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14 unique 'body muses' celebrate their bodies for what they do — not what they look like.

"We hope ... each diverse story will topple the idea that there is one body narrative we should all aspire to."

What's the difference between focusing on what your body does...

Images via iStock.


...vs. focusing on how your body looks?

A lot.

Clinical psychologist Stacey Rosenfeld told Mic that "mothers who help their daughters focus on what their bodies can do versus how they appear — a shift from body as object to body as subject — are likely to see their daughters develop a more positive body image."

Focusing on what your body can do = more positive body image.

Yes! To! That!

No to ads like this.

All images via mybodydoes/Instagram, used with permission.

But you see that sticker in the corner there?

It doesn't like all this body-shaming in the media, either. And using stickers like this is one way women and men are starting to tell a different story about what makes a body good.

My Body Does and its followers have started to place stickers over ads that tell us we should look a certain way to be happy.

NOPE. Image via mybodydoes/Instagram.

The platform of My Body Does started out as a sticker campaign, but it's transforming into a space for women and men to reclaim the story that gets told about their bodies. It's a space to celebrate every story, every body — and even to tell your own!

According to founders Jess Andersen and Ashley Simon:

"We started My Body Does because we felt assaulted by the sexist ads we encountered all over the city — especially in the NYC subways — and we wanted to place something over those ads that was more positive, meaningful, and something that made us feel like we were being heard."


Image via mybodydoes/Instagram.

My Body Does is exactly what it sounds like: a platform that celebrates all bodies ... and what they do! It's kind of awesome to see.

Multiple long-term studies have shown that losing weight doesn't necessarily make you healthier (YES REALLY). And on top of that, more studies have shown being called fat doesn't make children healthier — it actually makes them more prone to obesity.

This stuff has got to stop. How?

We need to start telling different stories.

In that crazy New Year's atmosphere of "YOUR BODY NEEDS TO CHANGE," My Body Does' vibe...


Image via mybodydoes/Instagram.

...is a nice alternative, I think!

"We realized that body positivity isn't just about body image, it's about all the stories we are being told about our bodies and what they should look like, act like, and feel like."

Founders Ashley and Jessica. Image via mybodydoes/Instagram.

To combat all the crazy stories we're told by the media about how our body should look, My Body Does started the #MyBodyMuse series on their Instagram.

They feature a real human being with a body (no ghosts, sorry) and ask them to tell its story.

"We see the series as a small way for people to claim their own body narrative. We hope that as the series grows, each diverse story will topple the idea that there is one body narrative we should all aspire to."

Here are 14 of the #MyBodyMuses, their stories, and their own personal inspirational sayings. What's yours?

Each person was asked a few different questions, from "What do you like about your body?" to "If your body was your friend, how would you describe it?"

Here are their answers. If you want to learn more about them, click on the links below their photos.

Muse #1

"I love that this body is mine. Whether I am dancing naked in the moonlight on the beach or eating ramen on my living room floor, it is my choice. I get to choose what I do with this temple, and that freedom is incredibly empowering to me."

Image via mybodydoes/Instagram.

"We think women in particular aren’t asked what makes them feel good or what makes them feel present in their bodies, so we’ve gotten a really positive response to that question."

Muse #2

"I love that my body never lies. I especially love my face and my taste buds. While there are times I wish an emotion didn't show, my face always does all the talking. Being able to wake up every morning and stretch every muscle is the best gift I can ask for."

Image via mybodydoes/Instagram.

Muse #3

"I love how my body lets me communicate with people not using words."

Image via mybodydoes/Instagram.

Muse #4

"I am inspired by teaching yoga to older women, even a 94 year old amazing lady whose mantra is 'I am alive and kicking!' Like many women, I often don't like what I see in the mirror, but I take a breath, put on my smile and am grateful for today."

Image via mybodydoes/Instagram.

Muse #5

What do you like about your body?

"I am learning to love everything about it. What I like most is its ability to support me no matter what. My body always loves me no matter how I treat it. I love that it gave me two healthy boys."

If your body were a friend, how would you describe it?

"Funny, supportive, and Uber flexible."

Image via mybodydoes/Instagram.

Muse #6

"I like the way my body moves. I like the way it absorbs music and lets beats and melodies run through every ounce of my being. And I like how my body tells me what it needs if I really listen!"

Image via mybodydoes/Instagram.

Muse #7

"I love all the ways every part of me feels alive when I'm dancing. I think dance is one of the purest forms of self-expression and connection to oneself and others; I'm so grateful my body urges me to do it whenever it can!"

Image via mybodydoes/Instagram.

"Over the last few years I've really started feeling more comfortable in my skin, largely because I've gotten better at moving towards the things that make me feel good (dancing, laughing, running, yoga, sometimes just loafing around) and away from the things that make me feel crummy (negativity; most women's mags)."

"Mainstream media is presenting one narrative about bodies (with some token diversity thrown in), that's so obviously damaging to our sense of worth that at times it's laughable."

Muse #8

"My body has been my partner in crime since day one. It's a world-traveling, cheese-eating, hug-giving, sports-loving, currently sleep-deprived, bundle of goodness and I wouldn't change a thing (not even these curvy hips)."

Image via mybodydoes/Instagram.

Muse #9

"I love my eyes, because they remind me of my mom's. I love my feet, because they take me places and help me dance. I love my boobs because they're soft and pretty and asymmetrical and make me feel feminine and powerful. I used to feel at war with my body, but now I try to honor and celebrate it as much as possible."

Image via mybodydoes/Instagram.

Muse #10

"I love that my body can sing and dance and make people feel something when they see me perform."

Image via mybodydoes/Instagram.

Muse #11

"I like that my body still lets me behave like a kid, hopping up onto countertops to reach high items, and exchanging piggy-back rides."

Image via mybodydoes/Instagram.

Muse #12

If your body were your friend, how would you describe it?

"She's that pretty needy friend that gets upset if you don't call for a while, and it's annoying because sometimes you need space. But then when you are having a breakdown she's right there and you remember all the reasons you love her."

Image via mybodydoes/Instagram.

Muse #13

What does body positivity mean to you?

"To me it means practicing gratitude for whatever privilege I can enjoy through my body; appreciating my senses, my mobility, just all these different abilities that enable me to explore and fully enjoy life."

Image via mybodydoes/Instagram.

Muse #14

"I love that my body is so strong and sturdy! I am a little clumsy and I sometimes trip, fall or roll my ankle. But because I have this solid, thick structure, I never end up hurting myself! And I just love my thick thighs that power me through so much! Whether it be running, hiking, biking and my favorite activity, dancing, my legs never disappoint!"

Image via mybodydoes/Instagram.

Don't you kinda feel better? It worked for me, that's all I can say.

Imagine a world where everyone, young and old, is able to describe what their body would be like if it were their friend. I know it's cheesy, but that's a world I wanna live in.

I'm sharing this because the stories these women tell make a lot of sense to me ... and they're what I want the people in my life to see and hear.

We asked the founders of My Body Does about what a new year's resolution should look like. After strongly stating that they're not in the "tell you what to do with your body or your life" game, they came up with this:

"At least commit yourself to begin the work of sifting through some of the things you think or feel about your body, deciding what's not for you, what's a story that has been pressed onto you from the outside."

Tell your body's own story ... and not someone else's version. That's a resolution anyone can stick with. No gym membership required. ;)

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

via Pexels

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