Articles - 3rd June 2019

Body Acceptance

Words by Juju Sheikh

We live in an age where we are constantly fed images of ‘perfection’. Airbrushed skin, edited faces and bodies; it has become the norm for us now. We scroll through Instagram and see these images and the thought instantly pops into our minds ‘why don’t I look like that?’, we can’t help it. We as a generation have an unattainable beauty ideal and this, I believe, is the reason for the massive increase in popularity in cosmetic and plastic surgery.

But on the bright side, this influx of edited images has caused a rebellion: body positivity. More and more, influencers are calling BS on perfectly constructed photos by posting ‘instagram vs. reality’ pictures, to show just how much of a difference good lighting and airbrushing can make. Remember that people mostly only show pictures of themselves where they look their best. I’m a Personal Trainer and I don’t have abs every day. And when I do, it’s a combination of a good ab day, good lighting and tensing. Sometimes I’m bloated as hell and just wanna wear a big baggy t-shirt and eat ice cream. But this is what you don’t see on Instagram.

So, there are two movements here: body positivity and body acceptance. Body positivity is essentially saying ‘I love every roll, stretch mark and flabby bit on my body and I don’t need to change’. Whereas body acceptance is more ‘sure, I have parts of myself that I want to change (we’re all human) and I have goals, but I don’t hate myself for not having reached my goals yet or having my idea of the perfect body.’

It is so easy to get sucked into this virtual world where you, quite frankly, feel like you are not good enough. The idea of body acceptance has been something I’ve had a very hard time with myself. I was never naturally athletic or slim. When I was young, I was a little chubby and hadn’t ‘blossomed’ some might say. I always wanted to be skinny, like my best friend, or pretty, like my sister. Yes, I now love working out and have gotten to a stage where I’m happy with my body, but that isn’t solely because of my body changing. It’s also because I’ve learned to accept myself. I’m 5ft 2. I will NEVER have long legs or big boobs. I’m not naturally skinny and that’s okay. Who set these rules for how we should look? If you constantly aspire to be something else, you’ll never be happy with what you are.

Body acceptance is one of the most liberating feelings. Body ideals are nothing but social constructs, love yourself and the body you’re in. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that it is wrong to have goals and aspire to build muscle or lose weight or whatever your goal might be. I’m saying love your body and the (attainable) body you aspire to have. Aspire to achieve your goals, to reach a healthier version of yourself, not because you hate the body you have now, but because you want to work towards something you feel is better.

Once you make this shift, you’ll find such a sense of relief. Just ask yourself; what good does self-hate do? Often, when people go into working out/losing weight with negative feelings towards themselves, it is seen as a punishment rather than a positive step towards a healthier life. This leads to anger from not seeing results, giving up, and yes, more self-hate. Of course, we are all human, we have our good days and bad days, but don’t let your insecurities take over your brain.

My advice?

Remember that you are your own unique person and you should never try to be like anyone else.

This is so easy to say, but really read those words and let them sink in. If you spend your life aspiring to look like someone else, you will never be happy.

Stop comparing yourself to people.

Everyone is different. Some people are naturally more muscular, more slim, taller or smaller. I guarantee that whilst you’re wishing for something someone else has, they are wishing for something you have that you probably don’t even think twice about.

Don’t follow people on social media that make you feel bad about yourself.

Follow people on social media that motivate you to do better, that make you feel good and who make you happy.

After reading this, don’t feel like you’re failing at ‘body acceptance’ when you have a day where you just feel gross. We all have days where we don’t feel great and not everyone is comfortable with shouting to the hilltops that they love their imperfections. Just try to be mindful of shifting away from self-hate and moving in a positive way towards body acceptance and achieving your goals.

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