Saturday, 3 March 2018

Learning To Love My Body

Body confidence and body positivity is a movement that has grown enormously in recent years and is a topic that is discussed again and again. It's lost its way quite a lot, it's a movement that was meant to celebrate diverse bodies that do not fit traditional beauty standards but time and time again I see brands attempting to cash in on this but using the same kind of models that fit into those standards. Rarely do I see disabled people included in these sorts of campaigns. It's improving, sure, but when you're disabled and struggling with body confidence, where can you turn? For me, disabled and diverse individuals on Instagram and Twitter have been pivotal in building up my confidence, but only once I found the empowering disabled people who have taught me to love and embrace my body as it changes.

Image of Shona, sitting in her powerchair, in front of a cathedral with metal fencing directly behind her.

For years I looked to abled people who fit traditional beauty standards to empower me and teach me to love my body, and whilst some people who fit that description have helped me on my journey to loving my body it's mainly disabled and diverse people who have taught me the most. Queer disabled people. POC (people of colour) disabled people. Trans and non-binary disabled people. Diverse disabled people are the ones who have helped me get to the point where I feel like a confident and empowered disabled woman.

During the past 6 months I've been the most confident that I've been in my whole life. I walked away from a relationship last year that was doing me more harm than good and since then I've fallen in love with myself. Given myself the time I deserve. My body has changed a lot in these past few years and that was more clear than ever last year. I've put on weight, my body looks different when I'm sat down and I've still got Marfan Syndrome caused stretch marks appearing all over my body. Seeing other disabled people embrace their disability, embrace their changing body has really sparked something inside me though. I trace the stretch marks on my body, no longer hating them, but looking at them like a piece of art. I treasure the scars across my back, hip and face, a reminder of the strength inside me. There are still things I struggle with of course, my tummy spilling over my jeans and my crooked teeth, but I can see days ahead where I embrace it all and stop putting so much value on the opinions of others.

Top: Joanie Clothing | Jeans: ASOS Tall | Jacket: New Look | Shoes: Primark | Bag: Monki    

I wanted to use this post today to share and celebrate the people who have helped me get to this point in my body confidence journey. The people who have taught me to embrace my disability and my body. The people who have empowered me, without removing their disability from the equation or reaching for abled standards. I've found it tough in the past year to find disabled people who fit that, who don't use problematic language that they believe is empowering but is in fact, marginalising them more. As a disabled person I'm careful how I use the word 'inspiring' but I can honestly say that every one of these people have inspired me to be more confident.

Photo credit: Sophie Bradbury-Cox

fashionbellee - Sophie Bradbury-Cox

I've talked about Sophie on my blog before because I just adore her Instagram page! She was one of the first disabled fashion instagrammers that I followed and she is constantly inspiring me to be braver and bolder in my fashion choices. I still so often hide behind my usual skinny jeans and jumper combo that feels so familiar and safe but more and more I'm choosing to wear things like over the knee boots, something that just a year ago I felt were off limits for a disabled person like me. She shows me that my options are unlimited when it comes to enjoying fashion as a powerchair user. Tess Daly is also someone who has also inspired me to be more adventurous in my fashion choices too.

Photo credit: Imogen (the feeding of the fox)

the_feeding_of_the_fox - Imogen

You can't talk about body positivity and confidence without mentioning Imogen. I found her through other's recommending her Instagram page and I'm passing on that recommendation. She embraces her disability, isn't afraid of showing it and she isn't afraid to use her voice either. For so long I felt it was impossible to build a following online when you speak out about disability, ableism and accessibility but Imogen has shown me that there are people out there who will listen. I'm constantly learning from her and she's taught me to connect with my body on a level that I didn't think possible.

Instagram feed - rvbyallegra

rvbyallegra - Ruby Allegra

Ruby is an all round badass human. They are one of my favourite people on Instagram because they empower me in so many ways as a disabled person. Like Imogen, they aren't afraid to use their voice and point out ableism and inaccessibility, something so many seem to be scared of doing because they fear it may scare off their abled audience. They radiate confidence and they are a talented makeup artist and powerful activist too.

All bodies are good bodies. There is no right or wrong way for a body to look and these people, and many more, have taught me this invaluable thought. We must see more representation of every kind of body, especially diverse bodes, because it really can make a huge difference knowing that you aren't alone in this world. For now though, I'm going to be the person that I needed just a few years ago.

More people to follow:

Megan Jayne Crabbe - bodyposipanda
Harnaam Kaur - harnaamkaur
Milly - selfloveclubb
Mama Cax - mamacaxx

Who empowers and inspires you to embrace your body?

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