I’m a huge fan of body positivity and am loving my body more than ever! However, my confidence tends to get a bit shaky when I think about running into people that knew me when I was thinner. I always imagine they must be thinking 'she’s let herself go' or 'he used to be so pretty' even though I know they probably aren’t thinking about me at all, and it’s just my lingering insecurities talking. Any tips on how to get to a place where you don’t care as much what others think?
As someone who's spent a lifetime trying to find their own validation through the eyes of others – whether it was friends, partners, or complete strangers – I completely understand how difficult it is to let that go. We're taught that our bodies exist to be visually appealing to other people, and that all the decisions we make about our appearance should be based on what their judgements will be. Of course we struggle to take back that validation and give it to ourselves instead.
I think the biggest barrier often is truly believing that our bodies don't exist for other people's approval. It's a concept that's easy to agree with in principle, but harder to apply to yourself on a daily basis. So keep reminding yourself of this: your purpose in life might be a million different things, but it sure as hell is not to look pretty for other people.
Your existence is not about fitting a made-up cultural standard of what a 'good' body is, and performing that image for others. You are not a lifeless piece of art hanging in a museum for people to pass and make judgements on, you are a living, breathing human being. And your body is simply the tool that allows you to experience your life. How it looks on the outside was never supposed to be the focus of the design. We've just been convinced that it is.
Beyond knowing that, remind yourself of the kind of person who makes judgements on every body that they see. I was that person. I'm sure you've been that person at times as well. The person who's drowning in their own insecurities and body image issues, and trying to keep themselves afloat by pulling another person down into the water instead. People who are truly content don't feel the need to boost themselves by tearing down others. And anyone whose first impulse is to critique another person's body, has just revealed how much of their own mental energy goes towards thinking about appearance above all else. More than likely, including their own.
That doesn't necessarily make them a horrible evil person, it just means that they're still stuck playing the diet culture game, when you've got out. You know something they don't know. Which means that you can take any hurt or anger you feel towards them for their comments, and try to wish them the best instead. Wish them the same freedom that you've found. Wish them a wake up call. Wish for them to heal whatever pain they're holding onto that's making them hurt other people.
As I get older I'm learning more and more, that I am the only person who gets to decide how I feel about myself. And I get to decide who I give the power to define me. That power is yours and yours alone, so take it back.
And if their definition of 'letting yourself go' is actually the effect of letting go of self-hatred, diet culture and a lifetime of body image issues, then I say that letting yourself go never looked so good.
Love & bopo,