Moving towards body neutrality
CW: This article discusses topics of mental illness and depression, as well as eating disorders, body dysmorphic disorder and cosmetic surgery which could be distressing to some readers.
Easy access to filters and Photoshop is having detrimental effects on body image. It’s time to start moving towards body neutrality and self-acceptance.
Experiences of poor body image are all too common in today's society, body image being the thoughts and feelings an individual has about their own body and appearance, which is directly influenced by the media, specifically social media's continuous provision of filters and expectations of Photoshop. With edited and airbrushed images being constantly consumed and the pressure to alter our own photos in the same way, it's no surprise that body image confidence has depleted. A survey by the Women and Equalities Committee reported that 61% of adults and 66% of children feel negative or very negative about their body image most of the time, addressing the impacts had by these social media filters.
Easy access to filters
Previously, Photoshop 'fixes' were only accessible to those who knew how to use the program to alter their photos successfully; nowadays, filters are provided everywhere and require no skill or effort in order to manipulate the way we look. Being available on almost every social media platform, from Snapchat and Instagram to Facebook and Tiktok, filters are imposed onto us to the point it's almost controversial not to utilize them.
Without needing to be sought out or additionally downloaded, there is effortless access to these filters, which can alter the facial shape and airbrush blemishes, impacting our body image more than we may realize. It becomes easy to fall into the trap of constantly using filters; usually beginning with trying out a new filter, this then becomes a regular occurrence, before long, every photo taken or uploaded is filtered or altered in some way, and this becomes the only way to feel confident in sharing the image. Misleading ourselves about the way we look creates unhappiness about our unedited appearances, we become dissatisfied with ourselves and this often results in experiences of poor body image.
A shared focus of many of these filters is the slimming of our faces and bodies, which enforces the opinion that this is the desired look, that slim is what we should aspire to. Despite the increase of body positivity, which suggests everybody regardless of shape, size or appearance deserves a positive body image, smaller still seems to be aspired to, exampled with #thinsperation popularity which places focus on the size and appearances of bodies over health.
The effects of this easy access to filters include body dysmorphic disorder in which a person has a fixation on their own flaws, usually things that no-one else notices but a large amount of time is then spent attempting to cover or fix these ‘flaws’. This is clearly problematic and can have a large impact on people's lives, even leading to other issues such as depression. Many studies have also linked photo editing with eating disorders, addressing just how impactful the access to and use of filters and retouching is. Additionally, in an attempt to change apprentices in order to fit better into the beauty standard expected people now commonly turn to fillers and cosmetic surgery as a way to make the alterations of filters more permanent, as seen in 2017 with 55% of cosmetic surgeons reporting they performed surgery's motivated by clients aiming to improve selfies.
These effects can impact everyone, regardless of gender, age and size. The constant access to filters creates dissatisfaction with our appearances as it’s natural for humans to compare themselves, it has been strategic for survival, the need to change and adapt stems from this, however in this case attempts to adapt are dangerous, resulting in eating disorders or an excessive use of cosmetic surgeries.
Is body neutrality the way forward?
Furthermore, being confident in your own skin as a plus-sized woman is labeled ‘body positivity’ yet this is not the case for slimmer women or men who are just seen as confident. Women who are plus size and content are automatically being dubbed 'plus-sized activists', expected to justify their reasons for being confident in a plus-size body and be a role model for other plus-size people. Their appearance then becomes their identity, which is counterproductive as it gives body size too much power over peoples’ attitudes. Due to these issues with ‘body positivity’ there needs to be a movement toward body neutrality. Body neutrality focuses on what your body can do for you rather than what it looks like. The goal then is health and an acceptance of our bodies being bodies without having to be aesthetically pleasing, resulting in more self-appreciation and self-acceptance. A movement toward body neutrality seems like a step forward for an improved body image to be achieved.
Creating a healthy mindset is needed to achieve body neutrality, this can be done by building healthy habits such as; writing down three things you appreciate about your body each day; using fewer filters on photos you post on social media, putting less pressure on yourself to post the perfect images; compliment people in real life, their unedited versions and accept the compliments that you receive yourself.
Although in today's society it’s easier to alter our appearance than our mindset, the effects indicate the more rewarding option is to build and maintain a healthy mindset and body image, becoming self-confident from within. A change in mindset also has potential for a longer lasting confidence as fillers need to be maintained and beauty standards change, whereas a healthy mindset builds positive habits which are harder to break once established. This is definitely easier said than done but is a step forward and could result in less self-destruction such as eating disorders.
Take time to appreciate yourself today and onwards, build a healthy mindset and embrace your body for all it does.