Bodied is a series in which we ask people to get real about their relationships with their bodies. As the body-positivity movement challenges unrealistic beauty standards while insisting we love what we’ve got, we want to push the notion that self-acceptance is a process. Here, we’ll examine how people have grown to love and accept their bodies ― or not ― and the steps they took to get there.
The very essence of Aly Raisman oozes with self-love and self-worth. She uses her platform to elevate her fans and followers ― namely young women ― around the world, whether it be through her powerful voice or a killer floor routine. It’s humbling, then, to hear that she sometimes laments over social media just like the rest of us.
That realness makes it pretty perfect that she’s participating in Olay’s Face Anything campaign, which fights back against negative labels that women are consistently plastered with. Fittingly, as part of the campaign, she walked in a makeup-free fashion show in New York City on Sept. 13.
Raisman talked to HuffPost about self-care, getting caught up in the prospect of Instagram likes and when she feels most confident.
What made you want to be part of this campaign?
With the beauty industry, I feel like we constantly see the same ads. It’s just this beautiful person with perfectly Photoshopped skin, completely flawless. We put a lot of pressure in society on women and young girls to look a certain way, and I think it’s just cool that Olay is making such a bold statement.
Do you ever feel that pressure to look a certain way?
Women and girls are always told you’re too something. I think we’ve all been told that at some point in our lives, and it’s something you can carry with you for a long time.
What is an example of a time you were told you were too much of something?
When I was younger, I would always get made fun of for being too strong. The boys in my class would tell me that my muscles were disgusting. In fifth grade, when we would play at recess, they would tell me I looked like I was on steroids. It really stayed with me for a really long time. I was very self-conscious about my muscles. Sometimes I would beat some of the boys in class if we had a conditioning test or playing games at recess, and they were really mean to me about it. It made me feel like I wasn’t girly enough. I never wanted to wear tank tops. I felt like everyone looked at me like those boys did.
What about now? How has your relationship with your body evolved?
Honestly, we focus so much on what’s on the outside, myself included. Sometimes I have to remind myself that it doesn’t matter and that what’s on the inside is a bajillion times more important. We’re all human. We all have those days where you wake up and feel good and then others when you feel a little more insecure and self-conscious.
What do you do on those days?
I think the best thing that helps me is writing in a journal, meditating or talking to someone. It helps me a lot, just having a support system around me. But I do often remind myself that it’s not about how you look — it’s about the kind of person you are. It’s hard in the world we live in. There’s so much pressure to have that flawless skin or the ideal body type. But I think I try to stand by that as long as I am doing the right thing, that’s far more important than how you look.
What role does social media play in that for you?
One of the things about social media and all the ads you see in magazines, commercials or billboards ― whatever it is, is that I think there’s this misconception that if you’re posting these beautiful selfies on Instagram or you look really happy in an ad and it’s a good photo, it doesn’t mean that you feel really good about yourself all the time. I saw a study the other day that girls who take more selfies on Instagram feel more insecure. You can’t just go by one thing. I personally feel like there are times when you post a photo of yourself and you’re constantly worrying, “Well, does this look OK? Is this right?” I often have to take a step back and just be like, “This does not matter.”
What advice would you give to people who might be struggling with their body image?
The best advice I would give people is to do what makes you comfortable. Some people might not be comfortable going to a therapist. I personally see one, and it’s been really helpful to me. If I’m feeling self-conscious, I’ll also go for a walk outside and focus on my surroundings and being present in the moment. So often when we are going about our days, we’re thinking of the past and the future and not the present moment.
When you’re present, you’re not going to be worrying about an Instagram you posted or how you look. I would love to be to the point where I’m always in the moment, but it’s very difficult. But it’s also about being kind to yourself and knowing you’re not perfect. It takes a lot of time, and I’m working a lot on taking care of myself. But some days, it feels like things are improving, and others, I feel like I’ve taken 10 steps backward. So it totally depends, and I think a lot of people can relate to that.
They definitely can. On the other side of that, when do you feel most confident?
I feel most confident when I’m in the moment — I’m outside, with my family and friends, not worrying about the past or the future.