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Promoting a healthy self-image through body neutrality instead of body positivity

Comparison—the thief of joy—lives within social media platforms. The majority of young teenagers, including myself, compare their individual selves to the unrealistic beauty standards of photoshopped models, celebrities, and influencers. The body positivity movement attempts to deter the negative self-image, low self-esteem and unhealthy habits from conforming to the “thin ideal” presented in the media. However, why do shame and insecurity continue to perpetuate the minds of social media users when there is the shield of body positivity?

Most body positivity activists expose the characteristics that most women attempt to hide, like stretch marks, acne scars, and bloated bellies, to empower them to love those insecurities. But, overemphasizing those features can also increase the viewer’s awareness​​ of their appearance in that area. Activists create unrealistic standards and pressure for their viewers to love every part of themselves, comparing their self-love journey to that of their body-positive idols. Diet culture preys on pressures to meet high expectations of self-love, influencing teenage women to participate in strict diets and overexercising. Instagram and TikTok are particularly swarmed by body positivity content, mainly due to algorithms that support these unhealthy interests. 

Lizzo is one of the many celebrities that supports the alternative to the body positivity movement – the body neutrality movement. Body neutrality preaches bodily appreciation – recognizing its non-physical abilities. Instead of the pressure to love stretch marks and acne scars, you view your body as a vehicle that helps you accomplish daily tasks and goals. Expressing gratitude for your body’s function creates the focus of self-care: fueling your body through intuitive eating, engaging in daily movement, and different forms of relaxation. 

I have fallen into certain toxic traits within the body positivity movement, like feeling guilty for feeling gross and bloated after a meal. But, you can distract from negative thoughts by appreciating all your body does for you. You are allowed to not love every part of yourself as long as you don’t fall into the pit of negativity. Instead, you could show yourself compassion and gratitude for fueling yourself, listening to your body, and asking yourself what you need to make yourself feel more comfortable. I tend to be more self-conscious of my appearance and gain holiday weight during the holidays. But I will divert my attention to spending time with my family, friends, and good food instead of comparing myself on social media. Instead of setting high expectations of either appearance and self-love, we can be grateful for the individual capabilities that allow us to embrace loving and joyful experiences. 

Hi! I'm Hannah Shemtov, and I'm a student studying journalism and psychology at Emerson College. I enjoy reporting on culture and international news and is interested in producing for broadcast.
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