Body positivity refers to a rejection of ideas that your appearance must fit a specific frame. It encourages positive body image, pointing out that all people deserve to appreciate their bodies regardless of physique most acceptable by society.
For decades, we have been exposed to social pressures to look a certain way. We feel validated and appreciated only if our body fits our society’s ideals.
At the same time, the message that we don’t fit within certain ideals can have damaging outcomes, causing body image issues, mental health problems, and unhealthy behaviors such as eating disorders or compulsive exercise.
What is Body Image?
Body image refers to the subjective perception of your body. A healthy body image means feeling comfortable within your body and accepting yourself as you are. Thoughts and feelings related to body image can have a substantial impact on your mental health and behavior.
Unhealthy body image can affect your self-worth and confidence and influence your mental health. Studies show that a negative body image is linked to an increased risk of anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and eating disorders.
A report published by Common Sense Media shows that many children age six to eight show body dissatisfaction and related unhealthy behaviors. More than half of girls and around a third of boys reported dissatisfaction with their bodies.
Some researchers believe that low body image can play a role in explaining much higher rates of depression than women experience compared to men. Studies also show the link between body dissatisfaction and low self-esteem in adolescents regardless of their age, gender, race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status. Finally, research suggests that unhealthy body image can be associated with eating disorders (particularly among teenage girls).
What Does Body Positivity Involve?
Body positivity involves accepting and cherishing your body as it is, despite its flaws and imperfections. It means feeling confident about your appearance and accepting your body’s size and shape.
Also, body positivity refers to loving yourself and feeling grateful for your body’s functions and health. It involves focusing on your body’s positives and appreciating its uniqueness. In short, body positivity means experiencing comfort and confidence within own body.
The History of Body Positivity
Although body positivity as a social movement was formally created by Connie Sobczak and Elizabeth Scott in 1996, ideas about body positivity have been around for more than a hundred years. In the 19th century, women protested for being required to wear corsets to fit their body shape into a socially accepted mold.
More recently, the fat acceptance movement in the late 1960s that focused on ending the fat-shaming culture resulted in establishing the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance in 1969. The body has worked to change society’s perception of weight and body shape these days.
Since the 1990s, the body positivity movement has evolved to include not only activists but health professionals and scientists alike.
Why Body Positivity Matters?
One of the body positivity movement’s main goals is to challenge unrealistic feminine beauty standards and change how society views the human body. This movement also recognizes the stigma based on gender, race, disability, and sexuality.
Body positivity promotes acceptance of all body shapes, addressing unrealistic standards presented in popular media and other social channels.
How Popular Media Affects our Body Image?
Popular media messages strongly influence the perception we have of our bodies. Traditional media (TV, magazines, movies, advertisement) and social media affect how we feel about food, health, exercise, beauty, and self-perception. A better understanding of the effects of popular media on your body image can help you overcome your body image issues and develop a healthier relationship with your body.
It seems that we care so much about validation from social media. There is an intense pressure to filter every aspect of our lives and fit in certain frames and get recognition.
We tend to compare our own with other people’s perfect appearance on social media, often considering them more beautiful or happier.
Resisting the pressure to pursuit the myth of the ideal physique can be difficult. A force to fin into modern beauty standards can make you feel uncomfortable and inadequate in your own body.
A persistent need to get validation from social media can also create feelings of deep loneliness, dissatisfaction, anxiety, eating problems, and depression.
Research shows that seeking validation from social media can cause you to feel imperfect and uncomfortable, affecting your confidence and self-esteem. One study showed that short exposure to “ideal body shape” presented in social media was linked to decreased body satisfaction.
How to Practice Body Positivity?
Body positivity promotes acceptance of your body and self-love. Of course, completely ignoring the dominant beauty ideals is neither possible nor realistic. But you can start working on a healthy body image by replacing your negative thought patterns with more realistic and positive ones.
- Confront Your Negative Thoughts
Be mindful of self-critical thoughts about your body. Shut down these negative voices in your mindfully practicing gratitude: reflect on the positive functions of your body and your health, strength, and skills.
- Focus on Self-Care
Put your self-care first, and focus on doing things that benefit your mind and your body.
So, go to the gym because you love your body, not because you hate it. Exercise can help you stay energized and healthy, and it should not be a tool to change or control your body.
Eat healthy food because it gives you energy and boosts your health, not because you want to lose weight. Don’t starve yourself, but make healthy choices when snacking. For example, go for dark chocolate, grains, fruits, and vegetables instead of chips, cookies, and other high-calorie foods that taste good but provide very little to none nutritious value.
- Practice Self-Compassion
Treat your body like it belongs to a dear friend. Don’t allow your mind to judge and bully your body. Don’t punish yourself with self-critical thoughts – if you would not say it to someone you love, don’t say it to yourself.
- Learn to Love Yourself as a Whole
It is hard to find a person who is happy with every single piece of their bodies. Learning to accept yourself as a whole is a pillar of self-love and healthy confidence. Appreciate yourself and give your body the admiration for its uniqueness.
Focusing on the fact that there is much more to yourself than your physique is essential for good mental health and wellbeing.
If you are looking for support in a 1:1 format or a group setting, please visit www.kaminiwood.com. Especially if you have been treated for an eating disorder and would like to have consistent support to maintain a healthy outlook.