A podcast called “She’s All Fat” uses the tagline: “Body positivity, radical self-love, and chill vibes only.” In my opinion, this is the perfect way to describe both the podcast (hosted by two fabulous, hilarious, and brilliant self identified “fatties,” Sophie and April, who discuss the intersection of body positivity and current events) and the body positivity movement in general. Sophie and April champion radical, thoughtful, intersection body positivity, meaning it recognizes the many oppressions it fights against, and the many people it supports. Too often, body positivity is watered down, leaving behind those it was created for, which I discuss below.

This largely watered down (though still important—it’s complicated, I know) body positivity movement can be found thriving in the fashion industry and on Instagram, with over 4 million photos posted using the #bodypositivity or #BoPo hashtags, and brands giving up Photoshopped ads and hiring models of different sizes. One may think body positivity simply aims for the acceptance of all sized bodies, and/or greater representation of all sized bodies in ads and television roles. And there’s nothing wrong with that—in fact, it’s great. But that barely scratches the surface of what body positivity means, where it came from, and what it really strives for.

Body positivity grew out of activism in the late 1960s which specifically championed the rights of one particularly marginalized group—fat people. It was then known as the fat acceptance movement, and battled anti-fat discrimination and celebrated plus-size bodies. According to BitchMedia, in 1967 there was a “‘fat-in’ in New York City’s Central Park to ‘protest discrimination against [fat people].’ More than 500 people showed up…carrying banners that read ‘Fat Power’ and ‘Buddha Was Fat’ and wearing buttons that read ‘Take a Fat Girl to Dinner.’” The organizer told the New York Times, “People should be proud of being fat…We want to show we feel happy, not guilty. That’s why we’re here."

A year later, Lew Louderback published an article in the Saturday Evening Post called “More People Should Be Fat.” Two years after that, he published Fat Power: Whatever You Weigh Is Right, “one of the first books that directly challenged the diet industry’s toehold on women, and pushed to upend and dismantle fat-phobic systems.” After that, fat acceptance quickly became an organized activist movement. The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA) was founded in 1969, and has been fighting against size discrimination ever since.

According to Fusion, “One of the core principles of NAAFA, and fat activism more broadly, is that most of the ideas we promote about fatness and health are just plain wrong. Instead of blindly treating fatness as an indicator of poor health, fat activists argue for a Health At Every Size model. Under this framework, it’s not whether you’re fat or what shape your body is that matters—everyone is encouraged to engage in healthy lifestyles and eating habits, and vital signs like blood pressure and cholesterol and general wellness are treated as more important measures of health than weight or BMI.”

While fat activism and anti-size discrimination are very important, they tend to be missing from the mainstream (read: watered down) body positive narrative, which is unfortunate. The original radical goals of fat activism pushed for an understanding of the diet and beauty industries, and the oppression they subject (mostly) women to, resulting in widespread low self esteem and unrealistic expectations. The activists wanted people to understand the oppression and even trauma they’re often put through—bullying, eating disorders, low self esteem—which are largely caused by and for the diet and beauty industries. They also wanted concrete policy changes to support—or at the very least, not harm—fat people. At the time (and still today) fat people were being discriminated against in the workplace, in medical spaces and by medical professionals, and being unfairly judged and chastised by society simply because of their size. Most of the people chastising them knew nothing of their actual health, they were simply assuming and projecting their beliefs and unsolicited advice onto people because of their waistline. Radical fat activists in this movement and part of the Fat Underground, a radical offshoot of NAAFA, followed radical feminist therapy, a belief that oppression causes mental distress. Additionally, they believed fat-phobia was created by the diet industry to line their own pockets. Over the last 30 years, fat activism has begun to blossom in academia through the burgeoning field of Fat Studies.

BitchMedia writes that “as fashion becomes more body positive, the push to make other institutions—including media, law, schools, and housing—more inclusive of people whose bodies have been marginalized has been sidelined. As legislators pass ‘bathroom bills’ that target trans and gender nonconforming people, airlines make it difficult for plus-size people to travel, and the Department of Education dismantles protections for people with disabilities, body positivity has morphed to singularly focus on fashion, empowerment, and selling products.” However, the people who created the fat acceptance movement are now being largely omitted by the body positivity movement, its modern predecessor. BitchMedia explains: “[Body positivity is] a complete departure from the radical politics of fat acceptance, the movement that birthed body positivity. In the age of #bodypositivity, what are the aims of the current movement, who gets centered and celebrated, and what bodies are considered ‘good bodies?’” In other words, “Body positivity was supposed to be one tenet of fat acceptance, a means of empowering ourselves and affirming our relationship with our bodies. It wasn’t meant to overtake the radical roots of the original movement.”

Though it certainly strays from its original intentions in many ways, body positivity is still very important as a tool of empowerment and self acceptance. It helps people of all genders embrace their bodies for what they are, and accept that the beauty and body standards put forth by diet industries are almost entirely fabricated and unrealistic. Body positivity puts the power back into people’s hands—literally, by typing a simple hashtag on Instagram one can be part of the body positivity community and find others who identify as such. In this way, by people engaging on social media and in the outside world, body positivity and fat acceptance can keep reaching new people, and we can collectively rethink what we’ve been told about our bodies.

“Don’t Take Anything Personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.” -Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements.

Most of us were raised to try and get along with other people; to avoid unnecessary conflict and treat others with respect, and sometimes we encounter jerks, right? Or maybe they’re not a jerk, per se, maybe they have inadvertently insulted you in some way and are oblivious to the fact that there is steam coming out of your ears, or that you are on the verge of tears because of their insensitive remark. Ok – so maybe they are an oblivious, insensitive jerk.

So anyway, someone has (regardless of intent) insulted you in some way.

Do you:

A. Let it go and fester about it for the next several years.
B. Blow your top, scream, holler and make it obvious that you’re unhappy with them, or
C. Proactively stand up for yourself in a calm, cool and confident manner

People who chose A appropriately chose that letter because they are “avoidant.” Avoidance of conflict is a natural tendency to many, but it is brutal on ones self esteem and teaches people that they can treat you badly without consequence.

People who chose B are prone to “blow outs”. It feels good to go off on someone who has been rude or insensitive, but your reputation as a hot head likely proceeds you and people may seem to give you greater leeway, but it isn’t out of respect as much as fear, and they certainly don’t take you seriously.

Those who chose C, well why are you reading this article anyway? You probably have better things to do, you already know this stuff.

Actually, my guess is that most of us already do know how to stand up for ourselves, it’s the ‘doing it’ part that is difficult. For a quick refresher, let’s go over the basic tenets of standing up for yourself when someone has treated you in a way you dislike:

  1. Take a deep breath. Take a moment to think about what was said or done.
  2. Check in with yourself about your feelings. Are you angry, embarrassed, sad? A combination of feelings?
  3. Use an “I statement” to express how you feel. I statements are awkward when you first start using them, but they work well because they are indisputable; no one can argue about how you feel. (An ‘I statement’ is something like, “I feel angry about what you said.”)
  4. Follow up with an affirmative statement about yourself and your worth (i.e., “I am an intelligent, strong person.”)

The response of the offending party can vary. You may get an apology if the person either regrets their remark or genuinely didn’t realize they had offended you. On the other hand, you could also get more rudeness or the offending party may laugh at you, in which case you can firmly deduct that this person is indeed a jerk of the highest order. King of Jerks, even. Sir Jerkingham of Jerkville. And, you can’t reason with that. You can’t “mature” your way out of it by expressing yourself and having a decent conversation that may result in some sort of mutual respect and understanding. You do have choices here, though.

You can:

A. Return the insult and with even more nastiness. And flip them off for good measure.
B. Give them an atomic wedgie. Or a swirly if you’re really mad.
C. Walk away, knowing that you said what you needed to say. You’re not responsible for their reaction and don’t have to play along.

(This is kind of like a choose-your-own-adventure article, isn’t it? I wonder how it’ll end?)

Knowing how to stand up for yourself and how to handle any potential reactions is useful, but only if you actually put those steps into action. Convincing yourself that it is important to follow through with standing up for yourself (the ‘doing it’ part) is crucial. There are lots of good reasons to stand up for yourself; you’ll feel better about yourself, you will be teaching people how to treat you, you’ll feel more confident. All that good stuff. But, most importantly, you are teaching YOURSELF that you are of value and that you have standards for the way you allow others to treat you. That requires self love that is hard-earned and comes with a lot of other good things, like enjoying your own company and seeing the positive aspects of yourself, regardless of the opinions of others.

“Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.” -Brene Brown

Confidence is probably one of the most attractive qualities a person can have. Yet, ironically, it can be very difficult for people to allow themselves to feel confident. Between influences of the media and the general tendency to compare oneself to others, a person’s self-esteem can plummet without much effort.

Besides formal psychiatric, cognitive behavioral and pharmaceutical therapies, there are simple steps one might take to help combat these feelings of low self-esteem. One such outlet may be in the form of a hobby.

This might remind the reader of the trite age old expression, “Hey, why don’t you get a hobby?” This expression is often used in response to the gloomy Eeyore character trope who is always in some sort of depressed rut. This isn’t to say that depression can be cured by simply finding something to distract oneself from the real underlying root. No, what I’m getting at is an effective yet unassuming method of boosting one’s confidence while still staying true to one’s core identity.

Hobbies can serve various roles in helping to build confidence, and there are several levels to this process.

First, a hobby is an outlet to escape the sometimes mundane, unappealing and even disappointing aspects of our lives. When you’re sitting in your room trying to teach yourself a few chords on the guitar, you are entering a new world, one which consists only of what’s going on in your creative headspace. Many people find this headspace to be a relief from the thoughts that often plague our minds.

Secondly, hobbies are an avenue to finding an applied purpose. One of the common tenets of low self-esteem is a seeming lack of purpose. Sometimes it can be difficult for you to believe that you’ll find your true purpose or passion. However, even if baking or photography (or whatever your favorite pasttime may be) doesn’t become your career, you know that you have a way of bringing joy to people in the form of delicious pastries or bringing new life to moments and places people might take for granted in the form of your art. There’s meaning there that can’t

Moreover, hobbies can physiologically boost one’s mood and, thus, enhance one’s confidence. If fitness becomes your new hobby, for example—and only when done in a healthy and non-obsessive manner—it can generally raise one’s endorphin and dopamine levels to the point where one’s attitude toward life and oneself is made significantly more positive.

Finally, a good hobby brings pride. I’m not talking about the abrasive and dangerous “seven deadly sins” level of pride that tends to be off-putting. I’m referring to the natural pride one should have in oneself for simply being a living, breathing human being with thoughts, dreams and talents—even those that have yet to be realized. When you find that hobby that makes your proud, you want to show it off, not to be braggadocios, but because we are all meant to share our talents with each other in what is known to many philosophers as the human connection, the human experience.

So, share your next published article with your Facebook friends, invite your friends to your hacky sack championship tournament, sing your heart out at open mic night. Most importantly, don’t be too shy to find the thing that makes you happy. Try new things, do what you love, and always take care of yourself!

It can be said that stress is the ultimate universal experience. Whether we live a relatively calm life or one packed with constant action, everyone on earth has felt the worrisome pangs of stress. The same can be said for an individual’s perception of their own abilities, skills and overall qualities, otherwise known as self-esteem—we all have one!  So how are these two universal qualities connected?

The relationship between stress and self-esteem is one that is inextricably linked. They feed off and act on one another in more ways than one.  Low self-esteem can lead to psychological effects that cause a person to be more susceptible to stressful situations. Consistent stress can gradually lessen a healthy self-esteem over time as well. Conversely, high self-esteem can act as a sort of protection against high levels of stress, and a context of low-stress can provide a great environment for individuals who could benefit from a higher self-esteem.

The pure definition of stress is the feeling of pressure and/or worry.  A large determinant of the level of stress is not just the actual facts of a situation, but the individual’s perception of his or her situation. One person may view an office relocation as an exciting opportunity while another sees it as an insurmountable burden. This is often determined by the individual’s level of self-esteem, which, again, is defined as an individual’s perception of their own abilities, skills and overall qualities that guide his or her behavior.

This interaction between self-esteem and stress is often more dramatic and destructive in people with lower self-esteem. Such individuals tend to feel helpless, powerless and incapable of overcoming the obstacles placed in front of them. These feelings make any task seem more arduous and can cause even routine challenges to appear impossible.

Another aspect of the connection between stress and self-esteem is that a lack of assertiveness is one of the common effects of a lower self-esteem. This can turn into a vicious cycle in which low self-esteem leads a person to accept more work than he or she can truly handle. This, in turn, causes increased stress. Self-esteem and stress can form a harmful feedback cycle in such cases.

Learning to say no is an important step to take in order to heighten self-esteem and manage stress and mitigate harmful stress feedback cycles.  A strong social support system is another major tenant of maintaining healthy levels of stress and self-esteem.  People with adequate social support systems report lower stress levels than their less-connected peers. Other recommendations include relaxation techniques, time-management programs and other tools for coping with stress can reduce the impact of stress on self-esteem.

References:

Dalessandro, Rachel, Amy Ingmire, and Vanessa Hill. “Stress, Coping, and Self-Esteem.” – Applied Social Psychology (ASP). N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Sept. 2016.

Juth, Vanessa, JOSHUA SMYTH M., and ALECIA SANTUZZI M. “How Do You Feel? Self-esteem Predicts Affect, Stress, Social Interaction, and Symptom Severity during Daily Life in Patients with Chronic Illness.” Journal of Health Psychology. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Oct. 2008. Web. 19 Sept. 2016.

“Positive Psychology Resources, Confidence, Overview.” Positive Psychology Resources, Confidence, Overview. Centre for Confidence, n.d. Web. 19 Sept. 2016.

“Self-Esteem.” CMHC Self Esteem. University of Texas, n.d. Web. 19 Sept. 2016.

Uba, Ikechukwu. “The Relationship Between Mental Health and Substance Abuse Among Adolescents.” International Journal of Social Science and Humanity (n.d.): n. pg. Web.

If you are in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a free, 24-hour hotline at 1.800.273.8255. If your issue is an emergency, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.