In an age where perfection is sought to be the end-all-be-all, it’s incredibly refreshing to cross paths with someone who breaks through the cloud of noise with their sword of vulnerability. Instead of masking behind an aesthetically-pleasing feed or pretending to live a “struggle-free” life, this person uses their voice to share their insecurities and challenges to bring to light that “imperfections” are what makes us, well, us.
Chinae Alexander is just that person. If you don’t know her, she’s a woman who celebrates the uncomfortable and wants to make you feel good. With her 144k friends on Instagram, she connects with them with her positive affirmations, vulnerable storytelling, and badassery state of mind. So when she reached out in hopes that we could create some magic together, the answer was hell-fucking-yes.
That’s why we’re introducing a new monthly series called “Ask Chinae.” At the beginning of each month, Chinae will be answering all your questions that pertain to a certain theme that will coincide with her new monthly newsletter, The Latest. This month’s topic is all about “body positivity,” whether that has to do with self-acceptance, physical bodies, or shame. Below, Alexander answered four of her and our reader’s questions to provide insight, guidance, and shed a little light where there is darkness. Scroll below to see what’s on Alexander’s mind and make sure to sign up for her newsletter to get more of where this came from.
“When talking about ‘body positivity,’ the topic under discussion is usually people who are overweight and struggling to love their bodies. I, personally, believe that there could be [an] alternative side. To put it simply—people who think they are too thin and therefore, cannot love their bodies. What are your thoughts on this?”
– from Mariya Boyko
Through talking to thousands of women about their bodies on a daily basis, I’ve come to realize…this shame, this disappointment, this deep concern we have about the way we look…HAS NOTHING AT ALL TO DO WITH THE ACTUAL STATE OF FUCKING BODIES. (Full disclosure: I actually hate the phrase body positive, but hey, that’s what we’re working with right now so lets at least define it better.)
I think we all have deep insecurities that easily manifest themselves as things we don’t like physically. It’s a lot easier to point to post-vacation back fat or stretch marks or chicken legs than to look inward and ask ourselves the scary questions like, “Do I believe I am worthy of love?” or “Why do I *actually* feel ashamed?” or “Am I secretly a sociopath for liking lots of murder documentaries?” Okay, that last one was a personal reflection but the MORE I study how we work through the physical relationship with ourselves, the more I have to dig into our emotional and spiritual parts.
So this was a very round-about way to say, skinny/fat/short/tall/dimpled/acne-prone/absolutely perfect….we all deal with our body image and the abyss between self-love and critique. We collectively struggle because we all want to be seen, bearing all of our imperfections, with the potential to be loved by ourselves and others. I think it’s gonna take time for us to widen the conversation beyond weight or shape, but that’s perhaps the journey toward introspection that’s vital to our own acceptance and a movement to a positivity of self. One that doesn’t begin and end with the condition of our thighs.
“I have a hard time taking my own advice when it comes to body positivity. My friends all come to me for advice when they are feeling down about the way they look and I am always able to give them advice and ways to help themselves but find it really hard to take my own advice when it comes to my own insecurities. I know the things I should be doing and things that can help me combat some of my insecurities but I find it really hard to actually put them to use. Any advice on how to take your own advice?”
– from Keaton Feigeles
You’re the one friend that everyone looks to be the strong, wise one, and there’s a certain extra layer of stress to that. I would know, because like you, I am also THAT friend. I think putting yourself in the position of truth-teller has it’s pro’s and con’s, but one of the biggest con’s is that you have to live up to the expectation of *actually* having your shit together. One thing that’s helped me is to be a little more vulnerable when people are asking for my advice. Rather than having all the answers, I share the ups and downs of what I’m going through, and it becomes a cathartic, two-sided support system rather than you being the bod-pos angel sent from heaven. It’s not only helped me have more honest and true dialogue, but it helps me feel less guilty about my own struggles—which in turn, leads to personal growth. There’s nothing more motivating than living a life free of the shame of simply being human.
“How do you balance wanting to lose weight without the toxicity of ‘fixing’ your body?”
-from Annalee S.
To me, it’s not about what we do to our bodies (whether that’s weight loss, or weight-gain, muscle-building, plastic surgery, etc.) but rather it’s about the emotional place that the change stems from. A metaphor for you: a flower can grow in a pot with the best conditions and it can also grow in the cracks of a sidewalk…the quality of that flower’s environment is more important than the fact that it exists. ANNDDD if metaphors aren’t your thing, basically I’m saying this: your motivation and reason for change MATTERS HUGELY in your journey and even how long changes stick around. For example, when I started my fitness and health journey, I was 225lbs and happy as a fucking clam (a deep fried one to be exact) with myself. I wanted to embark on a new path because I was craving a challenge and some extra discipline, coupled with a belief that I could accomplish my goals. My flower was being grown outta some hella positive soil. I think my results and state of change would have been totally different if I was changing out of hatred or disgust for myself.
The toxicity of “fixing” your body isn’t the change part—it’s what compels you to do it in the first place. We are not in the business of fixing ourselves, we are in the business of growth. Whatever that looks like for you, do it with some damn good soil.
“How can I get myself out of the body comparison/shame spiral?”
-from Kate van Bronkhorst
My best advice would be to go to a public pool in your community, or at a hotel, or wherever you can access a lot of people in minimal clothing. On a recent trip to Montreal, I went to a pool/spa with my girlfriends and I was struck by the myriad of body types I saw. Each with their own nuance (some would call them imperfections but we aren’t doing that anymore okurrr?). But it wasn’t about being critical of people’s bodies, it was more so a wake-up call to the reality of us. We weren’t meant to live in a 16:9 iPhone screen ratio. We aren’t always properly lit. Our butts are just fine sans Facetune-ing.
My best advice is to spend time amongst the living and do it with bravery. Less time-consuming perfection, more time delighting in the reality of cellulite in that midday harsh downward light. Practice not giving a damn. Wear that bikini, whip off that shirt during spin class, maybe kiss him/her/them first. Practicing freedom calls it into our lives.
Chinae Alexander’s The Latest is a fully editorial, monthly newsletter that brings together beauty, culture, current favorites, interviews with badass women, and more. Each issue is centered around a theme and curated with love by Chinae herself. Get all of this goodness delivered to your inbox by signing up right here.
Want to get your questions answered by Chinae herself? Keep your eyes peeled via our Insta @thechilltimes to see what next month’s theme is and send us an email at email@example.com or DM Chinae yourself. Circle back at the beginning of every month to see if your question has been answered.
Feature image s/o Chinae Alexander