As a body positive researcher, I gathered an impressive collection of marginalized people to follow on social media. Instagram became my heaven. Through doing this research and running TROU Lit. Mag. , I have surrounded myself with people who might be considered different.
A couple of curious things happened through the last three years of this kind of social media consumption. Viewing people who are different on a regular basis changed my views of what is considered “normal” and it changed my views of myself and my own body.
For those of you who follow body positive accounts, you won’t be surprised by this news, and in theory, I was not surprised either. But there was a moment, a special moment, where this theory clicked inside my mind and became reality.
I was doing my usual thing, scrolling through Instagram, checking out all the beautiful people who looked like me with rolls, puckers, stretch marks and sags, when suddenly an image of some very thin women appeared in my feed.
I must admit, at first, I was repulsed. And in this moment, something inside my mind shifted. (I know admitting I was repulsed sounds terrible, so please bear with me.)
When I was younger, I was repulsed by my own body. I did not fit in, literally and figuratively. I wanted to be thinner. I tried to be thinner. I felt awkward in my skin, awkward in social situation, and just generally bad about myself any time I had to buy new clothes.
Then one day, something shifted. It occurred to me that my body is as it is. All the effort I had made to change it, did nothing. I still looked the same.
This is one of the things that lead me to body positivity and I have really grown to love the community, the bravery, and beauty which is displayed by those who are outside the ideal beauty standards. I surrounded myself with inspiring bodies that looked like mine, were wonderful, like mine, were useful and full of value, like mine. I changed what I fed my mind and it mattered so, so much.
Then, the thin women crossed my view and I was shocked at their smallness. When in the past, I would have seen that as the standard, my own personal ideals changed because of what I was looking at. In the past, I would have compared myself to these women and how I would never look like them and feel ashamed and hopeless, now I looked at them and marveled at how I would never look like them and felt love for myself. And I also became conscious of my thought process and the quickness with which we judge others who don’t look like us. I had been repulsed by these women. In a world where they are the epitome of beauty, how did that happen? It made me think about how many times someone was repulsed by my body. It probably happens a lot, though I’m not totally sure.
Now, with the change in what I fed my mind I have come to accept myself more. Thin does not automatically equal beautiful, just as fat does not automatically equal ugly. I have made an attempt to practice acceptance, for anyone who is not like me. It is not easy. It takes retraining to remove judgmental thoughts from your mind’s vocabulary. I think I have made strides in at least making course corrections when I judge someone. I stop to consider why they look that way, and what is it that is making me have a knee jerk response. Then I attempt to formulate alternative ideas and thoughts I can have about them. Most of the time, I find something attractive in that person.
So, for the last thought of this blog, I encourage you to go out there and check out two different types of social media feeds. The first, is someone who looks like you, because representation matters. The second, is someone who doesn’t look like you, because representation matters, and expanding our world view matters.
Thanks for reading.