Self-improvement is not a dirty word. It seems strange to even have to say these words but nevertheless, it’s ok to want to improve yourself. It’s not anti-feminist or against the body positivity movement as I have seen implied. It doesn’t make you shallow. I don’t believe that wanting to improve yourself contradicts any of these things at all. It is ok to want to improve ourselves.
It wasn’t that long ago that living in a bigger body, carrying around excess fat, and not fitting into this perfect image as defined by the mainstream media, was a negative thing. In fact, we’re still faced with that rhetoric more often than not. But now, the voices that speak the loudest are those who say ‘I do not accept your ideals!’ and promote self-acceptance and acceptance of others. It’s fantastic! The body positivity movement has been a wonderful, incredibly positive and empowering development that I fully support. Why should anyone else tell us what to do with our bodies or how our bodies should look? If we are comfortable with our bodies then that’s all the matters – it’s nobody else’s business.
Should we embrace our flaws?
Embracing our flaws is wonderful and something that we should all work toward if we want to build on our self esteem. But I also believe that wanting to improve yourself, or work on flaws (that can be worked on) is also a positive thing. In fact, surely working on the flaws we have control over, and accepting those we cannot change, are two actions that work together rather than contradicting one another.
Personally, I am always trying to improve on myself; trying to learn new things, to educate myself as much as I can, to have a fit and healthy body, and a healthy mind. There are plenty of things I’m no good at, I have more than my fair share of flaws too. If I stopped ‘working’ on myself, I’d feel as though I’d stopped moving forward in life. After all, surely few would argue that we are not always learning through life, every day. For the past few years I have been living in a country where I did not speak the language. I worked on learning it and for a while I was pretty terrible (I’m still not great), but I didn’t sit back and say ‘well, I have to accept that I’m not a natural linguist’ and give up. I pushed myself to get better at it. Was I ever faced with criticism for trying to improve my language skills? Of course not! But if I was trying to lose weight, it would have been a different story. Sometimes it feels quite like trying to lose weight should be hush-hush.
When Body Positivity Gets Negative
There are some things about ourselves that, even if we’d like to, we have no control to change. Surely the best thing we can do in these cases is to learn to accept those things, make peace with them and embrace them. And this isn’t easy. I know that for some people, myself included at times, accepting our flaws (or that one flaw in particular) is something that needs to be done on a daily basis over and over again. It’s a process. So self-acceptance is also an achievement that should be celebrated and encouraged. On the other hand, if there are things that you want to change, and that you can change, that’s ok too! Recently on social media, I have witnessed people who are trying to make a positive change in their lives – who want to make a change – and are being heavily criticised by people claiming to be proponents of the body positivity movement. Fortunately, these critics are a mean minority, but unfortunately they often shout the loudest. Nobody should be criticising other people on either accepting their body the way it is, or on wanting to improve on those things.
If you are carrying around extra weight and it’s making your life difficult, and causing you to feel bad about yourself and exhausting you and making you ill, then good for you for trying to change things. It’s difficult, it’s really tough and you deserve support and encouragement. Not criticism and harassment. So maybe we should all just be a bit kinder to each other, let each other get on with our lives and try not to be too self righteous! Everyone has stuff to deal with, we all have struggles, let’s try to be more understanding.
If you have anything to add on this topic, or if you see the issue from another perspective, I’d really love to hear your thoughts! So please leave a comment or drop me an email.