Women of various sizes and races posing together

Beautiful curvy model(Images taken from Selfridges EVERYBODY campaign)

There’s been a growing trend on social media that is becoming harder and harder to ignore, namely the body positivism movement – a movement that aligns itself to the idea that one can be positive and accepting of their own body, as well as the bodies of others, and that ALL bodies are beautiful, irrespective of perceived difference. By Bryoney Cook

In this media-saturated, constantly connected world, we are fed images and ideas of “perfection” ad nauseum. From how to get a bikini body, to the celebs we see photoshopped to within an inch of their lives, what we see is not reality. One of the negative sides of the movement is that, counter to the building up and supporting between people of all shapes, sizes, colours and gender identities is the appearance of the online troll, the modern day equivalent of the playground bully.

So, how do we learn to love ourselves despite the comments, the stares and all round negativity? Here are five invaluable pieces of advice I’ve found helpful in my journey to self-acceptance:

1) Listen to what those closest say about you
I will be the first to admit it, this was something I was terrible at. That was until I took a course where giving and receiving feedback was compulsory. Constructive feedback, of course, and it was of both a personal and professional nature. I learned a lot about myself. It truly is the case that we never see ourselves as others see us. Though my lightbulb moment was in a formal classroom setting, I realised that I had been very dismissive about what friends and family  had said about me, my appearance and personality. I started to take notice. I started to accept compliments more readily, instead of brushing them off – if you hear it often enough, you start to believe it. You can even start to remind yourself of it when you feel a bit less confident – there’s real evidence that shows positive affirmations can have lasting effects.

2) Do not feed the trolls/bullies/negative nellies
Just don’t engage with them. Things can go from mildly unpleasant to nasty. I’ve seen insults thrown around that escalate into threats and bad language within the community when the trolls strike. Depending on your profession in the ‘real’ world, it can land you in a difficult situation. The internet is after all, unregulated. But even in the offline world, there can be stares and whispers by people who cannot accept difference. Ignore them. Enjoy what you are doing with the company you are in. You’ll be so busy being fabulous their stares won’t even register.

3) Be kinder to yourself
Take a long look at yourself in the mirror. Spend time looking at those areas you are less confident about, rather than only those you can accept. Find one positive thing to you can tell yourself about them. For me, I had two areas like this – my arms (which have always been on the hairy side), and my legs (I always despised my chunky calves that I could never squeeze into knee high boots). A wise person told me to change my mindset. Rather than focus on the shortcomings I believed I had, I was told to look at the things I could do or offer to others. Give someone a hug, write… It doesn’t happen overnight, it does take time, but by being kinder to yourself and focusing on the positive, rather than the negative you can change your entire outlook.

4) Accept that here will be good days and bad days
Go easy on yourself if your confidence levels dip. Do something you love. Immerse yourself in a book, take a walk, do something that challenges you. Focus on your life, rather than what others think about your life. You are the only person you have to answer to. We don’t have to like it, but by acknowledging our bad days we can learn to work through them.

5) Stop comparing yourself to others
This kind of negative self talk will only bring you down. So, you don’t look like the model in the magazine? You can’t identify with them. The internet can be a wonderful thing for this, trolls aside. Seek out people you DO identify with. For me, that was through reading plus size blogs. Seeing women that were like me, dressing to suit themselves, rather than what society expected them to wear, really helped boost my confidence and develop my sense of style – no mean feat by the time you are a thirty-something.

Where are you on your journey to self acceptance?