I remember the first time I heard the phrase “body positive” (bopo for short). I remember thinking to myself that it was sort of an awesome way to describe what I had been teaching myself for years.
Social media has obviously created a larger than life platform for the message of self love and body positive notions to be spread. But there’s an element in the body positive language that I often see get overlooked when we look at the grand scheme of things. Body positive is mostly associated with the way one’s body looks.
To be honest, while I see women of all sizes utilizing this popular phrase; I often see it associated with women who are attempting to accept their fat bodies. It’s associated with size so much that I myself forgot that it could be applied to my struggle with the physiological changes my body (and many other bodies) is encountering right now.
A few days ago I traveled back home to Philly to participate in a promotional video shoot for The Philadelphia Curves Weekend.
To get there in a timely manner I chose to fly. I overestimated my ability to walk through the airport and to stand in line for TSA security check. 5 minutes into my green mile walk, I was in tears, my hip and back were threatening to give out and I could barely see straight. With immense embarrassment, I exited the line, my heart thumping and my body feeling as if it were overheating. As I was limping over to an empty seat under the unwanted gaze of onlookers; my husband was arriving with wheelchair issued by Southwest Airlines.
I was losing it, right there in the airport, tears streaming as my husband helped my 33 year old body ease into a wheelchair. As he rolled me through the line and to security and eventually to the the gate; I was in my head. My thoughts were all negative. ALL of them. I spoke resentfully to myself, begged God to explain why me, and tried to disappear from the inquisitive looks of people who I was so certain just thought I was fat and lazy.
I was so wrapped up in the negative thoughts of how I was feeling that I managed to overlook that the physical discomfort I was in had all but dissipated. It wasn’t until I was preparing to board that I realized my blood pressure had come down, my hives were gone, and the excruciating pain that had been shooting through my body was gone. And in that moment I realized I really have some work to do on being 100% body positive.
I never imagined that I’d be diagnosed with arthritis in my 30s. It was literally the furthest thing from my mind just 4 years ago when I was moving to the south. So when it came on the heels of my hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s diagnosis; it literally almost broke me down mentally. Almost.
While it’s something that affects me daily, I do my best to not let it shape the way I view myself. Some moments are harder than others. Arriving on set Monday morning to shoot, I was immediately feeling the anxiety of having to wear heels, a bathing suit and be on my feet for any extended period of time.
Thankfully, Catherine Ashly, the owner of Plus Size Me Plz and sponsor of The Philadelphia’s Curves weekend is a lupus warrior. She understands physical pain and was beyond sympathetic to my needs.
So when I took a seat in between shots, and didn’t dance as lively as my colleagues that day; she checked on me to make sure I was ok. And as I looked around at the different women doing their thing that day, I really had to have a come to Jesus meeting right there in then in my head.
My body does not operate the way it once did. It does not operate like everyone else’s either, and that is ok. I have been struggling to accept my limitations, spending a lot of time dwelling on what I used to be able to do and not what I’m still able to do. I’m in pain every single day even when you see me smile. When I pose for a picture, when I’m limping along in the hallways at work , when I get up first thing in the morning until I get back in for the night.
The only people who get to see that struggle up close and personal is my husband and my children and those close enough to me to get a glimpse occasionally. They love me unconditionally and never make it a point to make me feel less than, and they are who I am learning my lesson from on how to be body positive.
Being positive about my body is so much more than my size; it’s loving it despite the actual flaws that exist. (And I say actual because my body’s size nor shape is a flaw, and I refuse to treat it as such) Having to love this body even though arthritis and hypothyroidism have caused it to function differently has proven to be an obstacle and I’m not proud of that. However, this is the body I have to spend my time in, so until that changes, it’s best I learn to TRULY love it.
My love of my body cannot be conditioned by trendy hashtag movements or the latest views perpetuated by whomever the influencer of the hour is. This positive view of my body has to be so much more than how I look in a pair of jeans or a short skirt. This is where my I can say my real passion for bopo activism has begun.