“You have a body, but you are not a body.”
I read that quote in 2012, shook my head in disappointment and carried on with my life. I was internally upset that I could not disassociate myself from my body. Was I expected to do so? Who could do this? Were they really happy? I felt as though I was so connected to my body, my image, how I looked, so how was I ever going to be separate from my body?
I feel we all can agree we have bodies. Bodies that house and try to keep us as safe as possible. Bodies that transport us through life and take us on adventures. Bodies that can also hurt, feel pain, shame and unhappiness.
With a recent shift in media towards the common hashtags:
We begin to see images associated with body positive messages that can either be reassuring OR conflicting.
Reassuring images are of women celebrating WHO they are with no mention of their shape, weight, or body.
Conflicting images, of women who show their shape, weight, and body.
Some of the images I would see on social media had me rattling off questions like:
“Does body positive mean I have to show my body?”
“Does it mean I talk all the time about how much I love my body?”
“Does it require more selfies to prove that I am a bopo warrior?”
“Does it mean I never struggle with bad body image days?”
“Does body positivity mean eating cake and cookies all the time and telling social media?
“Does it mean eating pop tarts and posting about flexible dieting?”
I was confused and I was sure I wasn’t alone in this.
Body positivity became a very convoluted message for me. From my past experiences, body positivity seemed like THE place to be. It was a place where you loved yourself all the time, where you often ate pizza and never gained weight. You could make jokes about eating all the donuts, yet still have abs. You have friends, lots and lots of beautiful friends. You’re motivated, you’re glowing with confidence. You have a positive body image.
It was glorified. It was “the” way to live.
I couldn’t help but wonder, what happens when all of a sudden you were to gain less attention from the opposite sex? When you gain a few pounds and your clothes hug you a bit tighter? When you have less likes and follows after you post a selfie of your body?
Do you love and accept yourself any less? Was your body acceptance contingent on external resources like other people or compliments?
For most of my life, it was.
I realized I was only fully loving myself when others were accepting me.
We must remember that our bodies do not exist for the purpose or gratification of others. If we constantly rely on others to validate our existence, we leave little room for ourselves to show up fully as people, and not just bodies. It only leaves us on shaky ground. It’s less reliable, ever changing and quite frankly, deeply saddening.
It sounds silly right? To put our worth in others, but you know what, I’ve also realized it’s all too common.
You see, body positivity isn’t one specific body, one way to look and view yourself.
Body positivity has great intent, but slightly misses the mark. If we continue to place the word “body” in front of positivity we continue to shape our world in a similar way. Learning to cultivate a positive life can lead to creating a positive relationship with our bodies. How? By actively learning how to be grateful, when it’s so easy to see the negative, appreciate who we are before we critique what we are not, having compassion for where we are instead of frustration for how far we must go are subtle steps to bring you closer to a positive life.
We may also consider replacing our language of “body positive” “body negative” and or “good body” “bad body” with body neutrality.
Body neutrality is about providing yourself a less judgmental zone for existing.
A place of understanding that we are human. A space for self compassion for bad days and a space to celebrate the good.
Body neutrality allows us the opportunity to make mistakes free of shame.
Body neutrality allows us to feel bad.
Body neutrality allows us to not like our bodies on some days or even for weeks.
Body neutrality allows us to take copious selfies when we’re riding a confidence wave.
Body neutrality is also the understanding that (confidence) waves ebb and flow.
Body neutrality gives us permission to view our bodies as separate entities from WHO we are.
Body neutrality gives us the space to float between positive and negative (with less expectations placed on glorifying the positive)
Body neutrality gives us the space to think about more than our body. To connect with friends, to be less critical of others, and more understanding of one another.
Body neutrality is I see you and I see me.
Having body image neutrality can help us understand that it is more about how we feel about ourselves AS PEOPLE, than with how we look to others. We begin to let go of the idea that we must look, act, dress, pose a certain way and gives us the space to show up more fully, more authentically as people, and not just bodies.
Having to work with less “conditional” guidelines, allows us room to love and accept WHO we are. Mainstream media provides a faulty lens for what we should pursue, by emphasizing body image over self fulfillment.
If your body acceptance is conditional, I see you and I emphasize with you. I was there.
If you’re working towards body image neutrality, I see you and I am here with you.
Believing you are only a body is doing not only your goals, your accomplishments and yourself a disservice, but also a disservice to past and future female generations.
You are not your body or just a body.