Most women our age can readily tell you which part of their body they are most self-conscious about or feel is their least attractive. For years we were deluged with stories, articles, and advice about how to fix whatever was wrong.
For me, it was my belly. I would read headlines like: “Flatten your belly in 10 days!” “Lose the belly weight,” “How to have a flat stomach,” and “How to dress to hide your belly!” And how many of us read the advice to always “hold-in your stomach”?
But things are changing. As part of being an entrepreneur in my 60s, I have contact with numerous millennials. Many of them are advocates of something they call Body Positivity. It has been a revelation to talk with them about this, so I thought I’d share what I learned with the Sixty and Me community.
Here are a few tenants of body positivity:
- Accept and appreciate the body you have.
- Help others feel comfortable with their bodies.
- Know that beauty comes in all sizes.
- Know that our bodies do change in relation to age and circumstance (pregnancy, illness, exercise, dietary changes, menopause, etc.).
- Believe all bodies are miraculous.
- Accept responsibility for your body; treat it with love and care. (This does not mean conforming to a certain size culturally deemed appropriate.)
- Love yourself and your body.
- Care for your body via appropriate rest, good nutrition, exercise, appreciation.
- Know you can be fit and healthy without being an exact size.
I thought about this for a long time and wondered how it would manifest for me, a woman in my 60s, having had a partial mastectomy, and still struggling with feeling good in my own skin. So, I created a list of my top 10 body positivity tips.
Five Things to Stop Doing
Many of us have gone down the negative thought spiral for way too long. Here are five things I suggest you stop doing:
#1: Stop Thinking Media Images Are Accurate
In the past, we heard about photos of models being “air brushed” by the magazine. Today, images are changed in a myriad of ways.
We can no longer assume the images are an accurate portrayal of the person behind the camera. In fact, I think it is better to err on the side of assuming they have been enhanced in some way.
#2: Stop Accepting Anyone Else’s Opinion or Judgment About Your Body
People seem to feel free to make comments and suggestions without being asked. Maybe they think it’s for “your own good.” I have decided I will no longer accept any unwanted advice or criticism. I don’t feel a need to push back. I simply ignore them.
#3: Stop Being So Self-Critical
We are often harder on ourselves than anyone else ever might be. I have recently adopted a self-listening practice. When I hear myself say, or even think, a harsh thought, I stop and remind myself to be affirming not harsh.
#4: Stop Waiting for My Body to Change in Some Way to Be Acceptable
I buy clothes that fit and complement my body as it is. Do not wait until those extra 10 pounds are off before buying a new dress. Buy the dress now. If it is one size up, so what? Love that dress and rock wearing it.
Do not think you have to tone your arms before you can even think about wearing something sleeveless. Keep working on toning your arms to increase strength and enjoy the accompanying muscle definition, but go sleeveless now.
#5: Stop Being Critical or Judgmental of Other Women’s Bodies
Again, do some self-monitoring. You might be surprised by how often you are criticizing other women. As you strive to be less self-critical, also strive to be less others-critical. If you are with a group that engages in this kind of critical talk, disengage.
Just don’t participate or change the subject to something more uplifting. If that doesn’t work, either leave the situation or speak up, saying something like, “I try not judge other women’s bodies.”
Five Things to Start Doing
Eliminating the negative is best done by engaging the positive. Try reframing your mind around these five positive actions:
#1: Start Looking for Media Images and Articles That Support Women’s Natural Beauty
We are seeing more models in a broader range of sizes. We are also seeing commercials using real women as opposed to professional models.
Women of all sizes have started posting their photos on Instagram, and though sometimes there may be critical or cruel comments, there’s always pushback in support of the brave woman. Patronize companies that have a wide range of sizes available and promote body positivity. Let your dollars reflect your beliefs.
#2: Start Accepting and Loving Your Body as It Is
I will never be a size 10 or even 12 again. So what? I can still choose clothing that reflects and celebrates who I am as a woman right now. I no longer avoid colors or prints that might make me look “too big.” I love color and I love prints and have found beautiful pieces in each.
#3: Start Monitoring Your Thoughts and Words and Turn the Negatives into Positives
I practice turning statements around. For example, I take, “My belly is too big, nothing looks right on me. No one makes clothes that fit and flatter me.”
Then I turn it around to, “I am curvy in lots of places that can enhance my clothing style and so are many other women. There are plenty of options out there now. I am going to choose outfits that make me look and FEEL good.”
#4: Start Noticing What Is Right About My Body as Opposed to What “Needs Improvement”
Instead of obsessing about my belly, I am going to celebrate my slim ankles and toned calves and buy some amazing shoes.
I have strong shoulders and a nice neck. I am going to show them off by wearing fitted sleeves and open necklines. I have gorgeous green eyes and will choose outfits that bring out that color.
#5: Start Noticing What Is Lovely About Other Women’s Bodies and Appearance, and When Appropriate, TELL Them!
I have adopted a new practice of speaking up when I see something lovely about another woman. It can be as simple as, “That scarf really complements your outfit.” Or, “I love your dress, you look beautiful.” Or “I love seeing a woman wear a hat with such style.” Or, “That necklace is so unique, how lovely!”
Or, if it is someone I know has been working out, I’d say, “Wow I can really see definition in your arms.” It is interesting to note the woman’s response. Some struggle with accepting the compliment and want to brush it off. Some are surprised and pleased. So many return a big smile and just say, “Thank you!”