Finding acceptance is a journey of discovery and freedom for many

Body neutrality is a social movement that promotes acceptance of the body you are in. If you think this sounds reminiscent of the body positivity movement you are not alone, but there are some key differences. And here’s why body neutrality might be the more attainable option.

Body positivity challenges notions of conventional attractiveness by proudly proclaiming that we can all love the bodies we are in. Its key message is that we are all fabulous, beautiful and desirable, and that we are all deserving of self-love. The body positivity movement is largely focused on women, and argues passionately that women face insurmountable pressures to live up to an impossible and socially constructed model of beauty. It has roots in both the 1850s dress reform movement, which opposed the Victorian trend of corsets, and the 1960s fat acceptance movement, which protested against weight discrimination.

Body positivity recognises that narrow and socially constructed ideals of attractiveness can be hugely detrimental to anyone who does not fit the accepted mould. Factors that feature in this artificial construct include body shape, weight, and absence of any so-called imperfections.

The body positivity movement holds that all bodies are perfect just as they are, and has particular resonance for people and groups who have previously felt marginalised or shamed. The movement raises awareness of depression, eating disorders and body dysmorphia as potential consequences of poor body image, and promotes the psychological benefits of reclaiming beauty as something that is not just owned by the few, but the inherent human right of every body. Proponents proudly declare ‘I am what I am, and what I am is fabulous’.

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By Sandra Bishop: Culture Columnist

So where does body neutrality fit into the picture? The answer is simply that body neutrality provides a different path to self-acceptance. Body neutrality recognises that whilst it is fabulous to feel fabulous, exhortations to love what we see when we look in the mirror can, for some people, feel like a pressure in itself. Body neutrality occupies the centre ground between self-hate and self-love. It is an open recognition that many women do not feel like a goddess every time they look in the mirror, and it is an acknowledgement that they do not need to. In order to move away from poor body image, it is not necessary to occupy the other end of the spectrum. It is the neutrality of looking in the mirror without hating or loving what you see: it is the acknowledgement that it is okay to simply feel okay about your body.

Whilst body positivity focuses on the strong link between body-image and self-worth, body neutrality holds that self-worth is not dependent on body image. Instead, increased emphasis is placed upon appreciating and respecting what our bodies can do. All bodies are different. For some, legs can be appreciated for strength, for others, arms can be appreciated for mobilising a wheelchair or hugging a loved one. Differences can be recognised without judgement, and aesthetics become less important. The body neutrality movement shifts the focus away from how we feel about the way we look, and instead encourages us to recognise and appreciate other aspects of our bodies and lives.

The body neutrality movement discourages us from expending too much of our time thinking about whether we hate or love the way we look. Of course it is fabulous to feel fabulous, and for those who find their place in the body positivity movement, we salute you. But for those who need a different path to self-acceptance, body neutrality might be just what you’re looking for.


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