I have a whole lot of compassion for anyone who feels out of place or unhappy in or with their body. I empathize because I’ve felt it too. It makes me sad that being discontent with our bodies is the norm. I think we’re often hard on ourselves when approaching body discontentment. We get upset because we’re not accepting our body the way we “should” or being radically content with every cellulite dimple and fat roll.
Comparison can be one explanation for unhappiness with our body, and that might be an area to explore and work on. But I think it’s helpful to remember that cultural standards of beauty (for women: often white-skinned, very thin, high cheek bones, unattainable proportions) play a significant role in shaping our own perceptions of beauty. We don’t have a lot of control over that, especially since we’re exposed to those cultural messages at a young age, so we can’t beat ourselves up when body acceptance and neutrality feel difficult.body neutrality and body acceptance.
I’m not sure which is the easiest or which naturally comes first. They’re both hard work, and I think for most of us, neither feel like a natural mindset to slip into.
Body neutrality, to me, is a cognizant emotional indifference to body appearance. Another way to think about body neutrality is body awareness without shame. Sort of a “this is where I am and this is what I look like. so what?” mindset. Babies and little kids are really good at body neutrality.
Body acceptance is a little more intentional. It’s recognizing where you are, maybe not being super jazzed about it, but promising not to actively pursue a smaller body. For example, if I notice a pair of pants doesn’t fit anymore, instead of berating myself for gaining weight and telling myself I need to eat less and start exercising for “x” number of minutes every day the following week, I donate the pants, buy a bigger size, and move on with life.
body neutrality and body acceptance vs body love.
For me, not only is body love just super difficult to wrap my head around, it’s almost the opposite end of the body perception spectrum. On one end, you have self-loathing and body hate, and on the other end you have self-absorption and body infatuation. I don’t think either serve us well at the end of the day. Body neutrality and acceptance can be good alternatives. They help us spend less time thinking about our bodies altogether.
I like Kylie’s post about our bodies being earthly tents. They’re finite and temporal. Our best bet is working with them, not against them, and not overthinking it . . . definitely easier said than done.
accepting your body when you feel disconnected, distant, or mistrusting of it – a result of trauma, infertility, weight gain, ED recovery, childbirth, aging, disease, disability.
I’m not an expert and don’t have experience with every one of these, but in my experience, talking through those feelings of disconnection with someone I trust (a close friend, counselor, mentor, etc) can be clarifying. It’s also liberating to give myself permission to feel my emotions, sit with them, and try not to tell myself how I should be feeling. There’s often a discrepancy between number of emotions available to us and the number we allow ourselves to feel.
Also helpful for me, exploring my identity, values, and priorities has helped with facing some of those feelings of body disconnection. Sometimes an intellectual understanding of who we are and our core beliefs/values can be the first step in getting back in touch with our physical body if it’s in a place of change, discomfort, or feels foreign.
how can we reframe self-criticism around body size, appearance, and ability?
Debunking cultural claims about beauty and filling our social media feeds with a diverse representation of bodies are two helpful ways. This might seem obvious, but not thinking so much about our body makes it easier to invest less of our worth and identity in our appearance. When I catch myself focusing on my body, I have a list of other mental topics to transition to. It isn’t a quick fix. Reframing thought patterns takes a long time, but I think if we do give ourselves time, body neutrality and acceptance are within reach.
thoughts on body neutrality, acceptance, love?