How body neutrality helped me find peace within myself
CW: This article discusses topics of body image which could be distressing to some readers.
Personally, I do not know anyone, who likes feeling insecure. Feelings of inadequacy often bring along other uncomfortable feelings like shame, sadness, and anxiety.
But sometimes being forcefully positive about our bodies can do more harm than good. Do not get me wrong, I am an advocate for celebrating our unique bodies. But, we have to keep in mind that everyone feels insecure once in a while. Nothing wrong with that. Body neutrality for me is the definition of a healthy relationship with ourselves. It is realistic and set extremely high standards, which some find hard to live up to, leading to toxic positivity. Toxic positivity essentially is the urge to avoid painful emotions, experiencing guilt for being sad or angry, and dismissing others' difficult emotions.
My intention with this article is not to spread the message that loving your body is impossible, as it is very much possible. Instead, I want to talk about an alternative perspective for those who seem to be on a never-ending journey of self-love.
Although body positivity and body neutrality both aim to change the perspective toward our bodies, they do in very different ways. The term body positivity, which has been around for a long time, has its emphasis on being confident about our bodies and experiencing love for our flaws.
Whereas body neutrality highlights that our perspectives on our bodies have nothing to do with our self-worth or happiness. With body neutrality, the body is gently moved to the background and puts the focus on other aspects.
Body neutrality leads to inner peace. Let me explain...
“Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures.” —John F. Kennedy
In my eyes, 'Inner peace' and 'outer peace' are very much connected and the concepts are quite similar. Both are processes, which require willpower and commitment. In the case of inner peace: it is the commitment to be compassionate towards oneself, even when society is not. The most important thing with body neutrality is not to lose hope. It can be frustrating when eroding one barrier and then the next one arises, but keep in mind you are still making progress. It is not important how big the progress is.
Body positivity can create more suffering...
On average 95% of the thoughts we are thinking are repetitions of thoughts we thought previously and 80% of our thoughts are negative. This is not meant to discourage you. These are average numbers and of course, there are things you can do to change the percentage a little bit. The intention behind naming these numbers is to give you a better understanding of why it is okay to not always feel confident in your body and why it may require some time before you can let go of certain thought patterns.
Nonetheless, working on one's mindset is essential, here are some of the things I did to improve my relationship with my body.
1. Start to meditate. Meditation is a great practice to be aware of your thoughts. Because a large part of our thoughts is subconscious we sometimes are not even aware of what we are thinking. We just experience certain feelings that are the effect of our thoughts. Meditation can help shine some light on the unconscious mind. It also helps to let go of thoughts and not obsess over them. You are simply observing them and then letting go. Your thoughts do not define you, they are often a reflection of outside opinions.
2. If simply reciting affirmations out loud not works for you? Do not worry you are not the only one. Maybe try using a technique called Emotional Freedom Technique. FYI the EFT does not only work to improve your body image but with every destructive thought that arises.
3. Try concentrating on things that bring you joy instead. Meet friends, listen to music, start a new hobby, journal, draw, read a book about your topic of interest, get involved in projects you are passionate about and step outside your comfort zone. Shifting one's focus can be very relieving.
4. Be conscious of what you are nurturing in your mind. The types of videos you watch, the people you surround yourself with, the people you follow on social media, and the books you read – all have a great impact on your mind.