It’s an incredible thing to be totally comfortable in our own bodies and minds. To forgive our flaws, accept our imperfections and come to terms with how we look externally and feel internally. That’s what body positivity is all about though, right? Learning how to be kinder to ourselves…
Well, no. Not quite. Though this narrative is what most of us think of when the term ‘body positive’ comes to mind, it overlooks perhaps one of the most important components of body positivity.
When the concept of body positivity first emerged, it meant to give a voice to people who have been silenced and shamed for not meeting society’s expectation of how their body should look. Within every expression of self love was a statement fighting against forces trying to keep people small in every respect. But as the movement has grown in reach and popularity, it’s become a shadow of its former self. Now a myriad of before and after photos, bikini body selfies and transformation journeys, it’s developed an aesthetic expectation of its own that wears kind of an exclusive and oppressive persona.
The culture of comparison has made body positivity into a running track of critique. A constant depiction of bodies as ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ We call out our inner critic as if it’s to blame for making us feel like we aren’t enough, and we talk about our bodies and their differential characteristics as though they’re responsible for the negative attitudes we have towards them, which couldn’t be further from the truth.
Insecurity may be universal, but it’s not intrinsic. We were not born with poor body image. We were not created aspiring to have the bodies of models, professional athletes and photoshopped celebrities. Just like we were not made the same, we were not meant to compare what makes us unique. And yet we do, and this where the core discussion of body positivity needs to return to.
It isn’t our bodies or even our body image that’s the source of the problem. It’s the cultural belief that some bodies are better than others. That some are more deserving of love, respect and success. And how could we not to think this? Society asserts this day in day out, with certain bodies taking precedence over others in industries. Certain shapes, colours, heights and capabilities are rewarded with money, fame, followers and opportunities. We come to know these bodies as superior and so the pressure to look a certain way is rooted in our very normal desire to excel.