Body positivity. A solution to all our problems? The savior of our youth? The key to social media becoming ‘social’ again?
Instagram & Co. have long been criticized for nurturing the distribution of photoshopped images, and pushing young adults, teenagers and children to thoughts of self-doubt and self-despise. Over the past years, an anti-movement has formed – the body positivity movement -, an opportunity for influencers and celebrities to post their raw and unedited selfies, photos from unflattering angles and with ‘unforgiving’ poses. All with the same message – our bodies are beautiful, regardless of which shape they are in. But body positivity does NOT work for everyone.
The same way social media isn’t responsible for all of our problems, body positivity is not the almighty solution either. So, here is my unpopular opinion – body positivity is a myth. Before you shove me into your drawer of crazy people never to talk to again, hear me out.
The idea behind all these influencer posts showing us their vulnerability, telling us to love our bodies is great. But, first and foremost, it is also very oversimplified.
The “I know I’m perfect but try not to be” influencer
For starters, this is a message to all these influencers out there who know that their bodies are exactly ‘perfect’ in the way Western society would describe them, but still try to be a part of the body positivity movement. Posting a bikini photo one day, and then showing the ‘real’ you on another day, somehow trying to sit in a huddled position where others might get the slightest impression you could have fat rolls… is NOT body positivity. Posting a flawless selfie without makeup, without any skin imbalance whatsoever with the hashtag #allnatural #raw… that will NOT make anyone feel better. On the contrary, followers might think “Oh god, why do I not look like this when I wake up?” or “These rolls she has sitting down, I have when I stand up normally…”.
No, it is not right to blame all our insecurities on pretty influencers. But we have come too far to deny their responsibility in posting certain messages. Don’t get me wrong – being ‘in shape’ is not a crime. But please don’t pretend that you aren’t if you clearly are.
Next to those influencers’ posts, there are the self-appointed life coaches telling us to wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and tell ourselves three things we love about our body.
*Small side note – these are more often than not the same coaches who tell us to start our day with a celery juice, and go on a fasted 5km run. Not that there’s anything wrong with working out or a healthy diet – but trying to ‘help’ us with routines to boost our self-esteem and then making us feel bad for not working out first thing in the morning, seems a little contradictory to me.
If you wake up in the morning, look into the mirror and think, “I love my body because xyz”, that is absolutely amazing for you! But it’s not that simple for everyone. Not everyone wakes up every morning and feels great about themselves. Not everyone looks into the mirror and first notices all the positive parts of their body. Unfortunately, our brains work more complicated than that. Sometimes, yes, we are able to see the positive – but not always. Not feeling great about yourself 24/7 is totally normal and human.
It is part of our nature to compare ourselves to others, and especially – thanks to social media – to develop the idea of an ‘ideal’ body in our head. It would be naïve to hope that the Internet will one day consist of a realistic depiction of people’s lives. After all, that’s why posting online is so attractive – we can present ourselves in the most flattering way possible.
And this is also why ‘body positivity’ does not work. Telling yourself you’re beautiful and then not believing it, won’t help. Of course, ideally we should all feel comfortable in our skins. But some days, weeks or months, this simply is not an option for many.
A neutral position
At this point you might be wondering – what is her point?? Should we just continue to feel bad about ourselves?
My point is simple – I believe in body neutrality over body positivity. I am strongly convinced that it can be much easier to accept the fact that you are having a bad day, knowing that this is only temporary and completely irrational, and then moving on with your life. If you reflect strongly about the priorities in your life, you’ll realize that there are much more important issues than feeling pretty. Things that can help you move on with your day are removing triggers such as looking into mirrors every time you pass them or touching your belly when you sit down. Instead – put on a comfortable outfit and get to work!
Another unpopular opinion of mine is that we should stop giving others compliments about their looks. Without any harmful intention, compliments like “you look so skinny in these jeans” or “how can you eat so much and stay lean” can have detrimental consequences on the other person. For all that matters, you might be talking to someone who’s been restricting and punishing her or his body simply to fit into those jeans and your compliment will only encourage them further. Instead of telling someone they are pretty, try giving them a much more meaningful compliment like “I love how passionate you are” or “I’m lucky to know you”, and see the person before the body.
Edited by: Emma Chiaratti