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Body Positivity - the Movement and the Message

Author: Jeff Tiessen
Swimming pools, shower stalls, and sleep-overs. Three of my harshest childhood fears. After I lost both arms I mean. Four decades later, it's hard to remember why they caused such anxiety.
I do know that vulnerability was involved. So was utter self-consciousness and insecurity. It was scars and skin flaps on display. Just-one-quick-look stares from kids who knew me but couldn’t help it. I get it, I’d have to look too. Totally looking away and pretending oblivion would’ve been just as weird probably.

Or maybe, it was as simple as being the only kid with no arms in the pool. But not a cool thing to be so different like the gal in town with some wicked ink, both arms sleeved in Sailor Jerry tattoos. Or the guy who works at Tim’s with the slick lime green mullet cut. A dubious celebrity for all of us the same. The difference though, is that they chose to solicit attention. We, with amputations or limb difference, mostly did not.

Public pools and busy beaches today still conjure a twinge of those childhood anxieties. Maybe for some of the same reasons and maybe some new ones too. I just don’t like taking my arms off at any time or place during the day. My aluminum hands and plastic elbows are important parts of my body. They are my independence and my identity. I am not comfortable leaving them laying around on a chez lounge or a beach towel.

Or maybe it’s the reverse farmer’s tan that amputees are susceptible to that I’m not keen on sporting. You know, the lovely summer tan to the top of our socket trimlines, and the fish-belly white stump inside of it!

It’s much different for me today. Those stomach-cramping fears and tears associated with swimming with peers or bedtime at sleep-overs are long gone. Somewhere, sometime thereafter, I became more confident in my changed body. I became accepting of its differences, and appreciative of its strength and durability, and the unique opportunities it affords me when I let it. Body-positivity, in some form, is what that is I suppose.

Enter Body Positivity, a social movement that argues for the acceptance and celebration of all body shapes and sizes. It’s not driven by therapists, but mostly by social-media-savvy individuals with atypical bodies and real-life experiences. It’s all about finding your own path toward emotional wellness and well-being.

“The body-positive movement is not new. It has gone through three waves since the mid-twentieth century. The 1960s saw the first wave of body positivity. It was hinged on a fat acceptance movement, bringing attention to the mental health issues around beauty and weight loss."

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