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"Your body isn’t a failure." The 6 things you can do, immediately, to stop hating your body.

Loving your body after years of internalised self-hatred is hard. In fact, most of the time, it seems near impossible and unattainable. Kind of like the warped and extremely limited beauty ideals we’re somehow all supposed to embody.

But how, how do you bring yourself to a ceasefire when the war waged against your own body has existed for as long as you can remember? The truth is, I don’t have a straight answer.

Accepting your body doesn’t happen overnight. Some days my body and I just aren’t friends. Other days I’m like “Wow! I’m unstoppable and ready to conquer the world, squish and all” – until I either start to compare my body to someone else’s or stupidly feel guilty about treating myself. Relationship status: complicated.

How to improve your daughter’s body image. Post continues after video.

Video by MMC

Most of us by now are in the know about the oppressive and sexist systems in power that contribute to an almost universal experience of negative body image.

The way that society, the media, businesses, magazines, men and even other women talk about and judge the female body is enough reason to want to summon hellfire. Body positivity seems like the perfect alternative, the necessary antidote – and in many ways it is. It’s a way for us to finally be free.

However, in the words of badass body activist and author Jes Baker, “when we focus solely on learning to ‘love our bodies,’ there is a possibility that we are simply replacing the obsessive hatred around them with an equally obsessive love.”

I am a perfectionist. I get obsessive about things. I place pressures and expectations on myself that I would never put on someone else.

When I fail to meet certain standards, my first instinct is to beat myself up. This has been my response to my body when it’s been “too big, too squishy, too short, too curvy, and too round” to fit into society’s very limited and exclusive idea of “conventional” beauty. For so long I have felt that way.

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Now, thanks to body positive movements I realise that “it’s not me, it’s you” – you being the narrow-minded and harmful idea of beauty commonly perpetuated, which profits off our self-hatred and our inabilities to change our genetics to fit.

Positive body image
Wearing a bikini for the first time! You don't need abs to have fun at the beach. Image: Supplied.

That realisation is so very important, a necessary breakthrough on the way to body liberation but sadly, it’s also not a quick fix. It’s just the beginning.

I have come to realise that so early on in this journey, constant and unconditional love is yet another unrealistic expectation that I’ve set for myself.

My truth is, when deciding to work towards body acceptance, there will be good days and bad days. The trick is not to beat yourself up about it. Feel how you feel, have your moment - your pity party - but let it be just that.

I say this not to be preachy or because I’m in possession of some wisdom that you aren’t, but as a literal public reminder to myself. I’m trying to hold myself accountable here.

Sidenote: Rebecca Sparrow answers your questions about how to not hate your body. Post continues after podcast.

Since beginning this journey, I have learned and been taught a few tips and tricks that have made it a hell of a lot easier:

1. Know who the real enemy is.

I talked about this earlier, but you really aren’t the problem here. I don’t care what size you are or what you can’t do, your body isn’t a failure. The system has failed us. I won’t take up word count here discussing it, but the system is completely against us and...always has been.

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Megan Jayne Crabbe’s book Body Positive Power explains this perfectly.

2. Go on a media diet (aka the only type of diet I will ever advocate for).

Not that there’s anything wrong with looking 'conventionally' beautiful but personally, whenever I see my Instagram flooded with digitally altered images of seemingly perfect women, I feel absolutely sh*t. It just does not empower me. Comparison really is the thief of joy.

Obviously, these images affect people differently but without the decision to unfollow various fitspo pages and Victoria's Secret models etc, and to instead follow women who looked like me or who were at least un-photoshopped, I would have never found the body positive movement and its role models. Representation is beyond powerful.

The first time I started to see images of plus-size models flashing radiant smiles and sporting carefree attitudes, it felt like taking my first breath. Unfollow anyone who makes you feel bad and seek out the type of content that makes you feel good.

3. Become aware of and confront your own biases.

Find the beauty in everyone. Be honest about the standards you hold other bodies to. Be honest about the criticisms you make of not only yourself but others and recognise where they come from. It’s easier to show love to yourself when you show love to others.

Maybe your own insecurities have caused you to make unfair judgements of other bodies? It’s important to take accountability and to reframe your perspective.

positive body image
Breaking the rules I had set for myself that were unkind and restrictive, and just wearing what I wanted to wear! Image: Supplied.
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4. Recognise the ways that you hold yourself back.

Minimise the worth and validity of your negative thoughts by rebelling against yourself through bold and affirming actions. For me, this meant wearing a bikini to the beach for the first time last summer because the beach is going to get whatever body I give it.

I was SO scared but it felt amazing. I couldn’t believe I’d held myself back for this long thinking something horrible would happen. Spoiler: it didn’t.

It has also meant making braver fashion choices, like buying a very tight dress that I adored that really did expose my lil' round belly. I had ruled this out for the longest time and deemed it a dress only for skinnier girls but I felt the best I have ever felt at any social event.

5. Find other reasons to appreciate your body that aren’t based on physical attraction.

So much value is placed on how appealing or sexually attractive our bodies look, but that is so far from their actual purpose. Our bodies are magic and capable beyond belief, no matter what shape or size their exterior presents.

They are at work 24/7 allowing us to live and move - granted there is a privilege in being able-bodied and disabled bodies are just as valid and magic.

I've learnt that while my body hates cardio, it is also strong. I am amazing at resistance work in the gym and can literally crush a man with my thick thighs at Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu (a sport that changed everything for me).

Find out what your body can do and find pride in that. Exercise shouldn’t be a punishment; it should be a celebration of what your body can do. Be grateful for all of your body's little victories, even if it just means thanking it for getting from point A to point B.

6. Initiate honest and safe conversations about body image.

You’ll discover you’re not alone. This means eliminating any negative dialogue from your circles. Don’t spend time sh*t talking about yourself or others when you are with your people.

I personally have so many amazing people to thank for helping me get where I am today. Conversations and shared resources create healing and community - it is invaluable.

All of us can work our way into the self-love club together.

Sunny Adcock is a blogger, writer, and feminist from Sydney with a talent for reading books until the late hours and binging Netflix at always inopportune times. You can read her work at www.asunnyspot.com.au, follow her on Instagram @sunny_adcock, or on twitter @A_SunnySpot.   

Tags: beauty , body-positivity , feature , health
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