THOUGHTFUL MISFIT

by Tienlyn Jacobson

BODY POSITIVITY - MY PERSPECTIVE

Lifestyle, HealthTienlyn JacobsonComment
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While I'm 100% behind the body positivity movement, I've had a really hard time finding a way to talk about - for several reasons. One of these reasons is that I'm a thin person with natural muscle tone who, in many ways, fits the 'ideal body' genre as far as mass media is concerned. And while body positivity as a concept is supposed to be inclusive, I've found this to not always be the case. In fact, when I have positively identified with the movement in the past, I've had people lash out at me for it because I wasn't 'big' or 'curvy' enough. And while the hypocrisy of feeling excluded from an inclusive movement such as body positivity is pretty glaring, it has made me feel in the past as though perhaps it wasn't really my place to talk about it at all. 

And on many levels I actually get it. A lot of the body positivity movement is about embracing bodies, shapes, textures, colors, and abilities that aren't celebrated in the mainstream, and making it clear that these are just as relevant and beautiful and important - and that they should be equally celebrated. Which means that the outliers of mainstream standards should indeed be focused on the most. It's a push against homogeny and that's incredibly important. And I also get that hearing a slender girl who used to model 'confess' her personal insecurities and 'hardships' can be supremely groan inducing. I've also read some body positivity 'confessions' like this and have groaned myself. I'm also aware that the body positivity platform can often be (and often is) abused in a self serving way. 

But I also believe that everyone should be allowed to have a body positivity story, because, well,  everyone has a body. And therefore, everyone deserves to feel good about their body. And while there are aspects of life that are easier for me because of my natural shape, or because of how I look, I still have my own hang ups, my own stories, and my own challenges. 

You wouldn't know unless we talked for a really long time, for example, about how, starting from the age of 11, I was made fun of for being too muscular - something I still get comments about from time to time, and is also a quality about myself that I now embrace whole-heartedly. Or that it took me years to get over a white 'friend' of mine successfully shaming me for years with casual references to my 'Asian calves' (the same strong calves that led me to excel in track and field, kickboxing, and long distance running). You wouldn't know that I was teased for my broad shoulders (earned through countless years of hard work at grueling 4 am swim practices). Or that people have screamed 'eat a burger, bitch!' out the window at me - more than once. Or that a certain ex used to enjoy regularly bringing up the topic of my getting a massive boob job. 

None of these are sob stories. They're just my version of challenges that happen to every single woman. And they're all things that, for the most part, I've overcome. Partly due to just getting older and giving less of AF what people think (can we just take a minute and appreciate that benefit of getting older? Because increasing your DGAF abilities is by far my favorite perk). I also got over a lot of these by finding people who loved and supported me for who I am - and had the empathy to understand that everyone has their own unique story and challenges. And a lot of it has also been from just being inspired by the Body Positivity movement itself. 

Body positivity isn't about something being better than something else. It's about your body being the best thing for you. Thin isn't better than curves. And curves aren't better than being thin - or just not having any. And while I'd be a rich woman for having a dollar every time I've seen a bigger girl trashed on social media, I'd also be pretty comfortable if I had a dollar for every time I've seen a women bashed for being too thin. 

Last week, I was sifting through old photos and came across the above image. It was taken in Nicaragua on a photoshoot for Knixwear - a body positivity brand that happens to create incredible undergarments that move with you - and let you be you. 

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It's funny to look back and see how far you've come. When these photos were shot, I was dealing with a job that told me I was too big or too small pretty much every other day (sometimes in the same day), just based on how I looked on camera. If there was a shot where my waist looked 'too small,' I would be pulled aside and told I needed to eat more. If a sample ran too small and I didn't fit my normal size, I was pulled aside and asked if I was gaining weight. You can imagine how exhausting this might be.... 

Around the time Nikko and I shot these images in Nicaragua, I was starting to pull away from all that. Sure, I'm still wearing too much makeup in this shot for my personal taste these days (being critiqued on camera every day can make you want to wear a mask - literally), but I was also making small changes in my own life that led to a stronger mindset that was far more capable of self love. 

One massive step was prioritizing comfort over presentation. Everything from learning to hear my own voice above the chatter, to embracing flaws (both in real life and on camera), to tossing underwire bras (and all their sweat-inducing, ribcage-stabbing, smushery) for a comfy and sweat-proof bra from Knixwear. From there, I started clearing all the other excess like thongs, high heels, skirts you can't walk in, using half an eyeliner pencil on a daily basis, heavy foundation, etc.

And you know what? Listening to how my body wanted to feel (and how it wanted to move) was the number one thing that made me feel sexy all over again. And it was the necessary step that made me feel as though maybe I could talk about body positivity after all - in my own way. 

To me, body positivity isn't about calling out my 'flaws' on social media and announcing that I love them (although I do respect it). It's about celebrating what my body can do, honoring it through self care, adopting an oh-so necessary element of humor that makes getting older fun, and celebrating other women and their pride in their own bodies. The latter being the key for true inclusivity. 

What's your take on body positivity? Where do you see it going as a movement? I'd love to know!

xx,

Tienlyn