Why the Body Positivity Movement Creates More Harm than Good

First and foremost, let it be said: loving yourself is an essential component to living a happy, fulfilling life. It’s something that everyone should strive for and embrace.

Now, I’m sure many people are aware of the Body Positivity movement, which has a history dating back to the first wave feminism of the mid-1800’s, a resurgence during second wave feminism of the 1970’s, and now a presence in the 21st century. The main platform of Body Positivity is the idea that there is not just one type of beauty, and that everyone is beautiful. Body Positivity tells us to love ourselves because our bad skin and chubby tummies are beautiful, too. We don’t need to look like the influencers we see on Instagram in order to be pretty.

While this is a genuinely positive message on the outside, it’s also a harmful one when we investigate the more subtle effects. The intentions are there, but in practice it falls through. Body Posi’s statement that everyone is beautiful doesn’t quite get to the core of the issue. The real problem runs much deeper: it’s the idea that beauty actually matters, and somehow determines our self-worth.

Perpetuating our focus on beauty, even in Body Positivity’s unconventional form, is perhaps a way to keep us buying into the beauty industry. Personally, realizing profit is made from our insecurity, and that feeling like I need to change my physical appearance is a way to trap me into purchasing beauty products, was a turning point for me. Just because our range of ideas of beauty has become slightly wider due to Body Posi doesn’t make it any better.

Thus, the key to accepting yourself is not realizing that you’re beautiful. The key to accepting yourself is realizing that it doesn’t matter if you’re beautiful or not. There are hundreds of virtues that are more valuable than having a pretty outer shell. For example: empathy. Another? Compassion. And authenticity. Gratitude. Open-mindedness. Peace. Unity. Courage. Generosity. Wisdom. Love. The list goes on.

 

 

Beauty is just an external quality. It says nothing of who you are as a person. The way society treats it, it would be fair to assume beauty is the highest form of achievement for humans. Obviously it’s not. So why do we act as if it were?

By telling everyone their bodies are beautiful and thus everyone should love themselves, the Body Positivity movement perpetuates society’s disproportionate and unfounded focus on physical appearance, as if it somehow determines your worth. It doesn’t. Your worth is determined by many different aspects of who you are, but it should never be determined by something as unimportant and useless as external qualities.

Instead of telling yourself, “I am beautiful too,” practice saying, “I may or may not be beautiful, but I am still worthy.” Beauty and worth are mutually exclusive. One can exist without the other. As a whole, we need to make a conscious effort to shift our thinking from “I am beautiful, thus I am worthy,” to a healthier and wiser, “I am worthy regardless of my physical appearance and external qualities.”

Having a mantra is a great idea, but it’s important to make sure it doesn’t focus solely on your external appearance. One of my favorites is “I deserve to be here, to do what I want, and to be loved.”

So keep on believing you’re beautiful, because you are! But also keep in mind that despite what you’re conditioned to believe, beauty has no weight on your value as a human being. Humans are more than their outer shell—it’s what’s on the inside that counts. It’s cheesy, but true!

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