Why I Choose to Keep My Clothes on for Body Positivity
Earlier this week Amy Schumer made headlines when she appeared in a nearly naked photograph for an upcoming calendar. Women all over social media (including myself) were inspired and applauded her continuous bravery to be unapologetic about her appearance in an industry wrought with photo-shopping perfection.
With the body positive movement growing in strength and numbers, and numerous photo campaigns,body positive bloggers and activists out there highlighting the beauty in size diversity and the empowering feeling of body acceptance at every size, I really couldn’t be happier; not only is it truly a beautiful thing when a female is completely comfortable in her own skin but to see the larger and still marginalized female body appearing in photos once only reserved for the stereotypically thin and culturally defined embodiments of beauty, this movement has taught me to see beauty in all sizes and shapes and as a result has strengthened my own body image and perception of self.
And although this is a movement I strongly believe in and fully support, you will never see me posing in next to nothing in the name of body positivity.
Nope, you won’t see any almost naked selfies of me anytime soon. But it’s not because I don’t love and appreciate my own body; I have other reasons.
A few months ago, a friend asked me why I don’t do these types of photos; posing in bikinis, showing off my latest yoga outfit (or less) while balancing in some crazy yoga pose or dressed up to perfection with immaculate hair and make up all in the name of positive body image.
My answer; it wouldn’t strengthen the message I’m trying to promote nor would it benefit my recovery.
I live within a normal to thin (and privileged) body and have for the majority of my life. I have never had to experience harsh or judgmental looks for ordering extra cheese on my pizza, or asking for a double scoop of ice cream on top of my waffle cone. I have never had a teacher suggest I lose weight in order to feel better about myself and I‘ve never had to work harder to prove my worth because I had to “make up for my looks”. All of these things are statements I’ve either heard from friends or other women in the media that are categorized as over weight or “not attractive”. I’ve not lived these experiences so I have no idea how it feels to be treated this way, I am however completely empathetic and compassionate toward all of those who must live with this judgment day in and day out.
Change needs to happen starting now.
Having your health, ability or intelligence judged based on appearance or size is indeed discrimination. This form of discrimination, based on weight and size, is more insidious and prevalent than any other form of discrimination we currently see in our modern day society.
If I were to take and post the same photos as those in the body positive movement that embody larger bodies, it would just promote more of the same body type seen in the media with no disruption to the standard image of health and beauty seen everywhere in the media. I’m not saying I’m a super model by any means, but if I were to use my body to promote my work in the fitness and yoga industry it would be more of the same, aspirational marketing of a culturally acceptable body type, which is exactly what I want to see change in the yoga and fitness community. If change is ever going to occur in regards to what body types we associate with beauty and health, a constant stream of interruptions needs to occur; Interruptions like the ones presented by the Yoga and Body Image Coalition, Dianne Bondy, Tina Veer, Anastasia Amour, and many more.
The other (and more personal) reason I choose to keep my clothes on (and limit the photos I post of myself) to promote the body positive movement is because I am fully aware of my limits in my eating disorder recovery.
What many of us don’t realize is that each time we post a photo of ourselves on social media (clothed or not), we open the door for feedback; both nice and rude, encouraging and shameful, supportive and harmful. I see many amazing, body image activists post beautiful photos of themselves, and while I feel inspired and hopeful (as many other women do when they see these pictures), inevitably criticism and shameful remarks from those calling such a display irresponsible and unhealthy are posted and in many times supported by others. When these incredible women subject themselves to this type of criticism, it makes them not only the bravest women on social media, but also my personal heroines because I know my recovery would be incredibly challenged (if not set back) by the harsh words they receive from their haters.
From a logical standpoint, I know I probably wouldn’t get the similar negative feedback. Like I mentioned earlier, I live in a body that is privileged and falls within the unspoken, “acceptable” standard society has established through mass media and marketing. Never-the-less, feedback would ensue because it always does. And while it can feel incredible to receive a comment complimenting my body or my looks, this can also be a very slippery slope for many others and me. I spent a lot of time, energy (and a lot of my parents money) untangling my self worth from my physical body and my appearance and with every social media “like” or body comment on a post (both positive and negative), I know my self esteem and self worth would get pulled incessantly back into a codependent relationship with my body.
The more I’ve realized and accepted this, the less pictures I’ve posted of myself and as a result the happier I am within my own skin and the stronger I am in my eating disorder recovery.
Do I love and appreciated my body? Yes.
Do I hope to one day be secure enough and grounded enough in my self worth to post similar pictures? I’m don’t know. I mean, what more would it do than a temporary boost in ego?
Do I feel like disconnecting entirely from physical appearance in order to develop true self worth is the only way to start cultivating a positive relationship with one’s own body? No. We all have our own journey towards loving and accepting our own body; which means we all start from different places and have different past experiences, which shape our approach. It’s the process of developing self-awareness and the study of our own triggers and definitions of self worth that is the real starting point for everyone.
So while I will opt to stay fully clothed (and warm) to embrace, love and accept my body, I will never hesitate to support on and enthusiastically cheer on all of those who put themselves out there in the name of positive body image and self-acceptance. These are the women paving the way for a new generation of strong, brave and kick-ass girls who will confidently declare, “I love my body”.