She may feel gorgeous, confident, and happy now, but body-positive influencer and Vital Proteins super-fan (she loves our Matcha Collagen!) Dana Patterson didn’t always practice self-love and acceptance. In fact, she tells Lively, it took years before those sought-after feelings would find a permanent home in her daily life and mindset. Her 350K+ Instagram followers can attest to the positive change: Patterson currently embodies those traits on the social platform, regularly sharing glam photos that celebrate her body as well as a raw look at her past – which included bullying and an eating disorder — by way of heartfelt captions.
Learn more about Patterson’s body-positive journey, her tips for your own, and what she’d tell her younger self.
Lively: Can you share a little bit about your journey to self-love?
Dana Patterson: My journey to self-love has been long and difficult to say the least. I grew up as this kid with so much humor and light but was constantly battling society’s view of what I looked like. I remember from the time I was so young – probably around 6 or 7 – being constantly bullied for my looks, and my weight. During that time there was absolutely no representation for girls who looked like me or anything outside of the blonde blue-eyed size-zero norm. I grew up in the peak of diet culture. Every month we would see a new headline about a new celebrity diet, exercise routine, or an awful headline about which celebrity was gaining weight or looking “rough.”
It was definitely a difficult time to be growing up as a young woman. After years of self-hate, struggling with disordered eating, working so hard to be a size 0-4 after being told by my manager at the time that I could make it “big” if I dropped 60 lbs. Then another agency asked me to gain 60 lbs. to be considered “plus size.” After all that, I’m finally happy, healthy, and authentically myself. That being said, it took years of being in recovery, counseling, and unlearning toxic habits to get here. I think there’s this harmful concept that a self-love journey is all bath bombs and face masks when in reality it’s about opening painful wounds to truly heal.
A lot of these toxic traits have been so engrained in our subconscious that we don’t even realize how harmful they are to our self-acceptance and view of ourselves, as well as our bodies. Self-love and acceptance take time, hard work, and patience.
L: Because you're human, we imagine you have bad days, too. How do you combat those moments?
DP: Honestly, a lot of my self-love journey has been accepting the days when I don’t feel my best and acknowledging they will pass. Sometimes no matter what we do, we’re still going to have a rough day with our body love or mental health, and that’s okay.
If I’m really struggling, I will force myself to take a day off, get some rest, journal, see my counselor, do some yoga, be active, and meditate. A lot of us are so busy, we forget how important it is to allow ourselves a day to recharge! There is no guilt in taking a day off!
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L: What 3 tips do you have for women on their own body-positive journey?
DP: Be honest with yourself. It’s okay to cry, hurt, and experience. Healing and growth are painful, but make sure to be kind to yourself. Surround yourself with like-minded people who understand what you’re going through. My friend group is my support group. We’ve all struggled with similar issues, eating disorders, body hate, childhood-bullying, etc. It’s so incredibly helpful and healing to surround yourself with like-minded people! Lastly, unfollow all social media accounts that make you feel negatively about yourself and your body. We don’t realize how much the media we take in affects how we subconsciously view ourselves and our bodies.
L: What would you tell your younger self?
DP: To summarize, I’d say this. You are enough. Period. Stop dimming your light and watering yourself down to make others comfortable. Someone else’s beauty does not take away from your own, and vice versa. Your only competition is yourself. Stop comparing yourself to others and their personal journey. Every part of you, from your big Hagrid hair and bushy eyebrows to your thick athletic volleyball thighs and butt, are beautiful. Every single thing that you’re bullied about is a part of your unique beauty. Own it. Embrace it. Rejoice in your unique features. Be kind to your bullies. They are hurting and struggling themselves. Others will doubt you, but forge on. Your confidence in yourself and your ideas is all that matters.
Believe in yourself, no matter how dark things get, there is always light in the end. Have faith. Every difficult moment is a stepping stone to your success; use them to grow and learn.
Success isn’t linear, you’ll have peaks and valleys constantly. Success is a journey, not a destination. Stop obsessing over what’s next in your life and enjoy. Be present in the moment.