Real talk: A lesson in radical self-love

How I love my body, even when I don’t

By Sarah Foot
@sarahfoot

I’m 13 and I close my eyes ritualistically before I swing open my shower curtain. The only thing I fear in my adolescence is my own body.

I’m 23 and my eyes are open as I let a strange (but wonderful) woman photograph my breasts. The only thing I fear now is my mother not understanding how happy I am.

It took me 10 years to come to terms with myself and let Angie Winona, a local photographer, document this stage of the journey. As a part of her body positivity project, Winona is capturing women of all shapes and sizes as their natural selves. Free from objectification, this project serves as an example of how -as women – we can break free from the cycle of self-sexualization and sabotage.

Hating your body is like dragging around ankle chains. Pointless, frustrating, constant, and, beyond all else, exhausting. Yet, we live in a culture that chastises self-love as conceitedness. Today in Canada, over 80 per cent of women are displeased with their appearance. Unlearning this can be challenging – but necessary.

Trust me – I know. I spent 22 years of my life fighting the mirror instead of cooperating. Growing up, I was always on the chubbier side but I never really had one of those, “Oh man, I’m heavy” moments. Instead, it was just a gnawing feeling in my abdomen. I convinced myself that once I “got skinny” happiness would fill me to the brim.

Fast forward to a continually self-conscious 20 year old after a bad break up that finally decides to shed the pounds she hates. After three hours in the gym per day, and a more fucking lettuce than any human (not bunny) should consume, I achieved my “goal weight.” Without achieving any kind of satisfaction.

Still, I had that gnawing sensation. Plus, I was hangry. A terrible combination.

How come I wasn’t jumping at the beach in adoration of myself like Cosmo made it seem like I would? Why was I still nervous to be naked around my lovers, questioning my sex appeal?

Self-love has close to nothing to do with shape or size, and that’s when it dawned on me. Mental health (which is tied to physical in other ways than weight) is the signifier. I could lose as much weight as I wanted but never be healthy. Loving myself is a journey and a rocky road – but the hike is worth it. Photographing my body may – on the surface – seem like a shallow decision to seek approval. But to me (along with many women and men), displaying my body is empowering and radical.

Our bodies are so powerful. After all, we are stuck with them. “Loving yourself” looks different to each of us – but here are some things I remind myself, and suggest to remember on your journey.

Embrace individuality. Your body is one of a kind. Every bump, curve and freckle you house is yours and yours alone. There’s a little bit of comfort in knowing the connection you have with each blemish is intimate and – if you choose – can exist without relation to anyone else. There’s a special kind of beauty that is exclusive to being one-of-a-kind. Embracing that fact also has the power to loosen the grip of competition (that can steal a lot of joy). Once we accept the individual, why are toxic comparisons even relevant?

Know yourself – inside and out. Loving your body is important. Your self-worth is more than just physical, though. Body positivity often focuses on reiterating the narrative that all sizes are beautiful or sexy. As much as this is true, our bodies and selves are so much more than for sexual attraction. Placing worth on our body’s ability to just be is significant. Bodies are tools, vehicles and homes and each works in a different way. Oftentimes we forget how intensely our bodies perform on the inside – they are literally kicking ass for us 24 hours a day. Fighting infections, illness, digesting nachos and hangovers. Embracing your holistic being, along with your curves, might be the sexiest thing we can do.

Hang out naked. Seriously. Do it. Take three minutes to stare in the mirror and feel all the feelings. What do you see and why? We avoid looking at ourselves in all our glory. How come? This time is essential. As adults, they’re the only moments with our bodies alone and completely free from the sexual gaze. Taboos surrounding nudity seep into every part of life, even our “me” time. Take that back and make your body your own again. Feel sexy from acknowledging your own gaze – not just others’.

Take the good with the bad. We all have our good days and – believe me – we all have our bad days. Being body positive doesn’t mean being 100 per cent every minute. It’s okay to feel awkward or unhappy at times. Don’t punish yourself for having a bad day or week. Hell – there are times I visibly grimace at my own selfies. What’s important is working to make the good days outnumber the not-so-good days. It’s knowing the negativity is a manifestation of our internal struggles – not anything wrong with our shape.

Most importantly – be kind to yourself. Ate too much cheesecake? You’re a-ok. Slept through your morning jog? Still #1. As long as you’re living the healthiest lifestyle that works for you, your body is beautiful. We all gain those extra five pounds in December. I like to think it’s extra joy (that hangs out around my tummy). Forgive and forget. Treat your body as you’d treat your best friend. Your body deserves peace, honesty and love.

As a woman, loving yourself may be one of the hardest, most radical things you can do. Taking selfies, posing nude or being totally modest are all incredible ways to feel good, even if it stems from others’ approval. We each have our own needs that are valid and essential. Appreciating your body in any capacity shouldn’t be seen as unattractive, and that we can extend to the women around us. Celebrating our sisters instead of viewing them as competition is essential in this plight. Like those thigh shots, applaud that selfie. Show the world that loving yourself can only lead to amazing, positive things.

 

sarah foot

 

Sarah is a sass-filled writer and editor with an unapologetic obsession with bunnies. Catch her talking intersectionality, music your mom hates and crushes on ’90s hunks through your social media stream of choice.