nothing wrong with having a healthy and happy role model to inspire us to find confidence in ourselves. The rise of social media has given way to a plethora of unrealistic expectations of what we’re supposed to look like, but it has also encouraged dialogue between those of us whose beauty has been marginalized. Whether you find your inspiration on YouTube or Instagram, identifying someone who has found power in looking the way they do can remind you to do the same. Remember to understand your body. Know what it can be, what it never will be, and accept that there is true beauty in exactly what it is.
  2. Stand in front of the mirror butt nekkid! Lol. My best friend and I have both tried it and it actually helps. When you first do it, your mind instantly draws you to all the bits and bobs you dislike about yourself. There is a moment of sheer self-doubt and self-deprecation. But, when you stand through that discomfort and begin training your mind to find your good bits and bobs, it becomes an empowering experience. Forcing yourself to find beauty in places that you never could before is therapeutic, because the truth is that it is possible to find something you love about yourself. Maybe you have great skin, maybe you like the way your thigh curves, maybe you’ve grown to love the scar you got because it reminds you that you survived something. Whatever it is, find it, because it exists and it’s waiting for you to fall in love with it.
  3. Remember that you can’t please everyone, so don’t even bother trying to do it. Some people will think you’re too thin. Some will think you’re too fat. Some will want you to look like Jourdan Dunn and some will want you to look like Jordyn Woods. Fuck them. Look like you. Because that’s who you’re stuck with, baby. I said it before but I’ll say it again: Be kind to yourself. Start training your mind to understand that just because someone doesn’t find you attractive, it doesn’t mean that the whole world can’t stand to look at you. Beauty is subjective. What flies in White American culture doesn’t fly in other regions of the world and vice versa. The beauty standard is also always changing so if you keep trying to keep up with it, you’ll tire yourself out. Just think, there is bound to be a celebrity out there who 70% of the people you meet will find attractive, and you can’t understand why e.g. my situation with Ryan Gosling. That’s because beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And every beholder has a different idea of what they want. So, be your own damn beholder and never put the worth of your beauty in the hands of someone else.
  4. Remind yourself that it’s all about health – not size.  Don’t listen to the people who try to put beauty into a particular dress size, skin color or weight range. If you’re never able to go below a size 10 or above a size 2, don’t sweat it. If you’re maintaining an all-round healthy lifestyle, I could care less what you look like while doing it. There isn’t a particular body shape that exhibits perfect health. Health is about having a good heart rate, a balanced diet, exercising, meditating or going for therapy and doing whatever it takes to feel good mentally, physically and spiritually. The most important thing is to take care of yourself and to treat your body like the temple it is.  Some of us have naturally bigger bodies and some of us have naturally smaller ones. Both are gorgeous! The most important thing is that they are achieved and maintained in a healthy manner. Go for a medical check up every once in a while so that your doctor can make sure that everything is okay. If you’re healthy and you’re feeling good, you’re doing great, sweetie.
  5. Buy clothes that fit YOU. If you’re like me, you’ve seen an article of clothing on a model that looked so cute in it! You’ve picked up the item, put it on with a big smile on your face and looked in the mirror to see a potato staring back at you. I had to learn that it was because those clothes were not made for my body. In following Step 1, I found YouTubers who had similar body shapes to my own who looked fabulous in what they were wearing. They explained the differences in cuts of tops, jeans, skirts, dresses, etc. and led me to stores that had better clothes for me. Sometimes, when we aren’t dressing for the bodies that we have, we feel worse about ourselves. Understanding your body, respecting it, and taking the time to find things that work with it – not against it – can make all the difference in the world. On Pinterest, you can find charts that explain your body shape and give you things to avoid and things to run towards. Following that, doing some searches on the internet can lead you to styles that will make you look better than ever. Not everything will look great on you, and that’s okay. Just don’t force anything. Instead, find the things that will bring out the goddess that has always existed. She may have just been hiding behind an unflattering pair of jeans.

You’re beautiful. No matter how many times someone tries to tell you otherwise, just remember that you’re beautiful. Most of us tend to be our biggest critics, but it’s time for us to start being our biggest fans.

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