Loving Your Body Is Tough, and That’s OK
Before you start reading this article, take a moment and think about the things your body has done for you today. Not the way your body has made you feel, but the things it has done for you or helped you do today.
Did you use it to walk from point A to point B? Did you lift something heavy? Did you turn your breakfast into energy that will propel you through the day? Were you able to use your body to hold the hands of or embrace someone you care for deeply? Now, take a moment to thank it for helping you do these things, even if you don’t feel like you are in love with the way your body looks today. Because sometimes it can be hard to love your body. And that’s OK.
It’s not uncommon to look at the body positive movements on Instagram and think “if those people love their bodies, why can’t I?” And it can be disheartening when you don’t wake up every day loving your body a little more than you did yesterday. It can be even tougher if don’t see your body represented by some of the bigger voices in the body positivity movement — white women with an hourglass figure. So, here’s something to try to aim for instead: body neutrality.
Body neutrality is a sort of coming to terms with the body you have. To accept it for all its abilities and inabilities, to respect it for the things it does for you, as opposed to focusing on the way it looks or the way you can change it. And if you treat you body with care — listen to what it’s saying to you, acknowledge its limitations — it can help move you through the world in a way that brings you joy.
Now, let’s try practicing body neutrality. Think about the last time you felt healthy. Maybe you went on a walk with your dog, or took a dance class with your friend just for fun. Think about moments when you thought, “I feel good,” as opposed to, “I feel good about doing that activity that will eventually make my body look good.” How does your body feel right now? Can you feel the pressure of the waistband on your pants? Are your feet a little sore? Take these feelings that could be turned into negatives, notice them, but try not to judge them. Now, think about the power your body has. Think about how it has helped you do the things you considered at the start of this article. Use these thoughts to shift your mindset away from possible negatives. Nourish your body with the gratitude you feel towards it.
This is being body neutral, and it can have an amazing effect on your mental health. If you are struggling with body positivity, working towards respecting your body should be your next goal. Take out the “are my curves the right curves” and “why do I carry weight under my chin when other plus-size models don’t” and replace them with “I feel strong today.”
Now, something to keep in mind is that body neutrality is not the brand new on-trend replacement for body positivity. The body-posi movement has made some incredible strides and helped shift the public psyche on what is and is not a so-called “ideal” body. Body neutrality can be looked at as a stepping stone to body positivity, or even an avenue of being body positive. It can be a space for people with marginalized bodies — bodies of colour, bodies with disabilities, trans bodies, fat, queer, etc — and people who feel as if their bodies have betrayed them, to exist. Especially if you still struggle to wake up everyday, look in the mirror, and love every inch of your body. It’s a lot to ask and dangerous to assume those positive feelings will come right away! Body neutrality is trying to relieve yourself of that pressure. The ultimate goal should be loving your body, but also to stop thinking about it and judging it so much.
Our relationships with our bodies are complicated. But relieving yourself of the “shoulds” and “coulds” might just open up space for the “does.” The things your body does are amazing, and it’s the only one you’ve got. So thank it for getting you this far, and be grateful for every next move it helps you make.
Written by Olivia Latta