Last week during a conversation with a lady who has recently embraced Body Positivity, she told me she had booked a naked photoshoot to celebrate her new found confidence. “Oh wow, I could never do that!” I had replied, literally shuddering at the thought, and she had looked at me, with a sympathetic smile and a gentle pat of my shoulder and said, “Ah don’t worry Laura, you’ll get there in time”. And, although I had simply nodded and listened to her excited chatter about her upcoming shoot, I couldn’t help but wonder at what point getting naked had become the end goal in reaching body positivity?
You see the truth is, I don’t want to get naked on social media, I don’t even want to get semi naked. I can’t think of anything worse than standing there in my mis-matched bra and knickers shouting about how much I love my body. I would genuinely rather stick pins in my eyes than stand naked in front of a photographer or, even worse, share those photos with thousands of people on the internet.
But that doesn’t mean I’m not body positive, does it?
You see I know, more than many, just how debilitating it can be to live with low self-confidence. I know how all-consuming those thoughts of self-loathing can be and how they can spiral out of control in no time at all. I know how soul destroying it is to look in the mirror and hate what you see, or to rely on the scales to determine your mood each morning.
I know first hand how eating disorders can destroy lives, how they can take lives, and how easy it can be to succumb to the pressures of what society hails as “perfection”. I know how those feelings of low self-worth can impact on your life in countless ways – on your relationships, your career and, ultimately, on your hopes and your dreams.
But I also know that even in my darkest days, when I loathed myself for so many reasons, I still went on holiday and wore a bikini. I still wriggled myself into tight fitting dresses, cut off denims and skimpy tops, and from the outside looking in I was very confident in my own skin. I know that even at my lowest ebb I didn’t shroud myself in layers or hide myself away, a master of deception, smiling through my sadness, and it is for those reasons I struggle to believe that getting naked is in any way a true measure of body confidence.
Don’t get me wrong, I am all for the body positivity movement and I think it’s great that so many of us are embracing our bodies, in whatever shape or form. I love nothing more than seeing men and women sharing their messages of self love, particularly those who have shared similar battles to mine. I think it’s amazing that body positivity has quite literally changed so many people’s lives and given them the confidence to shed their clothes and put themselves out there in all of their glory. But at the same time, it feels as though baring all is seen as the pinnacle of positivity and that doesn’t sit right with me and nor is it something I want my children to believe either.
The message I want to teach my children about body positivity isn’t about getting naked on social media, or wearing skimpy bikinis and parading up and down the beach. The message I want to teach them is about being body positive on the inside, about understanding that, whilst we are different shapes and sizes outwardly, we are all different people inwardly, with different opinions, strengths, abilities and goals.
I want to teach them about being caring and empathetic, I want to teach them about being honest and being open-minded, about using their brain, not their looks to get ahead in life. I want to teach them that body positivity is about being healthy on the inside, not just on the outside, about the importance of owning their feelings of inadequacy and refusing to let the opinions of others impact on their own happiness. I want to teach them about loving themselves first and foremost, long before they fall in love with someone else.
I want to teach them about the importance of self-care and self-appreciation, about putting themselves first even if it means going against the opinion of others. I want to teach them about judging their self worth based on kindness and compassion, on being smart and switched on; I want to teach them about celebrating the things which make them unique, about championing their successes, forgiving their failings, and holding their heads up high, always.
And most of all I want to teach them that, as important as it is to embrace body positivity, it is equally important to stay true to themselves and their own beliefs as opposed to following the crowd. And if, like me, they’re not comfortable with getting naked at the drop of a hat, or posing on social media in their underwear, then there is nothing at all wrong with that.
And that doesn’t mean that we aren’t as confident as the next person, or that we don’t love our bodies in the way we should, but perhaps it just means that we love our bodies enough to want to keep them for ourselves……