There’s a lot of conversation about bodies, health and fitness, especially this time of year. While body positivity gives us a good place to start, I think we can take things further with body neutrality for mental health’s sake.
Body Positivity versus Body Neutrality
I’ve been an advocate for body positivity in the past, and still am. I think there’s a lot of value in actively redirecting ourselves from the normal, negative scripts we have about our appearance with more positive and loving ones. After all, self-compassion is important!
But, I’ve also come to think that maybe body positivity isn’t the end all be all for us to develop the best relationship with our bodies. Maybe we can do “more.” This is where body neutrality comes in.
To me, body positivity is about cultivating the positive relationship with your aesthetics while body neutrality isn’t about appearances at all. It’s about developing a healthy relationship with your body that might focus on function and gratitude rather than form and appearance.
In many ways it’s more hepful and more realistic for some of us.
Sometimes being positive just feels really disingenuous and too unbelievable. That’s when body positivity has the opposite intended effect.
Muscles aren’t just for show. We can appreciate their function, not just their form.
Why Body Neutrality is Important
We are more than what our bodies look like. Focusing on developing on a relationship with how we look is then, in some ways, as shallow as the ideals that we’re trying to fight against. Instead (or maybe in addition to), we can incorporate more body neutrality in our lives. That is, we can devote to intentionally devote some time to appreciating what our bodies can do rather than what they look like.
I’ve been more conscious about this in my own life, thanking my legs for carrying me up all the subway stairs I have to traverse in a given day. I thank my body at the end of every workout for letting me stick it through. I thank my body for giving me the ability to sit with people in their pain and help them move toward healing in therapy.
And for all that, I’ve continued to appreciate my body that much more.
Focusing not just on muscle “gains” has helped me feel less anxious about how my body doesn’t stack up against the perfectly sculpted Instagram influencer. It’s helped me spiral less on the thought traps of thinking I’m not good enough because I don’t look like some popular celebrity or influencer. Simply put, it’s mentally freeing. Maybe body neutrality could be for you as well.
When is the last time that you thanked your body?
Maybe it’s time to start.