Let's Talk About: Body Positivity
It’s something that we all see more and more in the media these days. Be kinder to yourself. Invest some time in self care. Be positive and accepting of your body. Ignore what others say about you and love yourself for who you are. Well, that’s easier said than done a lot of the time. One of the problems with spreading the message of self love, body positivity and body acceptance is that our society is filled with messages of the opposite. The media picks out features that it can single out as ‘flaws’ and either censors them out entirely or targets them in order to sell us products to get rid of those supposed ‘flaws.’
“Here, buy this serum that will stop you from ageing, looking old is the worst thing that could happen to you!” “Here, buy this oil that will get rid of your scars and stretch marks, physical evidence of your body growing and experiencing life is so unattractive!”
“Here, buy this cream that will tighten your skin and reduce the appearance of cellulite, not having cellulite will make you the happiest you’ve ever been!”
“Here, buy this special diet tea that will make your tummy flatter, being thin is the ultimate #BodyGoal!”
It’s amazing that anyone has the confidence to engage in self love these days with the constant barrage of messages being thrust in our face at every given opportunity that tell us we are never enough, and that we can always do better than we are. Plenty of people do eventually get there, however it is often later on in life following a turbulent journey battling insecurities that we develop from an early age. Many body confidence ambassadors cite the emotional labours they have been through in order to be at peace with their appearance, and get them where they are today.
Jess Megan, a body confidence ambassador and curves model, is frequently open with her followers about the determination it took for her to rise through the modelling industry when constantly being told she wouldn’t succeed if she wore anything above a size 8. Megan often shares excerpts of abuse she receives, simply for being confident in her body and choosing to share it with the world.
Milly Bhaskara, a mental health and body acceptance advocate is a public speaker, who shares stories with her followers of her experience with body dysmorphia that began at a young age and continued into adulthood. As a self harm survivor, Bhaskara shares her experiences with social media platforms such as Instagram that continue to body shame her and millions of others for having healed self harm scars in their visible photographs, and the negative impact that this can have on a person's recovery from self harm when they are sent the message that their body should be censored.
As sex and relationships education progresses, is improved, and adjusts to fit with our ever changing social climate, why are we not taking the opportunity to teach kids about the importance of self love? Relationships education is now a vital and mandatory element of school curriculum, used to teach children about different relationships they may encounter throughout life. It helps children understand what is and isn’t okay in relationships, such as how to be respectful and caring to another person no matter what your sort of relationship you may have with them. So why not include the importance of body positivity, body acceptance and self love as a part of that education too? Why not teach children that one of the most important relationships you will have with anyone throughout your life is in fact yourself? Whilst people come and go throughout life, we can always rely on the company of ourselves, so it’s important to make sure that we learn to love, care and respect ourselves as equally as we do those around us from as early an age as possible.
This could start with addressing messages constantly portrayed in the media about our appearances, which can have an impact on even the youngest of viewers. How many people have been influenced by the media into feeling uncomfortable in their own skin because a tabloid magazine tore apart a celebrity who dared to bare their cellulite in public? Or were made to feel guilty and unworthy after seeing the before and after pictures of a diet pill advert plastered on the side of a bus, because you look more like the demonised before picture than the glorified after picture? Whilst these kinds of messages might not be aimed at children, they are still very capable of having an effect. Most eating disorders start during adolescence, with some even developing in children as young as 6 years old. So why don’t we address the harmful messages that suggest our appearance equals our worth as soon as possible? Why don’t we dismantle the narrative that allows people to so easily make a person feel bad about themselves simply by commenting negatively on their appearance?
Sex and relationships education is missing the opportunity to teach children from an early age that our appearances absolutely do not equal our worth, and that there are much more to people than what they look like on the outside. Teaching children at school that a person's body should never be used against them to inflict hurt; that there is no ‘right way’ or ‘wrong way’ for a person to look; no right shape, size, colour for a person to be, would help prevent the kinds of body dysmorphia and insecurities that have already stopped so many people from accepting and loving themselves for who they are.
So here at Let's Talk About Sex Ed, we thought we'd try and do something to promote how important body positivity, body acceptance and self love is in the SRE curriculum, by creating Body Positivity Corner, a submission gallery for people to share their stories with self love. Whether you're still on the journey of self love and haven't quite reached the destination of being accepting and positive about your body, or you've reached the destination and want to share how you got there, we would like to encourage anyone no matter where they are on their self love journey to share their experiences, because you never know who it might help. We hope that it can become a space where anyone can come to and see a celebration of body types, read about why self love is important, and find validation in the feelings of others that they too may be feeling, in order to lift themselves up.