Let’s normalize bodies that aren’t perfect
By now we’re all (sadly) aware of the messages we get from everywhere we turn that say “Have a perfect body, or else.” The images we see on social media are highly photoshopped and retouched, so when we notice the little dimples and wrinkles in our own skin, we might think something is wrong with us, or that we’re not normal. Which can lead to embarrassment, shame, and all kinds of other not-great feelings. Since there’s actually no such thing as perfect, the pressure to be flawless can be a dangerous thing. So how can you normalize imperfections, feel better in your own body, and truly celebrate the way you were made? Here are a few small steps that can help you start to rewire your thinking:
1. Re-curate your social media feeds
Do you follow a bunch of influencers, celebrities, and models that have flawless skin, perky booties, and toned everything? You’re not alone. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s important to make sure you diversify the faces and bodies staring back at you from your phone screen—so you don’t hold yourself to an impossible or unrealistic standard. Luckily, the rise of the plus-size model is here to teach us that bodies are beautiful—at every size and shape imaginable. If you’re not already following body-positive icon Lizzo, stop what you’re doing and get on that. Then seek out other accounts that are made to celebrate beauty at all sizes and add them to your feed. Finally, go through the people you already follow and evaluate certain accounts with a closer eye—unfollow or mute some of the most filtered influencers, or the ones that seem to create content specifically to show off their crazy abs or cheeky booty shots all day, every day. It’s okay to follow aspirational, fitness-based accounts that get you moving, just take steps to make sure your entire feed isn’t super body conscious in a way that’s making you feel bad about yourself.
2. Surround yourself with normal bodies
Bathhouses, saunas, steam rooms and even beaches are great places to work on normalizing body imperfections. Spend an hour once a month (or more) in one of these spots and you’ll see the rainbow of different body types in all their full-color glory. You’ll be up-close-and-personal with women who let it all hang out in their bikinis and are showing off loud and proud. You’ll see cellulite, soft bellies, round thighs, stretch marks, and many, many regrettable tattoos. And you’ll see those women walking around happily with their heads held high, loving their bodies. Or at least completely unbothered by their normal, non-model physiques. Sometimes just seeing other people being supremely comfortable in their own imperfect-skin can be a total game-changer for your self-perception and self-esteem. And a little extra self-esteem is like money in the bank.
3. Get real with your friends
One of the best ways to understand that bodies are both strange and wonderful is to create honest dialogues with your close friends about things you might normally feel shy about opening up about. Hair in strange places? Normal. Period mishaps? Normal. Saggy skin, cellulite on your arms and stomach, underarm chub? All normal. The first time one of your friends casually brings up one of these things can be a revelation. You might think “So, it’s not just me?” Try to keep from complaining or bemoaning when you discuss these truly everyday things—the lighter and more non-judgmental the tone, the better you’ll all feel in the end.
Acceptance starts with embracing our differences and even finding ways to celebrate them. When the world tries to hold us to an impossible standard, it’s important to take steps to mentally fight back from the messages that are toxic and dangerous to our self-esteem. The more you learn to love your body, the more it will love you back.