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Guess what? I’m going to share a little secret with you.
One that goes against what many fashion brands and influencers are promoting at the moment. One that contradicts a lot of the reels and images filling your algorithm-fueled screens. A secret that contradicts what most of the general health and mindset industry is saying.
Here it is: you do not need to learn to love all the parts of yourself to have self-confidence and self-love.
I know! Wild, right?
Let me be really clear here. I am so grateful that I am living in the time of the body confidence and acceptance revolution. Where women of all sizes, looks, and abilities are professional models. Where there is a diversity of bodies and faces that are in advertising campaigns for activewear and clothing brands. Where there are clothing lines becoming more authentic by celebrating more varied body shapes and sizes. Where the definition of “healthy” is morphing. No longer is the perception of “healthy” rated on aesthetic variables like scales and what we eat. Instead, “healthy” is being celebrated for what it should be—mental well-being, exercise as a choice, putting yourself first amidst busy lives, eating food because it makes you feel good, or simply because it tastes delicious and not because it is “good” or “bad.” And I am so thankful and wishful that this will hopefully continue to evolve as my two daughters grow up in this world.
But in conjunction with this progressiveness, there is a movement lately called “Toxic Positivity.” It’s the belief that we should maintain a positive outlook, no matter how dire our circumstances are. Everything should always be sprinkles and rainbows, and we should be happy no matter what.
Yes, if you have the benefit of being able to look for optimism in all situations, that is a beautiful gift. And yes, if you are someone with a disposition to always look for the silver lining, that is a character trait that a lot of us would love to have. So, embrace and cherish these. And, on a side note, continue being you because you’re the inspiration to others who may struggle to see the world with abundance sometimes.
Toxic positivity, however, is making us feel guilty and shameful. We’re being encouraged to love, love, love all of ourselves because, allegedly, it is so easy. And, allegedly, it is what is needed to have total body acceptance and love. But what if we can’t come to love all parts of us? What if we’re doing all the work (the affirmations, the stepping out of our comfort zone, all of the inner reflection, promising ourselves good intentions) and still we just can’t come to love it all?
We feel like a failure, that’s what. We feel like this is just another thing that we can’t succeed at. And we also feel a sense of shame because toxic positivity says that we have so much to feel grateful for, that the good always outweighs the bad, that we shouldn’t feel negative. And this is just not fair that we feel guilt and shame for not being able to overhaul some valid insecurities we may have. Have you ever felt like this too?
While all of these campaigns have the best intentions to normalise our bodies and promote body love, they can, sometimes, have this detrimental impact on us.
I have a practical solution for you. One that may give your comfort and grace for the beliefs you can’t bring yourself to change just yet (despite working so hard) and may also help you nurture your self-love and confidence.
Instead of thinking that your perception of your body needs to be this dichotomy of love or hate, see it like a spectrum. You do not have to completely love your body. And if you don’t, it doesn’t mean you hate it by default. Imagine a straight line and you can choose to place your feelings about the parts of you as little dots anywhere along the line. All of these dots are completely acceptable. Being further one way or the other does not determine whether you have self-love. You do not fail at loving yourself if you do not love all of yourself.
I want to leave you with one last thing.
Begin observing the language that you use to talk to yourself. You do not need to love all parts of you, as I’ve said. But you do need to respect yourself. Would you talk to your friend, sister, mum, daughter the way you talk to yourself? I bet, sadly, not. The way you speak to yourself (and about yourself) subconsciously forms your self-worth. What this means is, you may want to be a happier, more vibrant person, but if your internal dialogue is consumed with self-deprecating thoughts, your subconscious will keep you within this identity. And also, how you respect (or disrespect) yourself is how you show others to respect (or disrespect) you. For example: saying or thinking “urgh, I hate my thighs” is disrespecting your body and yourself. However, saying or thinking “look, I don’t love my thighs, but that’s okay. But they are part of me. I do love my x, y, z and I choose to focus on those” is respecting yourself and your body. You’re choosing tolerance over hatred.
I know this can be a hard habit to change if you’ve had a history of negative self-talk. But what if you decided today to become your biggest supporter, your biggest hype girl? If today was the day you started just one new thing to help foster your self-love and self-worth?
You do not need to love all parts of yourself. But you cannot disrespect yourself either.
Choose tolerance. Choose self-love.
This new way of viewing self-love is more realistic and less likely to make you feel like you’re failing. Choose in any moment to respect yourself, tolerate the parts of you that you don’t love with language and self-talk that is respectful, celebrate the parts that you do like, and love the heck out of yourself!