For me, a large part of growing from a girl into a woman was developing a hatred for my body. When I was a kid, I didn’t think about my body all that much. My legs were what I ran with, my arms were what I climbed with, and my stomach was where food went after I ate. My attitudes around my body changed around middle school. At the ripe age of 11, people were talking about staying “in shape” and going on diets. And thus I started to internalize the toxic standard that we have to look good all the time.
Looks are given far too much importance in our society. Women are supposed to look perfect all the time. We’re supposed to idolize celebrities who have far more time and money to spend on touching-up their appearance than the average person. It’s simply not attainable.
I love the idea of body positivity. I firmly believe that everyone should try to love themselves as much as possible. However, it’s almost impossible to love every part of your body all the time. Personally, I could never achieve that. It’s a good idea to promote body positivity in theory, but it also allows us to beat ourselves up because we don’t love ourselves all the time.
Body neutrality is a much more attainable goal. Body neutrality promotes the idea that your body is simply your body instead of thinking something is good or bad. For example, my arms aren’t beautiful or ugly — they’re just my arms. This mentality is easier to achieve, and it doesn’t force you to try to love things you don’t love. We don’t need to love every part of our body — it’s just a body. It’s better to focus that energy into loving ourselves in other ways that we can more willingly.
Another way to view your body is to be thankful for everything that it does for you rather than how it looks. For example, I am grateful that my body allows me to go skiing because I love skiing. I also love hiking, and I wouldn’t be able to do that without my body. This shift in mentality can be helpful because it focuses on your body’s ability to do things you love, instead of your appearance.
Ultimately, the ideal mentality is loving every part of your body all the time. However, the more realistic alternative is accepting your body for what it is and what it does for you. One of the best pieces of advice my nutritionist gave me was that it’s okay to look in the mirror and not feel beautiful. I don’t feel beautiful all the time. I look in the mirror and try to accept my body for what it is. Love can come after, but neutrality is a good place to start.