“Body positive” is a phrase people through around a lot.
Let’s break it down, because it actually is really complex for two little words. If we look at it literally, it implies being confident, secure, and complimentary of the way one looks.
But it’s not so simple. It would be nice if it was; if you could just look in the mirror and go “You look awesome today” or something like that. And there are people who can.
I’ve personally never been one of these people. I’m more likely to look in the mirror and point out everything that I think is wrong with me. Dressing rooms are my nightmare come to life; they’re lit in the most unflattering way possible and there are mirrors everywhere you look, glaring and reflecting all your self-consciousness and discomfort back at you. They’re truly designed by the devil.
But I digress.
Why is it so hard to be “body positive”? Why is it so difficult to look at yourself and name things that you find appealing?
I think inherent in most humans’ nature is to be critical of themselves. And today’s culture really augments this. We’re encouraged to be dissatisfied with the way we look. That we’re never good enough the way we are, and the only way we can improve ourselves is to change. There’s nothing wrong with change, of course, but we’re so wired not to be content with ourselves the way we are. Both physically and regarding who we are on the whole.
What would it be like to do something different?
To look in the mirror and tell yourself “You look beautiful today.” Or “I really like your smile.”
Because, truth be told, everyone else looks at you and sees you for who you truly are. It’s like we look at ourselves through funny goggles that distort everything. The most poignant example of this is body dysmorphia, which I’ve mentioned numerous times before. Body dysmorphia refers to the condition where one perceives themselves far differently than they actually appear.
I think that a lot of people suffer from a variant of dysmorphia, though, which causes us too put ourselves in a negative light. For example, where someone sees a beautiful smile that lights up your whole face, you might focus on how you think your cheeks are too chubby.
Yesterday I was sitting on the train heading into Boston and this sweet, grandmotherly looking old woman came and sat down in the seat next to me. I smiled at her and she smiled right back. Then I returned my gaze to the river passing by outside through the window.
Suddenly, I heard an “Excuse me?” coming from my right. I turned my head to see her smiling broadly at me. “Are you Greek?” she asked.
“No,” I told her, a little befuddled.
“You have a very Greek nose,” she told me. “Like an ancient Grecian statue.”
“Thank you very much,” I said bemusedly. Inside, though, I felt a surge of happiness. It’s not everyday you get compared to a beautiful work of art.
We then proceeded to have a conversation about culture and music before she got off to visit her husband in the hospital. I couldn’t keep the smile off my face for the rest of the ride.
My nose has always been something I’ve been self-conscious of. I always wanted a smaller, straighter nose, like everyone else seemed to have. It never occurred to me to think of it in a positive way. But here was this complete stranger complimenting me on something I’ve wanted to change since I was little.
It made me feel happy. It made me feel confident. And it also made me think, “Why don’t I think that way about myself?”
Because what if we did? What if we thought positive things about ourselves?
I think everyone would be a whole lot better off. Happier and more secure in themselves.
So start today! Look at yourself in the mirror, pick five things about yourself, and compliment yourself on them. Bonus points if you pick things you’re self-conscious about.
We could all use a little more happiness.