The “body positivity” movement on social media promotes self-confidence and love for your body and your flaws. While well-intentioned, this movement may be unrealistic for some and may end up putting more pressure on those who are already experiencing insecurities surrounding their physical appearance.
In response to body positivity, a new movement called “body neutrality” is gaining momentum. This mentality encourages people to stop viewing their bodies at the center of their self-image, and instead focus on how they feel.
What are the downfalls of body positivity?
Body positivity has its roots in the fat acceptance movement that was started by activists in the late 1960s. The fat acceptance movement was built in response to the systemic discrimination that fat people face in the media and their everyday lives, whether in school, at work, or even during a doctor’s appointment. Fat representation on the internet became intrinsic to fat activism, and this surge in visibility birthed the concept of body positivity.
These days, body positivity has become a buzz phrase and a hashtag that has taken over social media, and its mainstream success has led to its commodification and its absorption into diet culture. Diet companies that make money off people’s insecurities have adopted a “body-positive” identity, however, will still portray an ideal standard of beauty that is just a couple sizes up.
Even if diet companies didn’t present themselves as body positive, the movement, while pushing back against current body ideals, doesn’t challenge the societal placement of beauty as the ultimate accomplishment. It assumes that eventually, everyone can and should get to a place where they can be positive about their physical appearances. This can cause those who struggle to get there or simply cannot get there to judge themselves further and take a toll on their mental health.
What is body neutrality?
Body neutrality is about seeing yourself as more than your body. It takes away the societal value of physical attractiveness and encourages people to build a relationship with themselves that goes beyond reaching the ever-changing beauty ideals. Body neutrality emphasizes that the body is not the most influential part of your identity but is simply one facet of it.
How can I learn to feel neutral about my body?
With body neutrality, loving your body is not required. Although it would be wonderful if everyone loved their bodies, body neutrality recognizes that reaching and maintaining body positivity is unrealistic for many, as people will often feel as though there’s still something more that you can do to become more physically appealing. This means that a part of you will constantly be striving to feel positive about your body, whereas with body neutrality, maintaining a love for yourself in other areas is the emphasized goal.
To start building a body neutral image of yourself, try to see your body as smaller parts, and list all the parts that you’re okay with, no matter how small. People tend to think to themselves that they don’t like their whole appearance simply because they are unhappy with one or two parts that are perhaps more visible or that take up more space. By breaking down the body into smaller parts, it’ll be easier to feel okay about your body as a whole.
Next, think of everything you love about yourself that lies outside of your physical appearance. Maybe you have a beautiful singing voice or you’re a fast runner.
Try to acknowledge that we have been taught to equate physical appearance with self-worth. If you can recognize that you have simply been taught to value yourself based on your looks, then it’ll be easier for you to challenge that mindset. Then, think about how body dissatisfaction prevents you from enjoying your life. For instance, you may decide to skip out on a trip to the beach because you don’t want to wear a bikini.
By being okay with your body and by working to accept it for what it is, then more value and focus can be placed on other aspects of your personality, identity, and what makes you human. The body doesn’t disappear, but it loses its impact on your self-worth so that you can free your mind to appreciate your own human complexity and foster a better, healthier relationship with yourself.