As someone with an unhealthy relationship with my own body, I go out of my way to avoid body positivity conversations. Just the thought of being recognized as someone who isn’t skinny is very stressful to me. And over the years, I’ve grown to hate and be very harsh on myself. So yeah, body positivity talks don’t inspire or empower me or cause me to suddenly love myself. And I didn’t feel inspired by this one either. However, this talk had a deep impact on me. Hearing Jessamyn Stanley — who, by the way, is a boss — talk about her experience as a fat woman practicing yoga was a huge wake-up call to me.
Stanley talked about her own feelings of self-doubt when she first went to a yoga class. So many toxic thoughts came to her while she looked at and compared her body to others through the large mirror. She hated looking at herself and feeling like she wasn’t doing the poses right because of her body. These thoughts became unbearable and suffocating, to the point where she had to run out of the classroom.
The second time she tried yoga, these toxic thoughts came back, but she just wasn’t having it. She asked herself, “So is this what we’re going to do for 90 minutes?” After an uncomfortable period of time — whether it be 10 minutes or an hour — these thoughts shut off. There are only so many flaws you can point out about your body before it starts to get repetitive. Stanley told us the best thing to do is just to let these thoughts come out, and that’s what has me shook.
On Stanley’s website, her mission is to celebrate bodies and encourage students to ask “How do I feel?” rather than “How do I look?” Hearing Stanley talk about her toxic thoughts, I’ve realized that I let myself define how I feel with how I look. I can’t begin to stress how many times I’ve run out of a room to stop my thoughts. I’ve left auditions in the middle of them. I’ve missed classes on the days I felt very ugly. I’ve skipped meals at the dining hall so people wouldn’t see me. I’ve avoided parties claiming that I got “bad vibes” when really I just felt bad in my party outfits. And there’s just so much more I’ve missed out on because I can’t handle the negative thoughts. I let my appearance bully my emotions.