Although I feel incredibly privileged for having been introduced to the body positive community at large, many of my friends have, unfortunately, yet to uncover the same valuable information necessary for body acceptance. But figuring out how to be a body positive friend is crucial in order to effectively reflect some self-loving perspectives onto certain situations and pals who seem to need it most.
At the same time, however, I don't want my idea of self-acceptance to seem distant or inaccessible to anyone. As a straight size white person with minimal physical disabilities, my body positivity has the potential to draw a very personal experience with a brush so broad that certain marginalized narratives, and the narratives of those I love, can get crushed.
One of the biggest lessons I've gleaned from body positivity and friendship is to truly be nonjudgemental. And to do this, understanding your friend's unique experience and challenges with their body, while acknowledging that these struggles are entirely separate from your own, is essential. Learning to accept your body is often hard work, and it can be even harder around friends who don't support the pace and nuances of your journey. So help give someone a daily dose of body pos-inspired love with conscious awareness of your privilege and these 15 tips on how to be a more body pos buddy.
1. Help Create A Positive Space In The Dressing Room
Dressing rooms can be a minefield of all sorts of nasty fat and general body shaming rhetoric. For many folks with body image issues, mirrors and harsh lighting can feel daunting.
Avoid giving into scrutinizing your friend's outfit in such an environment. Rather, be their cheerleader as they model a bunch of chic (and maybe even silly) outfits, and be prepared to distract your pal from spiraling negative thoughts. Fitting rooms can be fun with the right people, regardless of how "flattering" or "unflattering" an outfit may be.
2. Make Compliments That Aren't Body-Based
From my experiences, body-based compliments can be triggering of multiple insecurities, regardless of whether or not they were delivered with good intentions. Be sure to mix up your remarks, perhaps applauding your friend's eyeliner execution or glowing positive energy.
Keeping compliments varied can be useful in relieving some of the pressure that results from a socially-constructed focus on the body.
3. Choose Your Words Carefully
Words matter. "Fat" and "unflattering" aren't inherently moral or negative descriptors. Rather, it's how we use these words that counts. Try to refrain from using the term "fat" as a catch-all for negativity, and instead use it as the neutral (or even positive) descriptor that it can be.
However, try not to assume that your friend has reclaimed certain words as part of their identity. Always ask first. And no matter what, try not to tell your friend that something is or isn't flattering. There are other ways to describe their rad outfit without implying that only certain bodies would look good in their chosen garment.
4. Speak Up When Someone Body Shames Your Friend
If you think your friend is comfortable with you taking action (again, ask them), please be ready to defend them when trolls and IRL rude people emerge from their caves. At most, this should help your friend grow more assertive in defending their own beautiful body (or, if they choose not to engage, to use self care to help prevent themselves from internalizing the hateful words).
At the very least, it will show your friend that their feelings and body are valid and worthy to you. When someone's being a jerk, just knowing that you have an ally who respects and supports you can be enough to pep up again.
5. Obsess Over Beauty Together, In A Positive Way
Make self care dates with your friend, and indulge in all the fun that can come with face masks, DIY manicures, and trying out new shades of lipstick. You can help each other by creating a safe and fun space in which to use beauty through experimentation and an expression of bodily autonomy, instead of letting beauty standards and insecurities dominate the experience.
Above all, support your friend's fashion and beauty choices.
6. Don't Make Them Feel Pressured
Body positivity is generally a long and frustrating process for most people who choose to embark on it. For folks with gender dysphoria and other complicated physical experiences, it can be that much more nuanced and difficult to understand.
But don't push or shame a friend who appears to be in a body image rut. Rather, gently extend your companionship to them and support them through the ups and downs of self-love.
7. Never Compare Bodies With Your Friend
No matter how much we're conditioned to do so, try to never compare the bodies of others to that of your friend's. Framing the beauty of other humans in correlation to a physical flaw you perceive in your own body is never helpful. Beauty is subjective, and our perceptions of it vary individual to individual.
Additionally, if you see your friends starting to engage in comparing their bodies to someone else's, consider respectfully dismissing the practice as a poor use of time and steering the conversation into more positive territories.
8. Openly Practice Self-Love In Front Of Them
Compliment yourself in the mirror, take a bunch of selfies, or even lovingly stroke your tummy rolls in front of your bestie. They might laugh at you, but odds are they might also be encouraged to join in on the body pos fun.
9. Tell Your Friend They're Beautiful On A Regular Day
You don't have to have a deep discussion about body politics in order to be a good body positive ally to your friend. Simply saying things like "you look gorgeous today" when your friend is dressed-down, makeup-free, or in a totally natural environment can be casual and powerful enough to help them feel supported and loved without a possibly triggering discussion about body-related topics.
10. Point Out Positive Media Representation & Critique The Bad Stuff
In the same way that you might have made fun of red carpet outfits with your pal when you were in high school, consider making a game out of critiquing poor media representations of fatness, transness, the differently-abled, and race. Together, you can learn a lot about the weight of and intention behind media depictions of otherness, while also reconstructing the way both of you perceive your own bodies.
11. Don't Project Your Insecurities Onto Your Friend
Since body image is a hugely sensitive topic, try to stay clued in to where your friend is mentally before dumping on them about your own issues. Be careful to also check in with your friend to ensure that your valid ramblings don't include phrases like "I feel fat" or anything else that may erase or belittle your pal's experiences.
12. Listen When They Need To Vent About Their Bodies
Don't try to silence your friends when they bash their bodies. Rather, try to help them reframe certain attitudes that seem to be causing them personal strife, and let them cry over the difficulties of self-love.
Between things like systemic racism and fatphobia, maintaining a semblance of body positivity can be exhausting. Let your friend release this stress without making them feel guilty for their negatively-charged words. There is a time and a place for body pos education.
13. Refuse To Assign Morals To Food
If your friend is hunting for something sweet but is afraid to be "bad," encourage them to grab that ice cream cone without entertaining the notion of morality regarding food. Remind them that they deserve to enjoy the meals that make them happiest.
14. Have A Photoshoot Together
Organizing a photoshoot with your pals can be a fun way to produce some cool images with friends and to practice body positivity. The shoot can be sexy, silly, or candid. Regardless, it might show your friends the way you see them and provide the opportunity to release some inhibitions.
15. Share Articles About Body Positivism With Your Friend
Particularly when my pals are feeling down, I love to share body positive mantras or articles that I've come across to help them expand their worldview and hopefully feel a little better. In my experience, the more you read this kind of material, the more it feels true to you.
At the end of the day, most of us want the very best for our friends and hope for our relationships to reflect the positive changes we wish to see in our own lives. As long as you support one another's journeys and make an effort to understand each other's perspectives, you should be able to have a friendship that supports everyone's journey equally.
Images: Courtesy dressesanddragons/Instagram; Courtesy Instagram Users