Bryony Gordon is a journalist and longtime mental health advocate. She has written books about her own battles with bulimia and OCD, campaigned for suicide prevention, and she ran a marathon in her underwear to break the myth that only those with an athletic build can do it.
In what many would consider a brave move, she posted a picture on Instagram in her underwear. Pictures of her in her underwear are not a strange occurrence on Bryony’s Instagram, but this post was a statement in body positivity and an “eff you” to those who criticize her.
@bryonygordonThis week I’ve had a few piss-takey comments from blokes about my body and size – blokes who think it’s ok to judge me in a jokey way because I’m a jokey kind of girl. Well I’ve got news for them: it’s not. It’s not ok, or particularly cool, to judge anyone on their size. I won’t ever do it, and I’m lucky enough to have a shit load of awesome followers who don’t think it’s ok to do it either. I am done – WE ARE DONE – with being judged for not having a perfect body, whatever that is. My body is perfect to me because it is mine: it’s carried a baby, got me through two marathons and kept me alive even when I treated it with stunning cruelty and disrespect through bulimia, drug and alcohol abuse. And after all that, I won’t let anyone else treat it with cruelty and disrespect.
So, here is my body. I will continue to ‘flaunt’ it until douchebags stop being douchebags. I’ve put a filter on it only so I can show you all its different folds and shadows properly – the lighting where we are tonight ain’t that great. I’m off to have a three course meal with my husband and a load of @telegraph readers – I hope, wherever you are, that you’re having a similarly nurturing Sunday #effyourbeautystandards#bodypositive
Her post is a powerful reminder of the damage of body shaming. Many of us endure other people’s opinions about our own bodies and weight – sometimes from strangers and sometimes from people close to us. Many women have learnt that ‘you’ve lost weight’ is a compliment, and is usually to be followed with a vehement denial of that fact and pointing out our wobbly bits. But sometimes comments about weight can be extremely damaging to how we feel about ourselves – even if it’s a joke about our bums getting bigger or being told we’re ‘too skinny’.
Society and Beauty
“I would be quite content to carry on as I am, going to the plus-size section of shops and wearing patterned tents, were it not for everyone else and their complete inability to believe that I am content.” – Bryony Gordon
Society has a standardized view of beauty. Its one that no one can fit into, and certainly not throughout their whole life. With all the changes our bodies go through – illness, having babies, the menopause – there are so many factors that can affect our weight or shape. Nature has created so many body types and its unrealistic for anyone to expect us all to look the same. We all should be free of the judgement that we have to fit in with anyone else’s ideas.
Bryony recently spoke out about an email she received from a ‘fan’ saying what a shame it was that she had put on so much weight recently, as he no longer fancied her like he used to. He also displayed dismay that she has stated that she ‘no longer cared’ about her weight. She posted it on her twitter with the caption ‘Reason not to lose weight number 856”. Why should she care whether some person she has never heard of nor met has decided he no longer wants to have sex with her? It is fascinating that so many people, men and women, think that their opinion of our bodies really matters. All that really matters is how you feel about your body.
“The ‘Instagram Effect’ has had terrible consequences for body image. Why don’t we enjoy the way we look, instead of trying to filter and crop it, to hide it away?” – Bryony Gordon
For some of us, scrolling through Instagram leads to comparisons to what we are seeing. The ‘instagram effect’ can make us feel like we should look like we should have the perfect bikini bodies or perfect skin. People present the best version of themselves online. It can be hard to separate how they look to how we think about ourselves. We are so used to the insecurities and little voices that tell us our bodies aren’t good enough, but this self loathing can lead to long-term mental health problems and affect how we live our lives.
“When I was growing up, being wholeheartedly proud of yourself was looked down on. Then self-love became a radical act. Now, body positivity is something people are embracing in droves.” – Bryony Gordon
People like Bryony Gordon and plus-size model Ashley Graham remind us to love ourselves, whatever our size or shape. Stop looking at what your body doesn’t do and doesn’t look like, and remind yourself what it has done. As Bryony reminds us, her body carried a baby, got her through marathons and kept going even when she treated it badly with bulemia and alcohol abuse. Our bodies do incredible things, and its time we treat them with the love and respect they deserve.
None of this means that trying to lose weight, eating healthy and taking care of yourself is bad. Nor is wanting to look good or dress up and feel great. However, it’s important to remember that the choices we all make for our own bodies are our own.
Body Shaming Behaviours We Need To Stop
Focusing too much on diet, and not enough on being healthy. Whilst diets and losing weight are great, the most important thing is that your body gets the nutrition it needs. Don’t focus on how you want your body to look, but focus on how you want to feel.
Refusing to indulge. Sometimes you can have that three-course meal and don’t punish yourself for it!
Idolising other peoples bodies. Don’t forget that the bodies you see online may not be a realistic portrayal of that person. Plus they are not you and live a very different life to yours.
Shaming people for being too skinny. Just as its peoples choice if they don’t want to lose weight, its also peoples choice if they do want to lose weight and work out. Remember – everybody’s body is their own!
Judging others for conforming to society. Everyone faces different pressures in their lives and their journey may be different from your own. Learning to accept your body can be a lifelong journey and not judging how quick it is to get there is important.
Defining our beauty by how we look. Jamelia Jamil’s recent campaign highlighted how much emphasis we put on our weight and our bodies over anything else. Her ‘I Weigh’ post inspired many more of people listing the things that are more important to their beauty and their lives.
Pictures taken from Instagram: