Columns, Opinion

Let Your Hair Down: We should ditch body positivity for body neutrality

The concept of body image and adopting a healthy relationship with our appearance has taken on many forms in today’s media and society. The awareness spread around the ways we struggle to accept ourselves has encouraged individuals of all figures and molds to practice body positivity and self-love. 

This movement provides a liberating platform for individuals to voice their truths about wavering self-esteem while embracing the inherent beauty of what makes us each unique from one and other. 

The origin of body positivity found its roots in this foundation, but has become a kind of twisted version of itself, straying from a healthy space of freedom and moving toward a more limited ideology with confining standards.

Although the idea of body positivity has extended the dialogue around negative body image, society often pushes the concept forcefully on the individual as a fixed expectation. The construct of body positivity calls upon our most vulnerable areas and asks us to embrace our perceived flaws and places of insecurity and shames people that cannot. 

This can be overwhelmingly out of reach for those struggling with a negative body image. The relationships we develop with our bodies are personal and are part of an endlessly evolving process. They should not be constrained by the pressure of adopting a certain perspective — in this case body positivity — that may feel unattainable. 

Healthiness does not look the same on everyone and just because one may not feel ready to adore every part of themselves does not mean the individual has negative self-esteem or is in any way less empowered than the next. 

The journey to a stable and fulfilling relationship between the mind and the body is not linear and certainly not universally consistent.

The push to obtain body positivity may develop an over-obsessed emphasis on needing to love our bodies before we have even learned to accept and respect them, placing pressure on unrealistic ideologies overpopulate Instagram and Twitter feeds. The concept of body positivity has become a trendy cliche, swarming social media and the community of mental health. 

An arguably healthier and more accessible practice of self-love could be found in the fundamental concept of “body neutrality.” Body neutrality embodies accepting oneself and instituting healthy self-notions, while simultaneously aiming to steer the focus away from our physical appearance in general.

It can be difficult to forcefully press a constant emphasis on body positivity, especially when doing so requires us to constantly think about the way we look. When the pressure to remain body positive is relieved, the individual is able to dismiss judgmental thoughts about outward appearance and focus more on the way we feel  — not the way we appear. 

Body image does not need to exist on two extreme sides of the spectrum — negative and broken or positive and empowering. We are allowed to sit comfortably somewhere in-between, working toward our own goals and blossoming through individual pursuits of healthier self-concepts. 

Body neutrality welcomes and encourages all shapes and sizes with varying comfort zones to pour love, compassion and forgiveness into our bodies. It promotes allowing ourselves to let go, be kind to our physical being and celebrate the relationships we form between our bodies and minds.

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