What the Heck is Body Positivity?
I seriously had to ask myself this question, especially since I had been invited to share on a panel regarding the topic. I could understand it in relation to those women out there, but to apply it to myself touched a raw nerve inside me that until last night I hadn’t quite been able to pin down.
Last night I read a comment a woman had made regarding the panel that I have been invited to speak on about body positivity that stated: “Your panel consists of slim to normal size white women. There is no real diversity at all.”
I was crushed.
The nerve was exposed, and I cried.
I remember the day as clear as if it was yesterday.
We were doing PE, I was in year 6 and the teacher was weighing us.
In front of the class.
In front of the boy I’d had a crush on, in front of the girl who relentlessly teased me, in front of the boys who had nick named me ‘ten-ton tassy’.
I was petrified.
I had never purposefully weighed myself, I didn't need to. I knew I was a big kid, I certainly didn’t need to be publicly outed by my PE teacher.
They all gathered round, pushing in to see the number, snickering openly.
One other kid, the other ‘fat kid’ gave me a tip of his head in support.
My already delicate body image was smashed.
If I had denied it before, it was now official.
I was the fat kid – the ugly kid – the unworthy kid – the unlovable kid.
Tags and scars I wore deep in my psych for way too long.
I have very few pictures of myself as a teen and young adult, I loathed what I saw and having my photo taken was something I continued to avoid until I had my own kids.
I realised that I don't want pictures of family without me in them.
So as painful as it was, I began to let my photo be taken.
I’m not sure if it is staring down 40 that brought a change, but as I started to look at the myself in those photo’s I started to see myself for what I had achieved, not for the tags and scars I had allowed myself to accept.
I started to see:
A woman who had grown and raised three amazing little people.
A woman who had achieved some outstanding creative milestones.
A woman who had been on a trapeze and totally nailed it and could stilt walk like a pro.
A woman who cycled across Cambodia - twice
A woman who had walked the Great Ocean Road - twice
A woman who had competed in Tough Mudda and survived to tell the tale
A woman who had started Australia’s FIRST women’s adventure travel magazine – and realised - that when I meet all these amazing women achieving all these phenomenally diverse things, I wasn’t looking at their body size, or their fitness level or their hair and skin colour.
I saw them for the beautiful, strong courageous women they were, and I wondered; perhaps, just perhaps I am one too.
I say all that not to garner pity.
I feel for the first time possibly in my whole life, I have stopped looking at the wobbles and the lumps.
I have shaken of the tags and the scars, and I am confident in who I am – I don’t need validation from anyone.
I say it, because when I hear women making assumptions about what they think ‘those’ women stand for based on a photo, it breaks my heart.
And last night I was back in the PE class with the world crowding in to watch me get exposed.
So what the heck is body positivity?
For me, body positivity is about seeing peoples worth regardless of the outside shell they dwell in.
It is about nurturing
It is about wellness
It is about wholeness
It is about compassion and understanding
So next time you see someone’s picture, one that they have courageously (or not so courageously) put out there into the public space, please, please, please before you start to make assumptions and judge, remember - you may never know their story, but we are all on the same team, so extend to them the grace you yourself would like to be offered and be truely body positive.