For those of you who don’t know, ‘bopo’ stands for body positivity. And there is an enormous, and rapidly growing, bopo community online, particularly on Instagram.
The online bopo community has had such an impact on my life over the past few months. But I have noticed that when I mention it to my family and friends, they typically brush it off as more social media bs. So I decided to write a post explaining why it’s been so much more than that to me.
First of all let me provide some context. This time last year I found myself on antidepressants and in intensive counselling. I won’t go into all of the details (follow me on the gram for deets of my experience with depression @sarah_tyrrell_), but it’s fair to say that I was profoundly unhappy. Over the course of the following twelve months I came to realise that every problem I was facing in my life was rooted in my relationship with myself. I hated myself. I absolutely hated myself. And this negativity had seeped into every single area of my life.
Once we (my counsellor and I) had identified my self hatred as the root of all my unhappiness, it became clear that by addressing this alone everything else would fall into place. So as part of my ‘homework’, my counsellor asked me to start searching for body positivity online. I was pretty dubious initially, but as soon as I typed those words into my Instagram discovery page I was blown away and have never looked back.
Here was a world of girls who were every possible shape and size, every colour, height, sexuality, religion, nationality, age and ability. The only thing that they had in common was that they were promoting unapologetic, no strings attached self love.
They weren’t saying I could love myself if I lost a little weight, or if I made more of an effort with my appearance, or if I dressed differently, or if I was a little more successful. Nooooooo. What they were saying was really quite radical. They were saying, every body has the right to love themselves. Every body. As in, every single person. No matter what!
I found so much comfort in that message having spent more than a decade feeling the exact opposite. I immersed myself in this community and bathed my soul in the self love they shared. I felt my mind absorb their words. I felt my subconscious shift its beliefs. I felt myself come alive with hope.
I watched others post pictures of their bodies in nothing but underwear, pictures that highlighted the parts of their bodies we are taught to hate. I watched videos of girls dancing round their bedrooms in a bra and nickers, smiling from ear to ear as their bodies shook and jiggled and jirated to the music. They challenged everything I thought I knew. They seemed to ooze sunshine. I was mesmorized. I wanted to feel like that.
I began to participate in the community, posting about my own experiences, my own challenges, my own demons. Rather than the ridicule and intolerance I know aired I might encounter, I found support and compassion. I got messages from my followers that filled me with so much relief, they often brought tears to my eyes. They understood me. They understood what it was to feel worthless. They were there for me. They were becoming my friends.
I took it a step further by posting pictures of my own body, my cellulite, my stretch marks, my rolls of fat and double chin. Every time I did it I experienced the same initial anxiety. The same anticipation of rejection. The same fear of vulnerability. But invariably that was replaced by a feeling of profound empowerment when my followers commented on how I was inspiring them, or how they could relate to my words. I felt I had purpose for the first time in years.
For me the bopo community has been transformative. It’s provided me with a safe space where I can find comfort and support, where I can explore my own relationship to my body and my self, where I can learn from others and where I can find peers and people to look up to. When you hate yourself and your body, you’re so ruled by shame and fear that to do these things is really quite impossible unless you find that community to envelope, protect and nurture you.
I don’t think that my relationship with myself could have improved as much as it has done without this community. And I’m so grateful for it everyday.
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