I’m going to tell you all a huge non-secret: I don’t love my body! I know that’s an odd thing to admit to on a body-positivite website, but it’s the truth. I’m only in the very early stages of learning to love myself and my body.
So, why am I telling you this? There are two reasons really. Firstly, I want to make sure that those of you in the same position as me, who are just embarking on your quest for self love, realise that you are not alone! She Might Be does a brilliant job of bringing together inspiring writers who have a lot of wisdom to share and I am not going to pretend to be one of them. What I am starting to realise is that just because you don’t have all of the answers, that doesn’t mean that you don’t have something to add to the conversation.
Secondly (and this is what I want to focus on here today), I want to highlight the link between body-positivity and mental health. Mental health seems to be in the headlines a lot at the moment, from cuts in funding to the very public work of the Princes William and Harry and Duchess Kate with theirHeads Together campaign and people’s body image can really impact heavily on their mental wellbeing. I’m not a psychiatrist or mental health expert, so I am going to stick solely to my own experiences of mental health, but I have recently had a few realisations about my own condition that I want to share.
I suffer from chronic depression and anxiety that, recently, has developed into an increasingly debilitating case of social anxiety. I am currently working with a therapist to try and work out some of the external factors that impact my mental state and one theme that comes up time and again is a feeling of not being good enough, of not being worthy. This no doubt stems, in part, from living in a culture that essentially vilifies women (and men to a lesser extent) for being plus-sized.
I remember when I was younger hiding in the toilets of my local shopping centre crying because New Look, my go-to for clothes at the time, seemed to have stopped stocking some of their lines in a size 18 and having to deal with a snooty, condescending sales assistant who had no sympathy for the fact that I didn’t want to wear their plus size range (which at the time was a sea of glittery, black tents that bore no resemblance to the fashionable offerings in the rest of the store). Is it any wonder I’ve struggled with my self-worth as a larger lady when these were the experiences of my youth?
Nowadays things have improved somewhat. New Look’s Curves range is extensive and a lot closer in design to their main stock, while River Island (a store I never felt that I could shop in previously) have launched a plus size collection too. Sadly though, in Birmingham, where I live, the city centre no longer has a branch of Evans (the old one closed about a year ago) and the only Dorothy Perkins is a concession in the local House of Fraser store where you have to work to hunt down the very occasional size 20. But worse, the Curves section in New Look is tucked away in the back corner of one of their two city centre stores (the other store just doesn’t bother) and in River Island, though not tucked away, the plus size section is woefully small. This means that if, as I did the other day, you want to have a day out shopping with your mom then you have to wander around the branch of Yours Clothing very very slowly.
Yes things are improving, but there is still a feeling of being segregated from our straight-sized compatriots, of being treated as not good enough to be able to shop-til-you-drop on the high street, not worthy of equality, not deserving. And in a world where figures like Jamelia claim that we shouldn’t able to buy clothes on the high streetand, more recently, Kim Kardashian West tweeting and glorifying weight loss due to illness, larger young women and girls everywhere are still going to be made to feel less than, are more likely to fear meeting new people in case they are judged harshly, and are less likely to be emotionally equipped when mental health problems strike. And that is just wrong.
How far along are you with your body positive journey?