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What’s the Difference Between Body Positively and Body Neutrality?

Jessica Pontis, LCSW

Have you ever looked in a mirror and not particularly enjoyed the person staring back at you?  Have you ever judged your body, skin, or face?  Perhaps there are stretchmarks in places you feel there shouldn’t be, or felt self-conscious about some gained weight during quarantine?  You are not alone in these thoughts.  It’s unfortunate how we have been conditioned to feel we should constantly be at war with our bodies.  Constantly feeling as though we need to make ourselves smaller, or bigger, and taller, or smoother in order to feel accepted.  Health is important, yes, but health looks different for different people.  Changing the narrative that a person is only acceptable if they look a certain way is critical for the longevity of our collective wellness.  To change this narrative, I feel it’s important to dive into the concepts of body positive and body neutrality, and how they can be helpful and empowering tools on the journey to finding peace with our bodies.  

According to Kendra Cherry, body positivity asserts the belief that all people deserve to have a good image of their bodies regardless of how pop-culture or media view size, shape, and appearance.  However, this movement is not limited to size and shape, but also recognized that judgements are also made about race, gender, sexuality, and ability (Cherry, 2020).  Body positivity directly challenges how society views the human body by promoting the acceptance of all bodies.  Building confidence and acceptance about our own bodies is also another tenant of this moment which is done by foster a loving relationship with the ways that we look.  

Understanding just how popular media contributes to either the toxicity or love that we have with our relationships with our bodies.  These contributions could include the way we feel about food, exercise, clothing, identity, and health.  Unpacking these influences is important to fostering a stronger relationship with our bodies.  

The concept of body neutrality is similar in that is also works to challenge the standards of beauty and worthiness that is fed to us.  The main difference is finding acceptance and appreciate for our bodies and what it does for us, not what it looks like.   Kristen Fuller provides an excellent definition of body-neutrality, “Body neutrality promotes accepting your body as is and recognizing its remarkable abilities and non-physical characteristics instead of the physical appearance.  Body neutrality means taking a neutral perspective towards your body, meaning you do not have to cultivate a love for your body or feel that you have to love your body everyday”(Fuller, 2021).

The intention behind body neutrality is to not focus on how the body looks, but what the body does.  With body neutrality we give thanks to our legs for being strong and carrying us through the day, we thank are bellies for carrying the delicious food we eat, we thank our faces for being so beautifully expressive.  While body positivity is about loving the way our bodies look no matter the arbitrary societal standards that exist at the time, body neutrality doesn’t necessary care about looks, but focuses the attention on an appreciation for skills and purpose.  

Both body neutrality and body positivity can be adopted simultaneously, and both work to challenge the existing standards that people feel pressured to fit so neatly into.   If you struggle to find self-love, or you feel that you would like to connect with someone to walk with you on your journey reach out to one of the licensed therapists with Symmetry Counseling.  You can reach out to us online at symmetrycounseling.com, or by calling us at (312) 578-9990 to set up an appointment.    

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