Dear Asian Youth,
In the past few years, the media has been obsessed with the term ‘body positivity’, which enforces the idea that bodies of all shapes and sizes are beautiful, stressing the importance of showing love towards everyone’s physical being. Society has always had strict standards of beauty: the lean, tall, sun-kissed body on the cover of trending magazines. However, body positivity works to break these rules, where beauty does not have one definition. Though I am exhilarated to feel the power and passion behind the body positivity movement, it must be recognized that many people actually struggle immensely to look at their bodies through a positive lens. This brings me to a new term that I have recently come in contact with: body neutrality.
The best explanation I can conjure up for body neutrality is the philosophy that we should acknowledge, accept, and appreciate what our body does for us, rather than how our body looks. It is essentially a middle ground. We do not have to forcefully love how we look, but rather we have to show gratitude towards how our body provides for us. Body neutrality emphasizes that self-worth is not determined by how your body looks, and that you can still live your best life without always feeling physically attractive. In all honesty, staring into a mirror and uttering positive affirmations over and over again is not an approach that works for everyone. If you truly dislike how your body looks, repeating words are meaningless, sometimes even toxic. Repeating how much you love your body when you don’t truly believe it only causes you to resent your body more.
It is way easier to feel neutral towards your body than it is to always feel love, and that’s okay. “Body neutrality feels like a white flag amidst the warzone of thoughts going on in my mind; I don’t have to hate or love my body, I just have to accept it as my body,” said Becky Wright in an interview with happiful. Body acceptance does not necessarily require you to change your standard of beauty. You may still want to have a slimmer figure, but that doesn’t mean you feel negative emotions towards your current body. They are not mutually exclusive.
“Part of the implicit goal of body neutrality is to free up all the energy and attention that women often devote to body angst so that they can care about other matters instead,” said Marisa Meltzer from The Cut. If you find it difficult to love your body, you can try respecting your body instead. Try looking deeper than the skin, and truly understand how your body functions. Appreciate how your eyes allow you to see, how your feet carry you to so many places, how your intestines digest food, how your body allows you to experience this world. Your body may not be perfect, but it has given you so much.
To be in a world where all body types are celebrated still requires a lot of effort and perseverance. If you are not able to fully ‘love’ your body, that is okay. Body neutrality is the middle ground that allows you to honor your body and understand that your body does not determine your worth.
Cover Photo Source: Medium