The women of Reddit have come together to promote self-love, and their advice on accepting ourselves and our bodies is exactly what we needed to hear.
It should be the simplest thing in the world, to love our bodies. But for women especially, this continues to be a devastatingly hard task. Centuries of being taught that the way we look defines us, and that those looks should only adhere to one aesthetic has eroded our confidence, our pride in who we are and our love for ourselves – but we’re fighting back.
From artists like Lizzo, who decorates her lyrics with messages of body positivity to hearing more from plus size models like Emme, who recently spoke to us about exposing the beauty industry’s financial need to make women feel bad about themselves, this is an age in which women are coming together more than ever to push back against a one-size-fits-all standard. In fact, it’s one of the reasons we started our Love Women initiate, which you can read more about here.
Which is why it’s so encouraging to see conversations happening on Reddit between women about how we can love ourselves and our bodies more easily. Reddit user u/Pamplemousselacroix1, started a thread on the forum asking women for advice on how to ignore society’s version of ‘perfect,’ and the responses were nothing short of beautiful.
The thread began with the question: “How do you love and accept your body when we are all set against such high standards to look perfect?”
The thread’s author asked women for advice, ideas and support on a topic that’s troubled probably every person at some point or another. From concentrating on your favourite attributes to taking up weight training, hundreds of women shared their innermost thoughts on how they feel about themselves, in a truly humbling show of sisterhood and support.
We’ve picked out some of our favourite pieces of advice, which we think all women will something away from.
“I view my body functionally rather than ornamentally”
“I try very hard to view my body functionally rather than ornamentally. It matters to me that i’m out of shape and can’t run like I used to. It matters to me that my smoking decreases my lung capacity and makes me less healthy. It matters to me that eating healthy and regularly improves on my depression because my body is literally under less stress.
“I try to focus on these big things (and also the positives, like I am still pretty muscular for a woman who doesn’t work out so I frequently get asked to help lift heavier things at work, etc) about what my body does and mentally sideline how my body appears to others. I need my body to work for me and be my primary living space, I don’t need to get any rando’s dick hard with what I look like. When my body is working well for me and I’m at a very healthy place, i’m still short and thick. And that’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but that’s what I am,” says CaptHolt.
“I try to focus on my positive features”
“I struggle with my body image but I just try to be kind to my body and remember that me being healthy is what’s important. Whenever I’m insecure about my face or whatever it might be, I remember how complex the human body truly is and how lucky I am to have a healthy one that is capable of almost anything. I try to focus on my positive features like my cute smile, bright brown eyes, etc. I find that being in a good place mentally helps with accepting my body,” says lharter8.
“I became passionate about pursuing a career, and got so much more fulfillment from achievements”
“I began to wonder, even though I found people of many different shapes, sizes, and physical characteristics, physically beautiful, why I couldn’t love the way I looked. I felt I needed to achieve the conventionally attractive society standards in order to find myself physically attractive, and therefore, accept and love my body. It didn’t make sense to me and I felt guilty/hypocritical for caring about achieving those attributes, especially since I believed that other achievements and internal characteristics were so much more valuable. Over time, my emotions/self-esteem became more strongly associated with traits and achievements I believe are more valuable.
“Also, I became passionate about pursuing a career, and got so much more fulfillment from achievements/pursuits in that area than I ever did trying to look a certain way,” says klmfox.
“The only way to win is not to play”
“You realise that the standards are created to almost guarantee that you fail. That most of us fail. They’re designed to make us insecure and dependent on products to help us feel better – whether that’s diet and exercise products, or cosmetics, or comfort food or alcohol or whatever. If you try to meet those standards, you’re giving your power over to a system that just wants to milk you for cash. The only way to win is not to play,” says localgyro.
“My body is strong AF, it’s capable of so much and it feels good to take care of myself”
“I started focusing on lifting weights when I was told it could alleviate symptoms of my diagnosis of fibromyalgia. Before then I didn’t really care about my weight or what I ate, I did enough cardio to stay thin.
“But let me tell you how damn good it feels to be able to carry a huge dresser up a set of stairs by myself. Or being able to rip up plants rooted into the ground.
“I used to want to be thinner, and I dropped 5% body fat and hated the way I felt and looked. I’ve always been athletic, my genes have me looking like an Amazonian, and I’m okay with it. My body is strong AF, it’s capable of so much and it feels good to take care of myself. Who cares if I’m a size 10? I don’t want to be a stick anyways. I am what I am, and I might as well accept it!” says poortricia.
“I focus on what I will enjoy and what makes me feel healthy, rather than what I will look like”
“I traveled with my husband a couple of years ago to Italy. I was really worried and preparing myself to gain all this weight from eating in Italy, but instead we both lost weight. We figured out several things from this experience: when we ate whole, unprocessed foods in reasonable portion sizes, neither of us obsessed about calorie intake and instead just enjoyed our food without shame.
“Walking and other enjoyable forms of exercise that weren’t killer cardio routines made us feel great. Happiness and enjoyment had sort of slipped through our fingers from all the ‘shoulds’ we were putting on our own backs. When we let them go, we both felt so much healthier. We tried to bring that home with us, and ever since I have been feeling so much stronger. Now, I focus on what I will enjoy and what makes me feel healthy, rather than what I will look like. The irony is that, after years of being so hard on myself about staying thin, I am more consistently fit and svelte now than I have ever been. Healthy food and exercise are definitely important, but equally important are your mental state and overall enjoyment of your routines,” says cmurphgarv.
“Your actions, words, merits and values are what people may remember you by”
“Because the standards aren’t what define us. Our physical attributes are as diverse as our minds and thoughts, people won’t love and care for you because of how you look. They won’t remember you for it either, but I can ensure you that your actions, words (good and bad), merits, values etc. That is things people may remember you by.
“I don’t say it’s unimportant to take care of yourself, but it must be because you want to, not feel pressured to. And even if you don’t feel like you may be ‘perfect’ and attractive I can assure you that there is always someone, probably a great many people that think so, and the positive forces in this world should be held in a way higher esteem than those that work against us,” says 4F0ur.
“I want to be someone who makes the world better for others, I don’t care if I’m pretty doing it”
“I know one day none of it will matter. No matter how beautiful you are in your youth, you’ll eventually be old and gross (or you die young, which is unfortunate). So I accept that no one will be pretty forever… what stays is your character. I worry about being a good person. I want to be someone who makes the world better for others. I don’t care if I’m pretty doing it,” says Abisoccer1.
“I deleted my Instagram account”
“The biggest game changer for me has been staying off social media. I deleted my Instagram account, and use my Facebook account for mainly messaging and event invites. On FB I also stopped following 99% of the people in my friend list.
“This has stopped the constant comparing I was finding myself engaging in. It’s much easier to be happier with my body (and my life in general) this way,” says chicpeaphobic.
For far too long, the representation of women by both mainstream and social media has failed to reflect who we see in the mirror, and its impact on our mental health is worrying. Stylist’s Love Women initiative promises to change that. As well as the launch of our Body Politics series, we’ve partnered with Dove, whose latest project (in conjunction with photo library Getty Images) aims to increase the supply of diverse pictures of women – which we will be using going forward.
Our editor-in-chief Lisa Smosarski has also made five pledges to Stylist readers:
- We will ensure the women you see on our pages represent all women – inclusive of ethnicity, body shape, sexuality, age and disability. When we create content and ideas, we will ensure that all women are represented at the table. We commit to featuring one fashion or beauty photoshoot a month that uses real, diverse women.
- We will ensure that we never sell an impossible dream. We believe in aspiration, but not in selling a lie. We will work with influencers, celebrities and other partners to encourage them to reveal their truths, too.
- We will celebrate the so-called flaws of women to prove the normality in all of our bodies. We will run videos, photoshoots and honest accounts of our bodies and how they behave.
- We will hold regular huddles with our advertisers and brand partners to challenge the way they portray and reflect women in their branding and advertising. We will call out and challenge brands, media and people who refuse to represent women with respect and truth. We will call on the government to support our goals.
- Through insight and anecdote, we will teach everyone about the issues facing women, what needs to be done and how we can all work together to resolve this self-esteem crisis.
Find out more about Stylist’s Love Women initiative here.