You Can Still Be Body Positive Even If You Don't Love How You Look

by Katie Cloyd
You Can Still Be Body Positive Even If You Don't Love How You Look
Scary Mommy and PeopleImages/Getty

A few years ago, I set out on a journey to make peace with my body. I tiptoed into the waters of body positivity, fat positivity, and self-love, and started to make intentional steps toward feeling like I am enough.

It’s been a steady process.

I’m a few years in, and I can honestly say I love being me. I choose not to let the size of my body stop me from the experiences I want to have. Gone are the days hiding in the back row of photos. I don’t wear clothes that are uncomfortable just because they’re “flattering.” I call out people who mistreat me and other fat people on the basis of our size.

Over the last four or five years I have worked to intentionally find a team of doctors (gyno, GP, dermatologist) that will address my concerns without always making it about my weight. I feel like I can advocate for my medical needs without shame now.

When I need to say no to anyone for any reason, I say no. I don’t feel like I have to earn approval to make up for my body. More importantly, I say yes whenever I want to say yes to any opportunity, even if it’s something fat girls “don’t do.” I have worked hard to see myself as valuable and acceptable, not despite my body, but while I’m fully present in it.

I finally feel like I deserve to be treated with kindness and respect. My boundaries are non-negotiable, and I let go of things not meant for me. Good things don’t feel foreign to me anymore. I used to think I was so lucky to have my happy marriage, my babies, and my career. My body felt so “wrong” that I was unable to see how many things I did right. Now I feel grateful, but not lucky. I know how hard I work to cultivate a healthy marriage, raise good kids and do well at my job.

My body has been fat forever, and I’ve created a life I’m so proud to have. I didn’t have to lose a pound to do it. My body has carried me this far, and I know now that it is a good body.

But my move toward making peace with my body has not led me to a passionate love of the way every single inch of me looks.

Some days, I have no problems with my body. Sometimes, I write when I’m feelin’ myself and you might think I feel sassy, sexy and totally confident 24/7.

But those days aren’t every day. Sometimes, I still change my clothes 10 times before leaving the house. There are days when I see my tummy—the area of my body where I struggle the most to find beauty—and I’m tempted to Google plastic surgeons.

I have opened my eyes to diet culture, and I know it’s total bullshit. But once in a while, I still find myself adhering to unreasonably restrictive eating patterns, vilifying certain food groups, or asking my husband to reassure me for the one millionth time that he loves me just like I am.

Every day can’t be a good day, and every thought can’t be a self-love gem.

I see other proud fat women on Instagram hashtagging “belly love,” celebrating “back fat Sunday,” or posing wearing nothing but a smile. Sometimes I think, “Maybe I don’t know what it means to love my body, because those things are not even remotely on my radar.”

Somehow, in the course of my quest to make peace with the body I live in, I found a new way to make myself feel awful. I traded body comparison for body positivity comparison.

I feel bad about feeling good about myself because I don’t feel as good about myself as other people feel about themselves?!

That is some ass-backward nonsense. I’ve made so much progress in the last couple years. Comparing it to anyone else’s is not only pointless, but actually harmful. It sets me back.

I don’t have to muster up the confidence to walk through this entire journey in public. Celebrating the parts of my body that make me self-conscious is important to me, but I can do it in private. Sometimes, I choose to do it in public with an occasional photo or with my words. I don’t owe the world endless photos of things that make me uncomfortable. I don’t have to like every single bit of what I see to like how I feel living my life.

Loving every inch of your body in every situation all the time isn’t the only way to make peace with it.

Liking how you look is not the only goal when you set out to learn how to love your body.

I started from a place where I truly hated my body. I could not find one single redeeming quality. Now I like so many parts of my body. I respect and wisely care for the parts I don’t love.

If the idea of loving every single inch of what you see feels impossible, that’s okay. You aren’t failing at loving yourself. You don’t need to try to borrow someone’s confidence so you can “get there.”

The most important thing about body love is not deciding that you are beautiful as you are (even though that is definitely true).

Body positivity starts when you decide that hating yourself is no longer an option.

I saw this beautiful post on Instagram that has stuck with me for the last few days, tumbling around in my mind.

If body love isn’t on your menu right now, can you work toward body respect, body acceptance or body neutrality? Any of those options are progress if your current state is body hate.

There is more than one way to come to a truce with your body, and there’s no deadline.

Even when you can’t see it, I want you to know that you are enough, you have done enough, your body is fine just like it is, and you don’t owe anything to anyone. You are allowed to just be in your body without working toward something else.

If you want to be at peace with the skin you live in, but you just can’t relate to the most extreme, extroverted, outgoing, bubbly body love warriors, that’s okay. Neither can I sometimes.

I am not a failure, and neither are you.

If you are desperately trying to feel better about your body, but you just aren’t there yet…

If your body is still a source of frustration, shame or disappointment to you…

And if you have done everything you can think to do, but you just don’t see all beauty in the mirror or in the camera lens…

That’s okay.

You haven’t failed.

There are a lot of steps between hate and love. Give yourself some grace. Instead of trying to muster up bold enthusiasm for your every lump, bump and dimple, give yourself permission to aim for acceptance and peace, instead. Those are worthwhile goals, too.