In recent years body positivity has been largely supported and promoted as it encourages all to feel confident in their bodies and accept themselves how they are. However, there have been many discussions regarding the healthiness of this belief as a new movement comes into play, body neutrality.
Body positivity encourages all to embrace their bodies and reminds them they are beautiful regardless of appearance. It encourages people to think about themselves more positively and accept themselves how they currently are instead of comparing themselves to the beauty standards of the time.
The body positivity movement aims to help every person, no matter their gender, skin colour, religion, hair colour, disability/physical state, and more, feel confident within themselves. Whilst this isn’t a bad thing, it may put some individuals at risk.
In the last ten years, social media has taken over our lives, and every day, we see perfect-looking models with no pores or flaws in sight. Social media, as well as mainstream media, promote unrealistic body types and have changed the world's perspectives on beauty time and time again. This is why body positivity has been so heavily encouraged and embraced recently.
The body positivity movement has made women worldwide feel more confident in themselves, and studies have shown that women exposed to body positivity content and diversity generally have a better mood and higher levels of self-content than those that don’t.
Overall, body positivity promotes self-confidence, happiness, self-respect and self-worth, which all, in turn, promote further health benefits and help us live a happier, healthier life. However, it can certainly be argued the body positivity movement has not achieved its intention of promoting inclusivity. Research indicates that most Instagram posts that use the movement’s hashtags, such as #bodypositivity, feature young, white, non-disabled females.
Although self-confidence and acceptance are great, and we should all learn to love ourselves more, there are a few reasons why the body positivity movement can have a negative impact on our lives.
The first of these concerns is how ‘easy’ the body positivity movement makes it seem to love yourself as you are. Self-love and acceptance can take some time to learn and truly believe, and you simply cannot be told or tell yourself to do. It is also debated that the movement pushes the idea that we should only value ourselves for our outer appearance.
The second major issue with this movement is how it overlooks indicators of underlying health issues. Sometimes the body positivity movement sends the message that you’re perfect how you are and no changes need to be made. Although that is true externally, our physical appearance often sends us messages of underlying health issues. Ultimately this movement can cause people to accept their current state, which for some is nowhere near optimal, posing a huge concern for some individual's health and wellbeing.
The third issue is that the movement perpetuates the focus on appearance as a measure indicative of self-worth and self-love. This is harmful because regardless of how much we expand the concept of beauty to be more inclusive, appearance should never be the only way to judge one's worth.
Recently the idea of body neutrality has come into play. Different from body positivity, body neutrality focuses on accepting one's body rather than having to love it. Body neutrality acknowledges that your body and external appearance only makes up a fraction of who you are and is not where your value lies as a person. It encourages us to appreciate all the things our bodies can do and do for us rather than how they physically look. A more inside-out approach than body positivity's external appearance.
Body neutrality is a more realistic and attainable mindset to achieve for many, whereas body positivity is harder to reach and is built more on affirmations.
“Body Neutrality means prioritising the body’s function and what it can do rather than its appearance.” - Anne Poirier, certified intuitive eating counsellor and eating disorder specialist
The idea behind body positivity is one to admire, with the goal to help all and encourage all the love their bodies. However, this is just one stage of self-acceptance and love, and one’s whole value does not lie in their external appearance. In recent years the body positivity movement has started to become toxic, causing people mental health issues and making them potentially ignore underlying health issues. Body Neutrality seems to have a more realistic and healthy approach where we are encouraged to love ourselves for all the things our bodies can do rather than how they look to the outside world.
Although we are not discouraging body positivity, it’s important to remain conscious of our health at all times and stay in tune with what’s going on on the inside.