In the past two years the Body Positive movement has gained serious momentum.
At its core the body positive moment strives to challenge mainstream ideas of beauty and the ‘perfect’ or even ‘normal’ body. I’m sure it comes as no shock to most people that the media has a very narrow representation of ‘normal’ bodies. Usually white, able-bodied, straight and below a size 10.
The media’s skewed representation of what is ‘normal’ and ‘healthy’, can be very damaging. All my life I compared myself to women in magazines and would make myself feel terrible for not looking like them. Even when I lost weight and was the smallest size I have ever been, I would still look in the mirror and say it’s not enough.
The body positive movement strives for better representation of a huge variety of different women and men. Fat. Skinny. Tall. Short. Black. White. Disabled. Able. Gay. Straight.
The idea is that everybody is worthy of self-love no matter what your body type, skin tone, ability or sexual or gender orientation. As long as you are happy and healthy that’s all that matters.
I love the body positivity movement. Seeing a variety of different women who look more like me, makes me feel more confident. The fact is I am never going to look like Taylor Swift and that is okay- in fact, it’s great because diversity is natural!
However there is one aspect of the body positive movement that I struggle with.
As a young woman with multiple chronic health conditions, I am the epitome of ‘not healthy’.
My body is disfunctional, it doesn’t do what it is supposed to do. My immune system attacks my joints, my brain doesn’t function correctly and I have seizures, and my mind panics and plunges into depression.
In the world we live in, health is ‘normal’ and ill health is ‘abnormal’. There is a focus not just on what is the right way to look, but also the right way to be. To be ill, is a deficit.
One of the hardest things to deal with when diagnosed with a chronic health condition is that your body becomes the enemy. It is rebelling, not doing what it is supposed to do. It becomes abnormal.
For a long time I have been ashamed of my body, not just because of how it looks, but because of how it functions. There are times when I really, truly hate myself.
Having a chronic health condition and disability is often framed in terms of what you can’t do or what you lack. We are trained to believe that your illness and your body is your enemy.
In fact, your health condition is just as much a part of you as the colour of your eyes, or your body type. You are different, and that should be celebrated!
There are around 64 million people in the UK and there is an estimated 15 million people living with long term health conditions. Nearly a quarter of all UK citizens. That is a lot of people! And hearing that number makes you feel a lot less alone and less ‘abnormal’.
Although having a long term health condition and a disability can be frustrating at times it is nothing to be ashamed of, it is not abnormal. You are just as worthy of self-love if you have a chronic condition as any other person.
It’s taken me a long time to reconcile myself with the fact that my body whilst disfunctional is my best friend. Although she may not always work in the conventional way. It is not despite my condition that I am who I am, it is in many ways because of her. She has given me a unique outlook on life, she has made me mentally strong, innovative, empathetic and without my condition I would not be the woman I am today. And that is positive.
From speaking to other people with similar conditions to mine, I know that a lot of people struggle with thinking of their body and condition as a friend. This is a really important step for disabled people and people with chronic conditions. It becomes a lot easier to accept reasonable adjustments and make changes in order to live more independently, if you are proud of who you are and your condition.
I love the Body Positive Movement, I think it is incredibly important. But I think most associate body positivity with weight and body size. Actually body positivity is about accepting and loving your body regardless of what it looks like or how it functions. It is about making friends with your body, and being proud of all of its characteristics, including your disability.
To learn more about the Body Positive Movement here are some excellent starting points: