wellness

Faux body positivity: Let's talk about the uncomfortable truth behind my Instagram photos.

Picture this: I’m standing in an infinity pool with my back turned away from a sunset over the Singapore city skyline.

I’m waist-deep in the water: deep enough to look like I’m swimming but not enough to get my freshly-washed hair wet.

After spending roughly 15 minutes scooping my boobs up so they sit nicely in my black one-piece and holding my hands in just the right spot to cover up the bit of my stomach that isn’t flat for a passable photo, I dunk my head under the water and swim to the edge of the pool. Now, I can actually enjoy the view.

WATCH: Women are shaking their bodies on Instagram in the name of body positivity and it’s glorious, check it out in the video below. Post continues.

Video via Mamamia

Later that night, I lay on the bed in my hotel room, sifting through 58 photos of myself in the pool.

Me close up. Me farther away. Me laughing with an imaginary person in the distance. Me in portrait mode. Me looking down, pushing my hair back behind my ear and smiling like I’ve got a secret.

I pick a photo where I’m smiling straight into the camera. Confident. Relaxed, it says. THIS is a woman comfortable enough in her body to share a photo of herself in swimmers online. She might even be an inspiration. Now, all that’s left is to quickly bash out a caption to match.

“I love swimming but normally, I wouldn’t get my boyfriend to take photos of me because I don’t have a typical Instagram ‘bikini body’. I’m in Singapore at the moment and thought f*ck it because the only way to feel better about doing something that scares you or makes you feel embarrassed is, to quote Shia LaBeouf, JUST DO IT.”

Done.

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Right now, my body is bigger than it’s ever been. I’m also posting more photos of it in its entirety on Instagram than ever before.

I noticed this seemingly body-positive shift late one night scrolling back through my feed. Slowly, over a two-year period, my selfies have turned into above the waist shots, photos of my entire shape in bias-cut silk slip skirts and, the self-love jackpot, swimsuits.

Things that would’ve stopped me from posting a photo before — the outline of a roll, the shadow of an extra chin, skin that looks soft and dimpled — don’t bother me anymore. Talking about it with a friend, I’ve realised at some point, I came to the understanding that caring too much about how low my boobs hang and the way my upper arms look in T-shirts would hold me back in every area of my life.

My work. My social life. My relationship. Everything.

So I post the photos and write the captions and get on with my life. But only recently have I acknowledged an uncomfortable truth behind my body-positive Instagram posts.

 

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The truth is, there’s a fine line between genuinely loving and accepting yourself, and pretending to. I call it faux body positivity and I cross it almost every day. If I were to write a truly honest caption about how I was feeling in any of the photos above, it wouldn’t be half as empowering. It’d read more like this:

“My body and I aren’t mates. I’m deeply uncomfortable with how the side of my bra rubs against my skin and my thighs rub together on a hot day, and I’ve spent my entire life working and wishing for it to be different. I don’t hate my body, but I’ve detached myself from it completely.”

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Once I became aware of my own use of ‘faux body positivity’, I started to wonder if I’m the only one who’s kind of pretending to embrace their body on the internet. There’s 4,167, 278 posts on Instagram tagged #bodypositivity as we speak. Could some of those people be feeling the same way too?

Faux body positivity isn’t black and white. It’s complicated and there’s a lot more to it than straight out lying about loving yourself. Why? Because two things can be true at the same time. You can want to spread a positive message about how bodies come in all shapes and sizes online, while also thinking it’d be nice if yours looked different.

Personally, putting myself out there and talking about my body comes down to one thing: being comfortable with feeling deeply uncomfortable.

For me, hitching my wagon (full to the brim of messy self-image history) to the body positive movement is equal parts selfish and selfless. Posting a photo of myself in size 22 jeans explaining why I would’ve never done so five years ago and reading the supportive comments helps me feel like I’m not alone. It also makes others feel the same.

But maybe what would be more helpful is if I started being more honest about how I’m really feeling in the jeans — the good, the bad and the contradictory.

You can listen to Taryn Brumfitt’s take on body positivity in her No Filter interview with Mia Freedman below, post continues after audio.

Despite being a ‘curvy’ woman who loves clothes and feels comfortable enough with how I look in them to share full-length photos, I don’t identify with body positivity. Body indifference doesn’t have the same ring to it, but it feels like a comfier fit.

I’ve accepted and moved on from my ‘flaws’, like how the faint outline of the bit of my stomach that hangs over itself is visible underneath my favourite slip skirts. Do I wish it wasn’t? Yes. Do I care enough not to wear the skirts? Not any more.

And from the back, the soft underside of my upper arm pokes out of T-shirt sleeves. I don’t love how it looks, but I know it has no bearing on my personality or work ethic, or the kind of person I am and how I treat people. I want to change it, but in the meantime, I won’t stop wearing the T-shirts.

This is the kind of rationale I tell myself whenever I look in the mirror. I’m OK with not feeling OK.

So, even though body positivity isn’t 100 per cent for me, I’ll keep sharing body-positive photos of myself on my Instagram account. Mostly because I feel really strong about how important it is for people of all sizes to see themselves reflected back at them online.

And if a photo of me in a slip skirt, belly outline and all, can make a woman feel a bit more “normal”, it’s worth it.

How do you feel about faux body positivity on Instagram? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!

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