Why We All Need More Body Kindness in our Lives
Everyone deserves to feel good in their body, regardless of size, colour, ability, or gender identity. But it’s not always easy. We spoke to Dinah Gibbons, the founder of Bodykind Festival - the world’s first ever body acceptance festival - about how we can be more body-kind, to ourselves and others.
What is body kindness all about?
DG: Our bodies quite often become the focus of our discontent. If we wake up feeling a bit crap, our bodies will often get the blame. That’s when we start telling ourselves we’re too fat, we’re ugly, no one will ever love us. I firmly believe the kinder we can be to ourselves and our bodies, the kinder we become to other people. It’s a way of bringing more love into the world.
We so easily pick up on messages from the media, from adverts, from social media, that we’re not good enough and need to change something in order to fit into some idea of beauty or an acceptable look. Body kindness is a radical challenge to that.
Who is body kindness for?
DG: Body kindness is not just for people struggling with eating disorders or for people who have been body shamed. Almost everyone has some level of discontent with their bodies, therefore, body kindness is for everybody. For some people it will be obvious they are unhappy with the way they look but for a lot of us, it’s so internalised and normalised, we’re not even aware of the way we treat, relate to, and talk about our bodies in less than loving ways.
How can we be more body kind towards ourselves?
DG: Body kindness doesn’t mean buying yourself bubble bath. It’s more about asking your body exactly what it needs. It’s about intuitive living and checking in with yourself. We are so often chucking our bodies through life, but are we actually nourishing ourselves?
So, regain a sense of wonder in the miracles our bodies perform every day. Whilst we’re complaining about them and judging them and wishing bits were bigger and bits were smaller, our blood is pumping, our organs are working. We need to acknowledge that our bodies have incredible wisdom.
Tap into that wisdom and dare to listen to your body. In the same way your body tells you when you need to wee, your body will also tell you when you need to eat, what you need to eat, when to stop eating, what activity is best for it. For example, is it kind to go on a run right now? Is my body enjoying this right now?
For those with a long-established difficult relationship with their body image, take small steps, know that healing isn’t linear and that everyone has bad days. Seek like-minded people either online or in real life.
How can we protect ourselves from societal pressures to look a certain way?
DG: In terms of social media – curate your feed really really carefully. If there’s anyone who doesn’t make you feel good about yourself, unfollow them, even if they’re your close friends. Instead follow positive accounts and people who are putting out diverse, uplifting messages about body acceptance. Seek out the people who contradict our body shaming culture and support them – like their photos, comment, get in touch with them, create a community. A few Instagram recommendations include @bodiposipanda, @i_weigh @bopo.boy, @alokvmenon and @glitterandlazers
In terms of adverts and other offline media, we could try laughing at it. For example, if you see a shampoo advert on the tube with an image of someone saying “my life changed since I got glossy hair,” laugh at the ridiculousness of it. Stand back, scrutinise it, ask yourself – is that toothpaste really going to make me happier?
It’s also important to talk about body image with your friends. Spread the message. And if friends repeatedly talk negatively about bodies, feel confident enough to tell them, “I don’t want to talk negatively about my body and it really upsets me to hear someone I love talking about themselves like that.”
How can we support other people struggling with their bodies?
DG: The key is to really listen to those people who don’t have the privileges a lot of us do.
Be a good ally to marginalised bodies. Hand the megaphone over to people who have less societal privilege. Question the accessibility of venues. Notice how size-inclusive your favourite shops are. Give feedback, make a noise, challenge prejudice where you see it. Make a kinder world.
Updated on 14-May-2019
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