By: Melena Steffes
Seeing body positive posts pouring in over the internet has had its positives, but at first it gave me some unreasonable expectations of myself during recovery. You can’t go from loathing your appearance to loving it overnight. It’s hard to make that transition in one thought process, in one snap decision. But I wanted it to be that quick of a change. I didn’t fully understand everything at first, but I believed that in order to be a part of a body positive culture, it meant I had to love my body all of the time. Doing that while in eating disorder recovery just isn’t that easy. It can’t be one of those “snap decisions”.
Seeing people in their underwear or swimsuits posting these long Instagram captions of how they found acceptance did motivate me, and it was also a reminder that I too have been in that spot, but at times it just seemed discouraging. Logging into other social media platforms like Tumblr and Facebook had similar effects on me too. Seeing before and after pictures wasn’t always something that made me smile. If my body wasn’t like theirs, I felt like maybe I wasn’t able to be part of that culture of body-love just yet and that I needed to ‘wait’ until I fit some sort of criteria. But loving yourself doesn’t have entry requirements, it’s an invitation and it’s always there for you, welcoming you.
Reading how people found this new love for their bodies was like a breath of fresh air, but since I was still trying to find it myself, I felt behind. I thought I just couldn’t do recovery ‘right’, I felt like I would always only be halfway in recovery, and halfway in eating disorder land.
But, I was wrong. I need to allow myself to accept my body, whether I believe I deserve it or feel a bit behind, etc. I’ve come to find that being ‘body positive’ doesn’t mean that I have to love my body 100% of the time. Rather, that I promise to work with it- not against it, and to always try my best to accept myself in whatever form I’m in.
There’s a quote I love that I repeat to myself often:
“Accepting this body did not mean convincing myself that it was beautiful, it meant giving myself permission to exist regardless.”
– Trista Mateer
The size of my thighs or the width of my hips doesn’t get to determine how much fun I have at the party, or how often I use my smile. I am not wrong for having this body. I am allowed to eat the rest of the ice cream and wear my favorite high waisted shorts instead of hiding away in my leggings and baggy sweatshirt. And while I still may struggle with this, and some days it feels further away from me, trying to love and accept myself is always more worthwhile than any time dwelling on ways I ‘need’ to change myself.
I don’t need to love my body every second of the day, but that doesn’t then give me permission to withhold things from it that it deserves, being nutrition, or going out with friends. My body doesn’t need to be punished for simply existing and neither does yours. If you’re looking for permission to find body positivity or self-love, this is it. You have all the permission in the world to accept yourself in the form you’re in.
About the Author:Melena Steffes is 21 years old, studying journalism with a minor in psychology at the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee. She is passionate about mental health advocacy and eating disorder awareness and therefore writes majority of her pieces around those topics. Being in recovery herself, she has been personally impacted by the power of words from some of her favorite authors. She wants to give back to the recovery community herself through writing. She believes that Project HEAL is an organization that has a profound impact, and strong mission which is one of many reasons why she wants to be involved and volunteer. As of 2017 she is also one of Project HEAL’s blog managers. If she’s not writing, you can catch her playing fetch with her new kitten or drinking coffee at a nearby coffee shop.