“Body positivity” is an increasingly used term describing the importance of accepting your body no matter the shape. The pro to this movement is releasing the negativity people may direct toward their physical selves and allowing them to feel comfortable in their body. As someone who has struggled in this area, I know how feeling negative about my body in the past has caused me to either neglect it or treat it badly with a poor diet and little to no physical activity. After all, if you don’t like something – how well do you take care of it? The con of the body positivity movement – a focus solely on physical appearance and body shape which, in and of itself, can be counterintuitive to its purpose.
With this in mind, I propose a different term – “self-positivity.” To me, this means accepting oneself for all that you are: physically, mentally, and emotionally – all of the things that embody who you are – pun intended. Embracing your whole self, flaws (real and perceived) and all. We all know we are experts at finding what we think are inadequacies or defects in ourselves regardless of how big, or small, or sometimes non-existent those things are. We’ve all seen the most successful supermodels or celebrities talk about, and sometimes obsess, on something in themselves that they perceive as negative or unacceptable to them – something often no one else sees. This can lead to unhealthy diet fads, dangerous and extreme exercise regimens, excessive cosmetic procedures, and extreme mental/emotional self-help obsessions. All of which cause more harm than good.
The key to self-positivity for me was understanding myself. What really makes me happy, anxious, calm, stressed-out, productive, unmotivated, friendly, anti-social, joyful, or sad? Understanding why I feel sad, why I feel physically “off,” why I am stressed; and conversely why I feel productive, happy, or motivated. When in any of these states, I stop and ask myself why I feel this way? When I’m unproductive, is it because I was coming off a long week and my body was telling me to rest? Or was I feeling a bit melancholy, and if so – why? Learning why I feel a certain way helps me to begin to channel and tap into the positive things and to identify and address the negative.
One of the best things we can all do is to stop being so hard on ourselves! What you may perceive as a negative trait in yourself, others may envy as a quality they wish they had. Begin embracing your personality and the benefits of each facet of who you are. Understand that your personal superpower may lie in an area of yourself you may believe as unfavorable. I have actually had compliments from others on a personal trait I truly disliked in myself – that offered perspective for me and I now appreciate that part of me. If there is something you truly believe is negative and detrimental to you, work on making that change in a healthy way that works for you – without viewing YOU in a negative light. Sometimes all we need is self-awareness and a personal plan to lead us to the self-care we need.
Most importantly – you can accept yourself and feel positive about who you are in totality – yet still address ways to improve yourself and be healthy in all facets of your being whether it is physical, mental, or emotional. Having things you’d like to work on, doesn’t mean feeling bad about that area of self-improvement. If you really feel unhappy with your physical well-being, accept where you are now, and work on ways to get healthier and in the place you want it to be. If you are concerned with your mental well-being, don’t beat yourself up, instead acknowledge you need help, and then find something that works for you whether it be meditation, therapy, talking to a trusted person close to you, finding something you enjoy doing such as a hobby or activity; the list is endless.
Practice self-positivity and accept where you are now, learn about what makes you tick, and move forward to improve those things you’d like to work on without feeling like a failure for not being who you want to be right now. Once you accept and actually like who you are in all your individual glory and refrain from comparing yourself to others, you’ll be amazed at how awesome you really are!
Melanie Roussell is Director, Client Relations and Agency Services and has been with Vitality for 8 years, with over 20 years in the employee benefits field. As a full-time remote Vitality employee in St. Petersburg, Florida, Melanie relocated from Chicago where she worked at Vitality’s main office. When not working, Melanie spends her free time with family, friends, pets, many overly ambitious home projects, working with local animal rescues, and her pandemic-born obsession for mandala painting.