Body Positivity and Me

May 1, 2014

   When I began dancing about four years ago, I wasn't thinking about the shape of my body. I felt that as a furious young woman with a booty it was practically my duty to shake it on stage in the name of feminism. I wanted to challenge the audience's sexuality with my performance. I wanted to challenge ideas that female nudity is somehow offensive or shameful. Honestly, that's still what I want out of my burlesque career. However, dancing made me spend way more time than I thought it would thinking about my physique. As a result, I've learned some unexpected things about my own body image and body positivity.

  I found out that there is nothing inherent about body positivity. Much like there is nothing inherent about superficiality or judgement. We as compassionate beings, make conscious choices to love and respect one another's bodies. This is not to say that the ideal body type is inherent but, that despite our best efforts, everyone is critical of one aspect of the human body or another. Of course, many of these critical thoughts and feelings are directed towards our own bodies. We are more likely to look at our own jiggles, bones, angles and dimples and think "ew" than we are to look at another person with the same critical eye (I mean, hopefully, otherwise you're a real dick). This means that one has to make an effort to love their own bodies before truly being able to appreciate all bodies.

  I realized quickly that my lack of superficiality did not equal body positivity. Just because I was able to look at the members of my sparkle family and see their bodies as beautiful did not mean that I was somehow enlightened beyond social standards of beauty. I began to feel more concerned with my roundness and self-conscious of weird stuff like the arches of my feet or my hyper-extended elbows. I compared my body to others and came up wanting. When watching videos and looking at photos of my performances, I found myself being more critical of my physique then of my actual performance. In my head, my ability as a performer was more tied up with my body than with my actual skill. I thought that if I was thinner or firmer, I would look better on stage. That is not a body positive attitude any way you slice it.

  As cliche as it sounds, the key to body positivity is self-love. What stopped me from sub-consciously applying the harsh standards I placed on my own body to other performers of similar body types? Nothing. I probably did come down harder on others with bodies that looked like mine. I have no recollection of this, because it was unintentional but it was also unavoidable. I have dedicated myself to learning to love my body and truthfully, I have learned to love it more. I can't say that I have moved beyond a place of insecurity or self-doubt but I can say that I have taken many small steps towards dissolving the insecurity that is founded on years of internalized body-shaming. I have learned to love parts of my body I used to hate. I spend hours focusing on this. Self-love doesn't happen over night but it also doesn't happen unless you work to make it happen.

  We all have our insecurities: weight, breast-size, wrinkles, dimples, hair, skin, etc. Whatever it is, it's time to try and let it go. You don't get to have a different body, really. No one does. So look at your beautiful,  respledent self and tell your insecurities to go fuck themselves. It's time to get body positive, bitches.

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