Fearfully and Wonderfully Made
Every body is different. And every body is amazing. That’s an empowering reminder that there are better ways to measure your life than a number on a scale.
Between waif-like models populating fashion magazines and incessant pressure to achieve a perfect bikini body, people who don’t fit into that idealized image sometimes feel like they aren’t supposed to even exist in this world. If your thighs touch or you lack a perfect six-pack, it’s easy to think the world doesn’t believe you’re worth noticing.
A recent study in the International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education reveals that as of 2016, the average American woman wears a size 16 and the average American man has nearly a 40-inch waist, according to the Center for Disease Control. But people of those sizes are rarely represented in our media.
Fortunately for many, body positivity is gaining momentum. More retailers are featuring plus-size models, plus-size designer Ashley Nell Tipton won season 14 of Project Runway with a plus-size fashion line, and stores are offering on-trend fashions for larger sizes as well.
A passionate supporter of body positivity, Lauren Harvey is a student and a part-time assistant manager at Torrid, a trendy fashion store for sizes 10-30. “Body positivity is about being confident in our own skin and not letting society make me feel bad about myself for not fitting in that mold,” she says. “Be who you are, because who you are is beautiful.”
We all deserve to exist in this world and be happy in it. Don’t give the power of your happiness to anyone but yourself. And to start you down the right path, here are some suggestions.
Make a List
Make a list of 10 things you like about your body. You can do it. Maybe you love your long hair, or your bright eyes and your great smile. Don’t forget the practical things your body does for you every day — walking, dancing, laughing, and breathing. Review that list, and add to it. Create a habit of looking for things you like when you look in the mirror.
Embrace positive self-talk and banish the negative. Harvey has her personal mantra not just posted in her room, but tattooed on her arm: “I am wonderfully and fearfully made.” If you struggle with negative self-talk, leave yourself positive notes. Take Harvey’s example and post messages in your room. A dry-erase marker works great on a mirror, so you can change up your messages. Stop apologizing for your appearance. Stop putting yourself down. Stop telling other people your flaws.
Avoid negativity, whether that’s media, the Internet, or negative people. If looking at photoshopped models makes you question your self-worth, put down the fashion magazine. If your fascination with Internet celebrities makes you feel bad for not measuring up, hit that “unfollow” button. If your scale terrorizes you, toss it out. Remember, you are not your appearance, you are not your weight, and you are not your size.
Fake it 'til You Make it
Confidence is the hottest thing you can wear. Hold your head up, your shoulders back, and walk out into this world as if you know you deserve to be in it, because you do. Read about body language and practice showing the world how confident you are, even if you don’t believe it yourself. If you act confident for long enough, not only will the people around you believe it; eventually you will too.
Find Your Personal Style
“Own your style and love it even if no one else understands,” says Harvey. If you’re a rock ‘n’ roll tomboy, wear those black combat boots and fringe. If you’re ultra-femme, rock that pink lace. If you love black, wear as much as you want. If you prefer something softer or more colorful, that is up to you. You deserve to love what you wear, and it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. No one has to like what you’re wearing but you.
Dress for Your Actual Size
“You’re smaller than you think you are,” says Harvey. Nothing is going to make you feel better about yourself than clothes that fit right. Don’t try to hide inside baggy t-shirts and sweatpants. Don’t waste time trying to fit into the jeans you wore 10 years ago. Instead, get yourself a pair that makes you feel great and fits right for your body.
Ignore Lists of Things You Should or Shouldn't Wear
The only thing you shouldn’t wear is something that makes you feel bad about yourself. Noisy prints? Bright colors? Short skirts? Yoga pants? If you want to flaunt yourself in a bikini, then all you need to cover yourself with is sunscreen. If it makes you feel good about yourself, go out into the world confident and happy.
Help Your Support System be More Supportive
Body shaming is one of the last culturally acceptable forms of discrimination, and often masks itself as concern. When people who genuinely care about you engage in body shaming, remind them that studies have shown that rather than motivating, body shaming results in increased negative emotions. Ask for positivity from those who care about you, and ignore or reject negativity.
Model Good Behavior
A study by the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years has found signs of body image issues in children as young as 3, and signs of trouble in children age, 6-10. To protect your children, refrain from putting yourself down where they can hear it (or at all!). When talking about healthy eating, be sure the emphasis is on health and nutrition, not appearance. Never equate appearance with worth, and try to compliment children on things other than their appearance. Make sure they know that people exist in a variety of forms and shapes and that those people are all deserving of acceptance.
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