As a person who spent a chunk of their life trying to change their body instead of loving it, I know a thing or two about being conscious about your body. After years and years of trying, I’m finally at a place where I’m genuinely comfortable with my body; moreover, I love my body. But the process was painful, had lots of ups and downs and truthfully, it still has a WIP status.
I remember that it was around when I first hit puberty that I started putting on weight. As my mother kept reminding me throughout my teen and young adult years, I used to be a very, extremely skinny child. So I had the great luck of having to come to terms with being categorised as “over-weight” (as a negative category) at a time where I was already having to come to terms with my body changing and all the societal expectations that came with it. And it was hell.
From 13-14 years old to 23, so a good 10 years of my life, I hated myself. Every time someone would turn me down (romantically or platonically) I would think that it was because of my weight. I kept making promises to myself that I would work out, try out diets, lose a bunch of weight. I kept thinking to myself that it wasn’t fair how “chubby” I was, since I didn’t even eat that much. Twice I went to a diet specialist to lose weight, once during my high school years and once during university. Both times I lost a bunch of weight, was showered with compliments from my family and friends, and both times I felt so horrible for it. Every bit of attention I would get when I was skinny, I would think that it was because of my looks, not my personality, and these bits of attention basically proved to me that I was worthless in my “normal” self. And my normal self was just over-weight. (p.s. both times I gained all the weight back)
At the end of my university years, I was done with trying to lose weight, and instead turned my attention to loving my body. This simply happened because of two reasons. 1) I realised that I wasn’t happy with the “body goals” I strived for, and achieved with diets. 2) I realised that I was being a hypocrite by holding myself to a way higher standard than I held everyone else in my life. Because for the entirety of those 10 years of hating my body, I was loving and complimenting my friends who were either around the same weight as me, or more.
The saddest part, even though it helped me on my journey to self-love, is knowing that basically everyone deals with this. I keep having the same conversation with my friends – mostly women, about self-love and body positivity. Even my friends who have the “social media body goals” bodies struggle with their self-image. The things we want to change about ourselves are literally endless, and as the society’s beauty standards will keep evolving (which it always will) then that means these standards will pressure us to hate our bodies in different ways, forever.
I remember talking to a friend (shout out to Aiza) about this a couple months ago. I don’t remember if it was her that said this, or if we read this somewhere else, but I remember one sentence clearly from that conversation: “in a society that wants women to hate themselves, the act of self-love is an act of feminism.” Or something like that. And that stuck with me. Another conversation that I had with Aiza, but also another friend (shout out to Pran) was that the act of self-love is a progress. No one wakes up one morning just loving every bit of themselves. Even people like me, who spent a long time building up their self-confidence that it basically skyrocketed right now, don’t wake up every morning loving themselves. There are many days I still wake up with the self-hatred deeply rooted in my heart trying to peak its head up. But I always manage to push it down, either that same day or a couple days later.
I don’t think the “goal” in body positivity should be to love yourself 100% of the time. I think what we should strive for is to have the days that we love our bodies outnumber the days that we don’t. Change is absolutely necessary for the journey to self-love. But this “change” shouldn’t be about changing our bodies. It should be about changing our attitude towards our bodies. As I'm done with hating my body now, I don't see it as something that defines my beauty. My beauty comes from my personality, and I adorn my body with clothes, tattoos, make-up, or whatever I use for my self-expression, to make it beautiful. My beauty isn't about my weight. But you might argue that it's about the glitter I put on my eyes, I won't argue with you on that.