Peanut Butter and J.A.M.
On Friday May 13th, 2011, the majority of the girls graduating from a private Winnipeg school executed a very, very elaborate series of skip-day pranks.
The project, which spanned a few weeks, involved carefully acquiring every single hole punch and stapler in the school and stashing them in a secret locker, a website set up and rumoured to be run by the school’s founder, Sir James Aikins, excellent parking skills that baffled professional tow truck drivers, and the ability to squeeze through a partially opened second-story window.
Warning: Some mild swearing (and Beyoncé).
After pissing off the majority of Wolseley, a few dozen parents, and, like, all of our teachers, the grade was made to sit in the theatre and listen to our loving principle reprimand our actions (while eeeeever so slightly acknowledging that she was sooooomewhat impressed with our shenanigans).
And thus, my grade 12 year came to a close. I had gone from leaping into action with an all female cast of Les Misérables earlier in the semester, then nearly getting suspended with my fellow classmates because we all refused to wear our uniforms one day, and everything in between.
I had met wonderful people, experienced wicked cool things as a prefect (again, think Hogwarts), harassed students and teachers alike as I constantly stuck my cameras in their faces, travelled to Ottawa to debate and make mischief- I was the king of the world.
It was during my time in Ottawa that I got to public speak alongside two very gifted young women. Kamal, who in my mind is one of the most interesting, generous, and understanding people on the planet (plus, she has the coolest mom), and a quiet, long-haired blonde that needed to wear makeup to look older, Jaclyn Flom.
Actually, a few months after our trip to Ottawa, I found myself falling dramatically to my death as Javert in Les Mis. This is where I first got the chance to interact with Alanna Flom, the equally blonde, almost-twin-but-not-really sister to Jaclyn, and Maddie Lischka, a bubbly, kind-hearted, goof of a brunette and dear friend to both Flom sisters.
All of the girls were a few years younger than me, and it wasn’t until I was hired this year to photograph a birthday party that I ran into them again. All three young women had grown into their skin. Long gone were the remnants of middle and high school I had first encountered so many years ago.
Jaclyn is now attending University of Toronto for her Bachelor of Commerce. Alanna is working (out) towards her personal training certification while attending Queens University. Maddie is working hard at the University of Winnipeg with hopes of getting into dermatology (she also wants to own two cats); so I decided to catch up with these well-spoken babes, and talk to them about body positivity.
“To me, body positivity is understanding the skin you’re in. Whether or not you love it at all times, accepting that it’s there, and not letting shapes and sizes interfere with who you are as a person makes for a positive outlook.
In middle school, I often struggled with my own body image. I was the long-limbed, kind of awkward preteen with green glasses who also thought she needed to lose weight. What really helped me stop caring about what I looked like was caring more about who I was as a person. I started to focus on my personality, and all the things I liked about that instead, and the rest fell into place eventually.
Debating and public speaking has had a huge influence on my confidence. It has allowed me to open up and easily share my opinions with large audiences and people I don’t know, as well as those that I’m close to. Having confidence in the fact that your presence and what you have to say is important played a huge role in how I saw myself. Knowing that people are literally judging me on what I’m saying, and not for how I look helped me to stand up with confidence in everyday life as well. It made me positive about my body because it meant that I could be successful no matter what I looked like, so I may as well try to appreciate all parts of me.
I stay confident by trying to love myself everyday. If it’s not my body, then it’s the person inside that I have to accept and adore instead. Being honest with myself is important too. If I don’t feel so great about my body, I don’t just poke and prod, I ask what I can do to make myself feel just a little bit better about the situation. Wearing an outfit I know I look great in, curling my hair or going for a quick jog can make such a difference on my outlook on the day.
My favourite feature by far has to be my eyes. I think they’re one of the first things people tend to notice in conversation. Not only that, but eye contact is a form of communication on its own, and can speak volumes about someone’s real feelings at the time. I find it incredibly important for me to look at people when I’m interacting with them, both to take in their reactions and emotions, and to show mine. It’s part of how I feel close to people.
If I’m avoiding eye contact, that’s when you can tell I’m most likely upset or uncomfortable. I usually play up my eyes with a bit of makeup, but I mostly feel like I’m showing them off best when I’m looking at someone. The greatest part is that it’s basically impossible to have a “skinny eyes” or “fat eyes” day, so no matter how I feel about the rest of my body, I know one thing will always look fab to me.
I’ve been on and off the exercise bandwagon often, but I’ve learned this summer that whenever I can fit at least one kind of workout into my day, I always end up feeling better. Even if it’s a 15 minute yoga routine, it’s a great way to energize myself. I also like to make healthy meals and take pictures of it. Whether or not they make it to Instagram, fresh foods always look better, and the photos motivate me to eat better when I have the urge to put off making a healthy meal. I’m by no means, however, a super clean eater.
Part of having body positivity is knowing that food doesn’t control you, so I’ll indulge and eat snacks, a piece of birthday cake, or a couple (or more than a couple) of drinks with friends. Knowing that this one not-so-healthy meal isn’t going to make or break your stride unless you let it is key for me.
The most important piece of advice I could give is to stay true to yourself. I believe body positivity starts with loving who you are on the inside. People can be so critical and will tell you that you should act a certain way to be a “better person”. But what good is it trying to become more confident in yourself if you’re also throwing away the parts of your personality that define you?
Surround yourself with accepting people. If someone can’t see the good in you, that’s their own fault, and shouldn’t affect how you see yourself. Chances are, you’re going to be closer with friends who think you’re awesome just the way you are, as opposed to those who would like you better if you acted differently.
Besides, the people who already love your personality probably don’t spend much time judging your body anyways.”
“My definition of body positivity is being courageous enough to love yourself despite your imperfections, and reflect your love to others while encouraging them to do the same.
Finding something that you enjoy doing, and then adapting to the changes that are associated with the activity, was the key for being comfortable in my own skin.
In grade 9, I played Thenardier in our senior school production of Les Miserables. I’m a terrible singer, and was extremely clumsy and self conscious when I was 14, but it was interesting how acting as a different person can change the way you present yourself. I would go home and still act like a gross, manly, old innkeeper and I saw nothing wrong with that, so I figured, ‘If I can act like this, what’s so wrong with being myself? Absolutely nothing!’
I stay confident by being passive. I ignore what others think of me, and I instead focus on myself and what steps I need to take to improve. This doesn’t just go for physical appearance. Paying attention to details, knowing what people like and dislike, and being able to understand people makes me more confident. My ability to help others becomes more important than just a physical appearance.
As narcissistic as it sounds, I love my torso. It’s a part of the body that people don’t see everyday, so it’s more of a secret personal boost of confidence than anything. I’m not the most muscular person on the planet, nor am I the skinniest, but I’m pretty damn proud of what I’ve worked for.
I absolutely love boxing, and I’ve been doing it for a year now. It has been one of the most rewarding and life-changing experiences of my life. The feeling of being liberated by punching something is an indescribable feeling. Or when you’ve finished a workout that you never thought was even possible? That’s when you know that you’re doing something for yourself rather than for other people.
Find something that you love. Play a sport, start writing in a journal, eat a piece of cake, then eat another, then tell yourself that no matter how many pieces of cake you consume, you’ll always be beautiful. Besides, why is it anybody else’s business if you end up eating the entire cake?
I try to give myself little reminders throughout the day about tasks I want to accomplish before bed. They usually consist of running 2 miles, getting up early to make a good breakfast, or remembering to make my bed in the morning. These positive steps and small things make the difference. Just be you, and roll with it.”
“When it comes to the body positive part, really only in the past year have I finally become comfortable (most of the time) in my appearance.
Since I was very young (like, kindergarten age), I have been incredibly self-conscious about my appearance and my size, and living in a home of all females (who are both naturally smaller in shape), as well going to an all girls school, did not help.
Even though no one was directly mean to me at school, seeing so few varieties in body type was hard. It got to the point that whenever we did ‘self confidence boosting’ activities in health class, such as list 10 things you like about yourself, I just listed 10 things others had pointed out as my good features (even though I did not always agree with them), just so I would have something written down. I knew that if I was honest, the list would be quite small.
The biggest thing that changed my perspective about myself was realizing that I cannot keep comparing myself and my body to others. Everyone is unique, and to question why I am not slim like this person, or why I don’t have larger assets like that person, is only damaging.
Instead, I now focus on the features that set me apart from others and allow me to be the unique individual that I am. Also, the archery program I joined was a very unexpected help. As a part of it, we go through strength and conditioning training (basically just working out). I know girls are sometimes hesitant about strength training because it will give their bodies a different look than the long and lean image that most girls strive for.
I see it as a way to become better at this sport I really enjoy, and also don’t mind if I have larger shoulder or back muscles than many girls I know.”
These three young ladies continue to search for their definition of body positivity.
Their focuses on public speaking, working out, and archery after their life at private school have helped boost their self-love and confidence. Through the power of an eloquently delivered speech, a sit-up, or a clean shot with a bow and arrow, Jaclyn, Alanna, and Maddie find themselves a little closer to total self acceptance.