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My Body Does Not Belong to Me

As you hit the post button, the blue bar appears at the top of the Instagram screen. Once it’s sent, you are now under public scrutiny. The heart beats a little faster in anticipation of the likes and comments. What will people think of my outfit? Am I posing awkwardly? All these thoughts start to run through your head.

Self-love can be challenging in the age of social media when high exposure to media enforces an “ideal physique.” Even without social media, however, most of us have possibly looked in the mirror and made mental notes about our appearance or perhaps things we wish to change. I know I have. The internet simply magnifies these internal thoughts and broadcasts them as external voices from others.

However, social media has also played a pivotal role in the rise of campaigns for body positivity. Magazines and companies are heavily involved in online marketing by expanding plus-size collections and promoting customized workouts and diets for different body types.

Now, the body neutrality movement has emerged. In contrast to the body positive campaign urging people to love their bodies, body neutrality is a moderate approach to self-image aiming to move beyond our reflex approaches to judge appearance positively or negatively. Anastasia Amour, a self-love coach, claims that if people aim for “total body bliss,” they will inevitably feel like failures when they fall short of achieving such a goal. Instead, she argues that we can develop skills to neutralize “disordered thinking” by directing our focus from “I must love thy body,” to “This is my body, and I’m okay with it.”

To put it in simpler terms, Amour believes body positivity can be summarized as “love yourself,” and body neutrality can be defined as “underthink [thoughts related to your body].” The body neutrality movement is supposed to feel more liberating and dispel toxic positivity ideals. However, something as basic as stressing less about your body may be more restricting and complex than it appears. These days, it seems taboo to say you wish you looked different. When I tell people, perhaps, I want to lose a few pounds to get to my best self. My standards to feel my best seem to devolve into self-criticism. People ask why you need to lose weight. Or better yet, tell you to stop worrying about your bodily appearance.

Many celebrities, such as the “The Good Place” actress Jameela Jamil has shared their take on body neutrality. Jamil claimed, “I don’t think about my body ever... Imagine just not thinking about your body. You’re not hating it. You’re not loving it. You’re just a floating head. I’m a floating head wandering through the world.” I ask myself this question: how can we learn to accept ourselves while blocking out all thoughts regarding our bodies? Ignorance does not solve anything. Furthermore, is it wrong for me to love my body? What if what I love is imperfection?

We’ve come a long way from shifting beauty perspectives and creating a positive atmosphere for embracing our bodies, but we should perhaps reconsider how these initiatives are framed. It is often difficult to stay neutral because the internet campaigns compel you to adopt a position. You are either praised as an ally or chastised as an opponent. People should always be allowed to make conscious decisions to embrace who they are.

The climate around body acceptance has revolved around “be grateful for your body,” “every body is unique,” and many more. Although this change in attitude can be encouraging, it does not change the fact that the journey to self-confidence is personal.

Everyone moves at their own pace and should not feel rushed in any particular way to follow the mainstream movement.

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