Should we be expected to be body positive all the time?
In contemporary society, we tend to look at self-love as essential. It’s a by-product of a world that’s been altered by social media and the rise of body positivity. Self-love and body positivity have been lauded by so many influential people that when you don’t love yourself, it can feel like you’re doing something wrong.
Not loving yourself can almost feel like doing a disservice to this world that’s become so much more open-minded, and decidedly more accepting of different body types and characteristics. We’re supposed to be long past the heroin-chic era; a far cry from “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels,” as Kate Moss once infamously claimed. We live in a time where people of different shapes and sizes have more opportunities for success than they ever did previously. I distinctly remember when I first took notice of this. As with many of my most profound realisations about the world, it happened while watching America’s Next Top Model – when plus-size model Ashley Graham judged a season in 2016.
But while seeing people of different sizes represented was great, I still never fully came around to the idea of body positivity, at least the cut-and-dried version we’re sold on social media. Maybe I’m overly cynical, but I felt like the meaning was somehow lost along the way. I found myself thinking, does this really help anyone? The movement eventually became a bunch of influencers telling their audience to just love themselves – but how? Any tips besides journaling and meditation?
And even if you get there, I struggle to understand what’s next. So, congratulations, you love your body – now what? There’s no caveats, no exceptions, no breaks? That sounds, frankly, exhausting. Are we meant to view self-love as this permanent, transcendent state of bliss and confidence? Because I don’t. And here’s the issue, my ultimate hot take: I don’t think I plan on loving myself at all.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve considered it. I’ve tried it. There are things about my body that I do, honestly, love. But equally, there are things I don’t like, and never will. I will never refer to my stretch marks as tiger stripes, for example, although I know that’s been a trend among certain proponents of body-positivity. Sometimes, though, I just feel nothing in particular about the way my body looks. Not strongly positive, not strongly negative – although unfortunately, I often lean more towards one than the other. I’ve discovered the middle-of-the-road approach works best for me. If I can look at my body, and just feel indifferent, more or less, to the way it looks, I’d consider that a success. And there’s a term for this too: body neutrality.
Body neutrality is rooted in appreciating your body, but not necessarily loving it. In other words, it’s more about valuing the body’s function rather than what it looks like. I find this way of looking at things to be far more accessible, for me personally. I can’t love the way my body looks all the time, but I can learn to be more appreciative of it. Always striving towards a positive outlook on something is admirable, and I respect those that try to do it. But I’ve learned it doesn’t work that way for me. I’ve found a lot more comfort somewhere in the middle.
And so, ultimately, I think it’s not that I wasn’t built to love myself, but no one was. None of us are, and accepting that – while it may be difficult in the face of all this influencer culture – might do us all a lot of good.