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  • Isara Moriya

Mindfull X Shield - Is Body Positivity Toxic?


Introduction

Are you appreciative of your body? Do you ever wish you had bigger eyes, smoother skin, prettier teeth, or straighter hair? A smaller face, longer legs, or thinner arms? “You should be happy and grateful for what you have” seems to be the main story posted on social media, and I don’t know if it is just me, but it is SO much easier said than done. Being happy with your current self is a healthy mindset, but it can take a long time for one to get there. Some may never get there. So is promoting a difficult ideal healthy? Or is it counterintuitively making more people feel guilty for not being able to do said mindset change? Can there be a balance of both? 


Body Positivity vs. Body Neutrality

Body positivity and body neutrality both fall under body acceptance. Body positivity generally refers to loving their bodies regardless of shape, size, color, etc. Body neutrality, on the other hand, is centered around appreciation for what the body can do. They both encourage non-discriminatory emotions toward one’s body, but does one rise superior over the other? 


The body positivity movement advocates for acceptance of all bodies and challenging unrealistic and societal beauty standards and ideals. The general consensus of its origin is in the 1960s when the fat rights movements took place. Bill Fabrey and author Lew Louderback were fed up with seeing fat people being mistreated, which is why they started the National Association to Aid Fat Americans, a small group of like-minded people. Now, they are called the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA). The body positivity movement today seems to originate with cyberbullying and body shaming on the Internet. Activists and people part of a supportive community did not hide on the Internet but rather stood up for themselves and others, openly honored their bodies, and empowered others to do the same. 


Unfortunately, criticism arises around the topic of inclusivity of people with disabilities and those part of the LGBTQIA+ community. Furthermore, body positivity can promote unrealistic standards. Psychologist Susan Albers writes that “[b]ody positivity is a subset of toxic positivity.” Some people can feel worse because they are not always happy about and loving of their bodies. Others may interpret the movement as blaming and criticizing people for the way they think. 


Body neutrality seems to be a more recent phrase and movement. The phrase started gaining traction around 2015. Anne Poirier, a certified intuitive eating counselor and eating disorder specialist, started using the phrase, and it blew up even more from there. She defines “body neutrality” as “prioritizing the body’s function and what it can do rather than its appearance.” Body neutrality does not focus on physical appearance as much as the body positivity mindset does. Body neutrality focuses on what our bodies can DO, such as being able to dance, engage in physical activities, or cook delicious meals for loved ones. 


The Best Approach

Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut conclusion or answer. Like most things in psychology, a balance of both approaches yields the best results. Body positivity can be a self-esteem booster and better our mood. It also eliminates negative thoughts, which can help change negative thinking patterns. However, when you are not in the best headspace and cannot genuinely love your body (which happens and is okay), body neutrality can reel you back in from negative thinking. You can be appreciative of your body when you change your perspective. Therefore, the body neutrality mindset can help with that.


Having both strategies under your sleeves and using strategies to increase mental health will be beneficial. 

 

Small Steps Toward Self-Appreciation

How can I start adopting the body positivity and body neutrality mindsets? There are various tips and strategies to start, but here are a few: 


  1. Wear clothes that make you feel good about and in your body

You aren’t made to fit the clothes, the clothes are made to fit you. Finding clothes that YOU find suits you is the best. Feeling good in your clothes will most likely help you feel good about yourself and reduce the negative talk in your head. 


This may not be for everyone, but try repeating positive affirmations. Putting them up on your refrigerator door, speaking them out loud to yourself, or saying them to others can all lift your mood. 


  1. Watch what you watch online

What you watch online can have a big impact on your mental well-being. Removing yourself from content that does not make you feel good is a healthy move. Instead, find content that lifts you up and inspires you. Watching others appreciate themselves can reinforce a positive mindset. 

 

  1. Give it time:

Changing a habit and/or your mindset takes time and effort. Especially if negatively talking about your body has been ingrained into your brain from past experiences or your childhood, it would be difficult to let those go. Therefore, be forgiving of yourself, but never give up on yourself. You are your own best friend and deserve all the beautiful words in the world.


Conclusion

Choosing to think positively about yourself is a choice. Body positivity at its core is a monumental concept that increases happiness just through the change in one’s mindset. However, it can be hard to always view our bodies as precious, priceless things that deserve love. This is why body neutrality has risen. Maybe we can still appreciate both the miraculous and mundane things our bodies do for us, even if we cannot love them unconditionally. There’s always room for appreciation. And one day, that appreciation will turn into affection. 



Writer: Isara Moriya


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