In a culture of impossible expectations, trying to find ways to love our bodies as they are has become harder and harder every day. Sometimes we need a pep talk, and fortunately, there are some wonderful TED Talks that can do just that. Learn to embrace yourself and treat yourself as you deserve to be treated by watching some or all of the below.

1. How I Define Beauty by Winnie Harlow

Winnie Harlow asks her audience to think about what they find most physically attractive in a person and then challenges that idea by suggesting that the things we find physically beautiful in other people come from the internet, social media, magazines, etc. She believes that there is beauty in everything and everyone regardless of how they look, and though she acknowledges that the idea that there’s “beauty in everything” sounds cliche, she draws on her own experiences as a child to stress that the parts of herself she used to be bullied for are the parts of her that she loves most about herself today. Winnie Harlow explains that her skin condition, vitiligo, is caused by her immune system thinking the melanin in her skin is a disease and trying to combat it. Because of this, she was alienated by other children in her elementary school, whose parents told them that they might catch her skin condition. She reveals that she decided to become the bully because she was bullied before realizing that course of action would ultimately solve nothing. She was trying to fit herself into a mold that wasn’t meant for her, so she decided to create a new mold for herself: finding beauty in everything. Winnie Harlow believes that it only takes one person to change minds, lives, and beauty standards; don’t look outside of yourself to decide what beauty is. It’s already inside of you.

2. Plus-Size? More Like My Size by Ashley Graham

Ashley Graham starts her TED Talk by looking at herself in a full-length mirror and saying, “You are bold. You are brilliant. You are beautiful. There is no other woman like you. You are capable. Backfat, I see you popping over my bra today, but that’s okay: I’m going to choose to love you. And thick thighs, you are just so sexy you can’t stop rubbing each other. That’s all right. I’m gonna keep you. And cellulite, I have not forgotten about you. I’m gonna choose to love you even though you wanna take over my whole bottom half, but you’re a part of me. I love you.” She then turns to the audience and tells everyone that she started loving herself the day she realized she would NEVER fit the mold society had created for her. She refuses labels like “plus-size model” and challenges the fashion industry to call models what they are: women. Ashley Graham urges women to become their own role models instead of looking to other people for validation and acceptance, finding true beauty within and appreciating our bodies exactly as they are. We can learn from her example by coming up with our own self-affirming words to repeat to ourselves in the mirror every day.

3. The Inaccurate Link between Body Ideals and Healthy by Nancy N. Chen

Nancy N. Chen is a medical anthropologist who studies cultural concepts about bodies and how they shape our health and the way we experience existence. She says that curvy bodies have been around for thousands of years; in the past, curvy bodies have represented reproduction and abundance, which were two of the highest-ranking ideals held in the ancient world. Within the last 100 years, body image ideals have shifted significantly, especially since Americans started featuring women who were small in size and stature in all of their mainstream media outlets. The gap between what is real and what is shown to us on TV causes and perpetuates epidemics like eating disorders. Since body ideals change over time, Nancy N. Chen suggests that the answer is to turn our attention to what’s going on INSIDE our bodies instead of only looking at our external features for indications of whether or not we’re healthy.

4. Tips for Reclaiming Your Peace of Mind Online by Naomi Shimada

In an interview with Cloe Shasha, author and model Naomi Shimada discusses the anxiety that social media causes. Though this topic is not directly related to how we view our own bodies, the comparison game that we play whenever we get on social media certainty leads to us wishing we looked more like someone else, someone with an “ideal” life and body. Naomi Shimada recommends that people who use social media look inside themselves and figure out why they feel jealous or insecure about a certain person or picture they see. She says self-reflection is important, so if your comparison game is too strong, try putting your phone away and stepping outside for a bit for a fresh perspective.

5. Enough with the Fear of Fat by Kelli Jean Drinkwater

Kelli Jean Drinkwater challenges her audience to face their fear of fat by choosing to flourish in her body as it is now instead of trying to “improve” it. She urges women to accept themselves for who they are and to reclaim their lives instead of trying to conform to society’s image of what the perfect woman should look like. Kelli Jean Drinkwater uses art to spread this message, putting “fat” women in spaces where they haven’t traditionally been welcome. Though she receives countless criticisms, she continues to fight against our culture’s fatphobia and challenges others to do the same.

What if, instead of trying to change our bodies, we tried to change our mindset about our bodies? Rewire your brain with these TED Talks and learn how to love your body more by showing yourself the same love, compassion, and empathy that you show other people.

January 04, 2022 — Shannon

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