Why I Feel Like a Body Positive Fraud

Photo by Flotsam / Shutterstock

I always say that my answer to having self-confidence is faking it until I make it.

I started going to the gym for the first time in three years and besides being in a lot of pain and completely out of breath, it made me feel one thing more than anything else: guilt.

A flood of guilt because I want to change the way I look — no, the way I feel. I have been the same weight, more or less, for almost 10 years. I’m comfortable with what I look like, confident even, most of the time. But over the past few months it has gotten a little shaky.

In the past year, I’ve done two magazines, a catwalk video campaign that went viral, a handful of photoshoots all with a few things in common: me, my body and body positivity. I was asked to participate in another video that would have me walking down the busy streets of Toronto and I jumped at the chance. But I can’t help but wonder if I’m someone who should be out there chatting about body positivity and how I handle it.

I wear shapewear often, something the plus-sized world can find offence in. We are supposed to “own our curves,” and rock that “VBO (visible belly line). But I’m not leaving the house in something I’m not comfortable in, and if that means squeezing into shapewear for a few hours then I’m okay with that.

The word diet doesn’t offend me. I would say I go on diets but I’m so bad at sticking to anything and resisting sweets that I don’t think I can count them. Right now I’m going carb-free every other day. Yes I love carbs, I would never speak badly of my delicious weaknesses, but I also feel a lot better filling up on vegetables over pasta.

So am I body positive if I diet, want to lose weight and wear shapewear? Can I both love the body I’m in but want to improve at the same time, while acknowledging that I don’t need to improve but I want to?

I don’t know, and that’s why I feel like a fraud.

The thing about self-esteem, anyone’s, is that is isn’t constant.

In university I remember having more bad days than anything else. I lived with girls, both of average build and both very concerned about their weight.  We would all go to the gym together, cook healthy meals, go for walks—all positive things. The negative aspects were when they would use markers to highlight what body parts needed changing, would try to figure out how to get a thigh gap, would tell me, almost sympathetically like it was the truth about Santa Claus, that I would never get a boyfriend if I didn’t lose weight. At the time, it stressed me out and angered me to the point that even now, I’m resistant to change because I want to prove them wrong.

I now understand that a lot of their insecurities were being forced upon me. I had never used the word fat negatively before, never thought about how my thighs rub and never once considered that I had to change what I looked to suit someone else.

Most days I still feel this way, which is especially hard in a world where dating is fueled by apps based on photos. Self-esteem and confidence is like anything else — You can have good days and bad days.

And the it’s the same with trying to live a body positive life. But is it being positive if you have negative thoughts? That’s where I get confused, feel like a fraud, and am not sure if I’m worthy of being a member of this growing body positive community that I’ve tumbled into.

I’ve been plus-sized for years but it didn’t really click that I was until around 3 years ago. My mom is also plus-sized, and I would go shopping with her at a store we now both love, but I remember being in high school and not even looking at the racks because it hadn’t clicked that while I was barely fitting into brand name clothes that were popular, I could have had ample choices there. I don’t know if I was in denial, or that it was just that the word “plus sized” wasn’t thrown around a lot, but I certainly never heard of body positivity until after university and well into college.

It started when I finally decided that I was going to wear a crop top in public because why not? I was actually heading to a Curvy Convention and figured that it would be an inclusive environment to try it out (it was, thank goodness). I remember tugging at it excessively while riding the subway, convinced that everyone was looking at the pale part of my stomach. I was even wearing a jean jacket over top, and still felt exposed. When I arrived at the convention centre, no one blinked. In fact, I don’t think anyone on the subway did either but I was so caught up in my head because crop tops just weren’t a thing that “fat girls could wear”.

And then I wore a two piece bathing suit, and next think I know I’m walking downtown in a bra and underwear and feeling great about it. Well, that and I had a few glasses of wine before I walked the sidewalk turned runway.

And for all of these things, taking pictures and sharing them online was an extra step that helped me become more comfortable not only in what I look like, but also in seeing how I can fit into the body positive community.

Social media has both helped and hindered my journey that is trying to figure out what body positive means to me, and helped connect me to others that I can relate to. Which I know is basically exactly what social media is meant for, but it’s even more important when you’re navigating new territory.

Yet, with so many opinions and articles floating around the phrase body positive, I often get caught up in what it means to others.

I got tangled up in a Twitter disagreement once because I fully believe that skinny/straight-sized folk have the right to have bad days. Everyone does. If I post a picture in a bikini on Instagram saying I feel insecure but I’m doing it anyway, I get applauded. If another woman posts the same thing, similar caption, but who is “skinny,” they get told they can’t speak that way because they aren’t fat. That is true yes, but you do not know the insecurities someone has just based on the size that they wear.

Body positivity should apply to all bodies, no matter the size, after all it is a social movement rooted in the belief that all human beings should have a positive body image, and be accepting of their own bodies as well as the bodies of others. The plus-sized community uses the word so frequently that I think other bodies can be forgotten. This is why I hate the term “normal bodies,” because all bodies are normal. Fat is not bad, skinny is not bad — they are shapes, and descriptive words that I want the world to stop using with negative denotations.

Instagram is also a difficult place to try and figure things out. I have always loved sharing pictures, but now it’s about the messages behind them too. Before and after pictures are frowned upon and you have to show stretch marks and belly rolls to be ‘real.’ But people, myself included, forget that even that ‘real’ photo is staged. We only show what we want to show, and essentially whoever posts the photo controls what you see. I do not think I’m brave when I post a picture of myself showing some skin, just because I’m a larger size. I just think that I know my angles, I know when I look good, and that in the end I’m sharing what I want to. So then, when I hashtag it with body positive, am I being a hypocrite?

I always say that my answer to having self-confidence is faking it until I make it. No one has to know that you’re second-guessing yourself, and no one will doubt you as long as you’re acting like believe it yourself. But at what point can I seperate how I really feel about myself from what I’m trying to depict? It’s not that I don’t want to be body positive, it’s just that I’m trying to understand how I can both be body positive and be open to change and that is where I struggle. I struggle with the idea of whether or not I’ll be letting down others— family, friends, readers, etc.—if I change. But If body positive is defined as acceptance and appreciation of all human body types, then I am hoping the community can learn to accept changing bodies that are still loved just as much.