Recently I’ve noticed a peak in comments about how we see ourselves when we look in the mirror and – spoiler – it ain’t good. The constant hope for beauty to look back at us when we pluck up the courage to stand in front of a mirror is a daily struggle for so many of us. So in the month of spring, of new beginnings and the promise of birth & growth, I’m going to tell you something that you’re probably not expecting: you are under absolutely no obligation to think or feel beautiful when you look in the mirror. In fact, you can believe 100% in the message of body positivity, without putting pressure on yourself to feel flawless every time you see your reflection. If that’s thrown you off a little bit, let me explain…
If we’re talking about the journey to making peace with our own bodies, it is completely unrealistic to expect people who’ve spent a long time at war with themselves to find body positivity, wake up the next day, look in the mirror, and suddenly think they’re hotter than Beyonce booty shaking in a frying pan.
You are in the process of unlearning a lifetime of negative conditioning about your body. The lessons that we’re all taught about weight, and food, and beauty are so deeply ingrained in our sense of the world and of ourselves, it’s unfair to expect anyone to shake them off after discovering a hashtag or reading some inspiring quotes about self love. This process of unlearning is bloody hard work.
It’s tirelessly digging into the hardened landscape of our beliefs, unearthing the seeds we thought were truths, realising that their roots have been poisoning us all along, tugging them out and then still having to discover the REAL truths to fill that space with. These truths will nourish us and allow us to blossom but our landscape, so scarred by the marks the old lies made, will not accept them easily.
Not to mention the fact that while you’re doing this unlearning, you’re still existing in a sexist, fatphobic, diet culture drenched society, which is ready to squash any flowers you cultivate the minute they start to bloom. In short: do not beat yourself up for not being able to magically erase every negative feeling you’ve ever had about your body since the very first time you thought that it was wrong. And give yourself credit for how far you’ve come, you’re already miles ahead of where you once were before you even considered body acceptance as an option.
Like I said: you are under absolutely no obligation to think that you’re beautiful when you look in the mirror. Because ‘beauty’ has so little to do with what body positivity is all about. You don’t have to feel beautiful to believe that all bodies are worthy of respect. You don’t have to feel beautiful to recognise that those old lessons about our bodies are lies and that we deserve better. You don’t have to feel beautiful to fight against the prejudice and descrimination that certain bodies face in our culture because they’re deemed less worthy. You don’t have to feel beautiful to know that you are so much more than what you look like on the outside, and your value in the world isn’t dependent on being visually appealing according to our culture’s arbitrarily designed beauty standards.
Would we all love it if we were able to see ourselves as beautiful when we look in the mirror? Of course. But it’s not the be all and end all of your journey or this movement. And if setting that as your end goal is only making you feel inferior then forget it. Aim for body neutrality. Or body acceptance. Or body respect. Or stop seeing this as something that has an end goal at all, and just work on unlearning, bit by bit, every day, giving yourself credit for all the work you’re doing along the way. Body love is not a requirement. Beauty is not a requirement.
We are all doing better than we think we are!
Love your ever loyal bopo warrior, Lauren (@missmethven) @ TEWP x