How Body Positivity Can Help You Achieve Your Dreams

When I was 15 I had a summer of love. Everything about it was perfect. I fell head over heels for...

How Body Positivity Can Help You Achieve Your Dreams

When I was 15 I had a summer of love. Everything about it was perfect. I fell head over heels for the most popular boy at school, and he’d fallen back. The six months we spent together were pure bliss. Until he decided that he didn’t love me so much after all, and missed his skateboard. Looking back I appreciate the childlike innocence of that first love, and why it couldn’t last.

There are no regrets. Except for one.

When I was forced to let go, I turned to reason to try and grasp the deep aching pain I experienced by no longer “being together”. But whatever rational explanation I was coming up with, it always lead to the same conclusion: there was something wrong with me. If not, he would still love me, wouldn’t he? Heck, he’d love me forever! Because, isn’t that how it’s supposed to be?

Although I’d never been body conscious before, after that summer I was. Helped by fragile adolescent (lack of) self-confidence, my inherited dreams about how I was supposed to look like started surfacing. My thighs where too big, my boobs too small, not to mention my knees and my derrière. I concluded he’d left me because I was fat. So I went on a diet. It was the start of a decades long battle against the scale – and myself.

Until six months ago.

As I was coming to terms with another difficult, and painful separation I decided I would never go on a diet again. Being on one or the other for more than 25 years I’d finally understood that it wasn’t the magic trick that would cure my insecurities. In fact, it was quite the opposite. So instead of worrying about food, I promised myself I’d do everything in my power to be good to myself. To treat myself well. To love myself.

In the months that followed something extraordinary happened. The less I focused on what I was putting into my body, and the more I was bringing my attention to what my body actually needed, the happier I got and the more I achieved.

This got me thinking.

Two decades and then some restricting my caloric intake, punishing food with exercise. So many years spent connecting my body size with my worth. Of judging myself for the way my body looked. What impact did that have on my dreams, and the way I’d tried to achieve them?

Surely there had to be one. For how could I really dream big if so much of my attention went into trying to keep myself small?

So I started educating myself.

About diet culture. Body terrorism. But also body positivity. And body acceptance.

I had – and still have – to navigate all these new insights, and messages with care. I know my multi-passionate avid learner self enough by now to know how easy it is for me to fall into the trap of seeing my body as a project again, even a more positive one.

To me it’s not about loving my body every single day, but about dismantling the image of the perfect body that’s I’ve been fed by society, and the inherent underlying message that there’s something wrong with me, for I clearly don’t look like that. By going on a diet I buy into the myth. I give my power away. I believe that I’m not OK, that I won’t be accepted the way I am. That I need to “fix myself”.

The problem is, when you restrict yourself with diet you restrict yourself in other areas too. Instead of reinforcing the belief that you’re good enough the way you are, dieting slowly convinces you that you’re not. This ripples into everything you do. If you’re not good enough chances are you’re not going to go out and follow your big dreams. You’re not going to try out for things. You’re not going to put yourself first.

The weight you’re focusing on extends way beyond the scale. It’s a mindset.

I was trapped in it for a long time.

Yes, I was going after my dreams. But not as fiercely as I could have. Yes, I wrote about what mattered to me. But not in the big way I really wanted to. Yes, I had big dreams. But not as big as they could have been.

Being able to get rid of this mindset, and replace it with something else is significant. It’s where I believe dreaming bigger and body positivity come together. To me dreaming bigger means questioning the status quo, and the stories we tell ourselves. It’s about setting ourselves free from social expectations or the dreams we’ve inherited but didn’t choose for yourself.

With our bodies I believe the same is true. That’s why I stopped dieting, tossed out all the clothes that didn’t fit me, and exchanged the uncomfortable push-up bras for comfortable alternatives like the ones from Knix bras. Because being body positive isn’t only about what we put in our bodies. It’s also about how we move them, care for them, and what we put them into.

Today I aim for a relaxed, comfortable, free relationship with my body.

One that is expansive, of companionship. In which I don’t hate it every day, but where I don’t have to love it either so I have the time, energy, and the focus I need to build the biggest dreams I can finally imagine for myself.

With a heartfelt thank you to Bailey Opsal, who so gently offered her time to educate me on this subject, as well as Kelly Diels, for her always wise and ever patient feminist mentoring of me. Thank you.

Featured photo by Kaci Baum on Unsplash
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