What Is Body Positivity, and How Can You Practice It?

Body positivity sounds simple, right? Doesn’t it just mean feeling positive about your body? If only it were that elementary. But the phrase has come to encompass all sorts of things, from brand campaigns — think Dove Beauty — to political movements. And then there’s us: We’re here to get back to the basics of the whole idea. Sure, everyone from Insta influencers to activists have their own definitions, but at its core, body positivity still means a few basic things.

What Body Positivity Is — and What It’s Not

The Body Positive, an organization founded in 1996, has this as its summary statement: Listen to your body, learn, and thrive. They say they’re in the business of “helping people develop balanced, joyful self-care and a relationship with their whole selves that is guided by love, forgiveness and humor.” Sounds pretty good, right? 

But we all know that’s easier said than done. When you look in the mirror and see your “flaws,” it’s easy to lapse into critical thinking and forget all about body positivity. Truth is, it’s not about loving your body all the time, because that would be impossible. It IS about balance and self-care. In other words, it’s the idea that you can live comfortably in your own body (or work on it) joyfully and nourishingly. 

There’s no place for beating yourself up if you don’t look a certain way. It’s simply about acceptance and acknowledging your value comes from who you are — not how you look. In the words of cancer survivor and sex educator Ericka Hart, it’s “people existing in their bodies in ways that feel good to them, in whatever that looks like.”

So how do you get started on a journey towards body positivity? Read on for a few ways you can dive in.

The Right Role Models

Even with all of its movements toward inclusivity, society still bombards us with images of “perfect” bodies. See that latest magazine spread or the Academy Awards red-carpet show? Yeah, those bodies. This is when being proactive about practicing body positivity is most essential. It won’t just fall into your lap; you have to be intentional about it.

And let’s face it: this visual culture isn’t going anywhere. So instead of accosting your eyes with images of perfection, intentionally follow body-positive Instagram influencers and bloggers. As plus-size blogger Marie Denee says, "[Body positivity] means accepting your body, curves, rolls, lumps, bumps and all and accepting it as worthy. Worthy of love, of existing, of receiving the same level of value placed upon it as the next body. It is radical self love, despite society's ideals of beauty. It is daring to allow yourself permission to don that two-piece bathing suit . . . and learning to stare at your body in all of its naked glory and love on it.” Talk about inspirational. Now that’s the kind of messaging to soak up on social media. The hate, the negativity, the perfection? Nah, you don’t need that; so avoid those trappings and go where you can get the good stuff.

Your Relationship with Others

Boy, is this a big deal. We are so prone to comparing ourselves with others that it’s almost second nature. But it’s deadly. Remember that, just like a fingerprint, every body is unique. Embrace yours for what it is, remembering you’re not supposed to look like anyone else. And while you’re at it, take things a step further and begin freely complimenting others for things you admire about them. There’s freedom in appreciating other people; being less critical of them helps you be less critical of yourself.

Your Personal Development

It’s so easy for us to slide into the trap of calling ourselves names when we can’t fit into the size we thought we were or when we put on a swimsuit. But it is critical to combat that impulse. So look for self-love affirmations that talk about your personal worth, not a number on a scale. Write them down and stick them on your fridge, on your bathroom mirror, in your car . . . anywhere where you spend a lot of time. 

Remind yourself with body-positive mantras that you ARE enough. In your own skin. Just as you are. Remind yourself that you are more than how you look. A lot more. Being body positive means focusing on the whole of who you are. Develop hobbies and interests. Invest in relationships. Find your self-worth not in what you look like but in who you truly are. In this way, you take the focus off how your body looks and what it can do for you. So go on and jump headfirst into activities that make you feel good about being you.

Body positivity may be easier said than done, but it IS doable. In the end, as one anonymous writer said, “Be so completely yourself that everyone else feels safe to be themselves, too.”   

Stacey Kole was managing editor of the national beauty and style magazine Savvy and is currently a freelance writer and editor based out of Phoenix, Arizona.