Mall of America® partnered up with NEDA and Sarah Edwards to host an event yesterday; I AM_______. The idea is that you fill in the blank with what you “are,” be that strong, beautiful, intelligent, funny, whatever it means to you. I was honored to be a part of the team who worked on executing this amazing situation, which means that for the last two weeks, I’ve had my dream job. I was being paid to put together a luncheon and panel conversation about Body Confidence and Positivity, so really, it was out of this world insanely awesome that I got to be any part of this. I still can’t really wrap my head around how or why this all happened and what I did to deserve it, but I’ll stop thinking about it and just say to the universe, THANK YOU!
I ate a beautiful lunch catered by Radisson Blu, enjoyed the gorgeous bouquets and decor of Indulge and Bloom, wrote myself a love letter thanks to Paper Source, and even got my lipstick touched up by Ulta. All that was before the panel. Once that started, the fun really began.
The panel was comprised of Body Confidence influencers Ryan Sheldon (@bingeeaterconfessions), Gina Susanna (@nourishandeat), Gabi Gregg (@gabifresh), and Nicolette Mason (@nicolettemason), as well as Jillian Lampert, the CEO of The Emily Program. Even amid my joyous glee, I did remember to take some notes. These don’t really do the 90 minute discussion justice, but hopefully it’s better than nothing and this helps you, wherever you are on your journey of body confidence.
It’s okay to have bad days.
It’s okay to have bad days. Nicolette talked about not feeling beautiful and confident about your body everyday. As she put it, it can feel like “Body Confidence is just one more thing that I’m failing at,” which rang so true for me. She emphasized that this is okay, that thought is okay, notice it, and move on with your damn beautiful self. Ryan talked about the support he felt from his community the first time he really opened up on his Instagram stories; he was in the bath with a facemask on, going through a bad breakup, and posting openly and honestly. It wasn’t pretty or perfect, it was vulnerable, and it was honest. It was a beautiful moment that came at a low mental point. Just because you are having a low day, doesn’t mean you’re failing at body positivity. You’re simply being human, and isn’t that what this whole thing is all about?!
How can we practice Body Confidence?
Luckily for us, the panel shared some tangible tips on steps we can take every day to continue forging our paths to self love and acceptance. Jillian talked about days where you just can’t get dressed. Your clothes are all the same, the colors haven’t changed, but for some reason you just aren’t happy with the way you look in anything. She gave two points of advice for this. One; ask yourself what is really going on. Is there something you’re anxious about? What is going on in your life at this moment that could be causing these emotions besides what is happening in your closet right now? Two; get out of the house. Just put it on, whatever it is, as long as it works with your needs for the day and won’t get you arrested, put your clothes on and get out of the house. Sometimes the key is just getting out, once you’re out in the world the anxiety about your clothes tends to take a back seat. Gabi speaks to herself as if she were talking to her best friend, because we tend to be much more loving and forgiving with others than we are with ourselves. Nicolette has an autoimmune disorder, so whenever she’s feeling bad about her body, she takes a moment to truly listen to her body. “Am I having a flareup, is this a symptom or a sign of something else? Instead of hating my body right now, should I take a moment to listen to it?”
How to handle Diet Culture
Diet Culture is prevalent and can be all-consuming, and the panel shared some advice as to what we can do to fight against it. Gabi for example is very comfortable telling people who want to talk about their new diet or weight loss that it isn’t something she’s comfortable talking about, plain and simple. Something that Jillian said that I really latched on to was a common saying in any yoga class, “Stay on your mat.” There’s a lot of disordered eating bullshit out there, and it’s going to come at us from a lot of different directions, but stay on your mat, concentrate on yourself, what you’re doing, and how you are supporting and loving your body. Hopefully, people will see what you’re doing and come join you, and you won’t have to worry about all the others.
Perhaps the person that resonated the most with me was Gina. She spoke about her history with anorexia and her recovery, and her words resonated with what I wrote in my very first ever blog post ever, almost one year ago. Regardless of how I may feel about my body, it is a privileged body. It looks the way diet culture says bodies should look, for the most part. Stores carry my size. I am thin. Gina and I are both thin white women, and with that comes immense societal advantages. She spoke about being mindful of that, and taking a step back sometimes to say, “Would my voice help this particular conversation, or would it hinder it? Does this specific situation need a thin white body’s perspective right now, or is this not my place?” She admitted that she could, for example, talk about how uncomfortable she feels in tight pants, and that that may help someone, but may not be absolutely necessary to share to progress the overall body confidence movement. On the other hand, as someone who follows her on social medial, I feel that I would benefit from her skinny jeans struggles. See?? She looks like she has it all but she’s self-conscious too! There is no simple answer to any of this, but she definitely gave me a lot to think about. My privilege is undeniable, and though my struggle is real, it does not negate my privilege.
I have about ten thousand more favorite quotes and moments from yesterday, but they’ll have to wait for another time. As I write this, I am still beaming in the afterglow of a terrific day. Thank you for being a part of this community and conversation. You are beautiful, you are capable, and stay on your mat (but also move your mat closer to my mat). Thank you!