Over the past week a post from fashion blogger Jessica Kane has gone viral. In it, Jessica makes it clear she doesn’t think it was brave for her to wear a swimsuit in public. She says instead of caring about how people think she looks, she focuses on feeling fab.
Well, yes and no.
First, let’s be clear. Jessica is doing amazing things for the body confidence movement. She runs her own plus-size fashion blog as well as the plus-size blogger network/magazine, Skorch. And she’s spread her positive body love message to millions through social media and appearances on TV.
That’s fantastic. We love it! But we think it might have been better if Jessica had started this particular post with: “THIS WAS NOT BRAVE FOR ME.” We’re so happy she’s confident in her appearance, but there are loads of women and men who aren’t. Some of them are overweight, some of them are underweight. Some are in shape, some aren’t. But they all suffer with serious (and equally legitimate) self-esteem issues.
In her post, Jessica explains it didn’t take bravery because she doesn’t care what people think. Fantastic. But she then goes on to list the things she believes actually do require bravery:
“A family battling tragic illness, a mother trying to beat addiction, a person trying to break free of domestic violence, reaching out for help when you have already planned your suicide and feel like you can’t breath [sic] one more day.”
While these heart-breaking examples definitely require bravery to face, Jessica uses them to highlight just how ridiculous she considers it that people thought it was brave she wore a swimsuit in public. Using them in this way implies that comparatively the struggles people with eating and body image disorders face are not legitimate. We’re losing our minds over this. For many people struggling with body image issues it DOES take bravery (not to mention tons of courage, hard work and perseverance) to overcome the feeling that you—and your body—are not good enough.
Jessica encourages people to only worry about what really matters, and we wholeheartedly agree that physical appearance shouldn’t make that list. But it’s not always that simple to choose what worries you.
Don’t believe us? Then check out this definition of body dysmorphic disorders by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America:
“People who have body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) think about their real or perceived flaws for hours each day.
They can’t control their negative thoughts and don’t believe people who tell them that they look fine. Their thoughts may cause severe emotional distress and interfere with their daily functioning. They may miss work or school, avoid social situations and isolate themselves, even from family and friends, because they fear others will notice their flaws.
They may even undergo unnecessary plastic surgeries to correct perceived imperfections, never finding satisfaction with the results.”
Does that sound like something anyone would choose?
The cause of body image disorders like BDD is unclear, but they’re pretty sure biological and environmental factors are involved—things like genetics, the way your brain functions and personality traits. By their very nature disorders are illogical. They don’t make sense. And that means you can’t compare anyone’s situations.
So when Jessica says she doesn’t care what other people think, we say that’s great—for her. But for people with BDD, it’s not something they can switch off. In fact, it’s not even always about what other people think. A lot of the time it’s their own thoughts that keep them from living with the kind of freedom Jessica says she enjoys each day.
Please don’t misunderstand our intentions behind this post. It’s awesome Jessica feels confident in her skin, and people assuming she shouldn’t because of her size (or any other reason) is wrong. But just ‘cause she’s self-confident doesn’t mean someone else shouldn’t get to celebrate their own bravery when they wear a tube skirt to a party, a pair of tights to the gym or a bikini to the beach.
We’re positive it wasn’t Jessica’s intention to dismiss the fears and struggles of people with body image disorders. But if we read it this way then there might be others who will as well.
The reality is we all have our own stuff going on. We acknowledge Jessica’s done more to advance body confidence than we probably ever will, but we couldn’t not write this post. Because it would be a damn tragedy if even one person stops themselves from celebrating a win over a disorder because they’ve been told it didn’t really require bravery.
Jessica is a great role model, but maybe not for everyone. Your story is unique. And it’s as valid as anyone else’s. Never miss a chance to celebrate a win. And don’t let anyone tell you what’s brave and what’s not—only you know that.