Nicolas Ladino Silva

BEAUTY IS ONLY SKIN DEEP: A CASE FOR BODY NEUTRALITY

The age-old struggle of body image issues has introduced many concepts over the years, notably body positivity. Body neutrality, by contrast, is a fairly new mindset that challenges the idea of body positivity. While body positivity centers around the idea of loving your body regardless of size, shape, color, or ability, body neutrality focuses on appreciating what your body can do for you rather than how it looks. 

Body positivity is driven by your appearance; body neutrality asks that we redirect our awareness towards the body’s natural goodness rather than investing time or energy into loving or hating its appearance. Our body is a vessel that the soul lives in during its time here on Earth. Our bodies make it possible to live this life, something that most of us take for granted everyday. 

Our society constantly pushes unrealistic beauty standards onto us from a young age; this is further exacerbated by today’s social media culture. This culture tends to place more value on how you look than how you feel, stressing the importance of outer beauty above anything else. Because of this, beauty standards have become unfathomably unrealistic. The excessive usage of filters and altered images makes it that much harder to decipher what’s real and what isn’t. Everyone is striving for perfection, but perfection simply doesn’t exist. 

It is part of human nature to have flaws. Our imperfections are what makes us unique. Unlike body positivity, we don’t have to see our imperfections as beautiful because there is nothing wrong with imperfections. While we might not be confident or love everything about our appearance, it’s only a small part of who we are. Though it is important to feel comfortable in our skin and love the way we look, it’s time we flip the script on how we view ourselves. Body positivity says I’m beautiful no matter what. Body neutrality says it doesn’t matter if I’m conventionally beautiful because I accept who I am: My appearance is not the most important or interesting part of me. 

Why do our bodies need to be included in the conversation about confidence?

We should be supporting a healthy body and mind and appreciating what the body does for us, not just how it looks in its tangible form. We often take for granted what we have — until we don’t have it anymore. Until it’s too late. Our bodies are powerful entities and we should treat them as such. When we exercise, the focus shouldn’t be solely on changing our appearance, nor treating it as a form of punishment for what we ate. Exercising should be enjoyable and something we look forward to doing. The focus should be on feeling good about ourselves and creating a stronger and healthier body.

Since we’ve been conditioned from a young age to judge our bodies and feel the pressure of societal expectations, it will take time to practice body neutrality. And that’s okay. It’s still possible to shift our thoughts and feelings with daily commitment towards progress. If you feel like you are having negative thoughts or spiraling, remind yourself that your thoughts are thoughts — not necessarily the truth.

Even positive discussions about body image still place importance on our bodies’ appearance. Once we stop discussing and judging how we look, can we change the conversations we have regarding our bodies. 

Confidence isn’t just about appearance. When you have the stamina to hike a mountain or perform heavy tasks around the house without tiring, it brings a feeling of confidence in your ability to achieve these things. You may find yourself feeling lighter and more self-assured throughout the day when you take the worry away from your appearance and direct your focus on what you’re capable of achieving. A healthy mind and body go hand in hand. When you begin taking care of yourself and your body, your mind will also benefit. When we practice body neutrality, we have the chance to  improve our mental health by reducing anxiety and depression, improving self-esteem, and relieving stress.

More than the color of your hair, the shape of your lips, or the size of your body — true beauty lies within your soul. It’s your resilience in difficult situations, the way your eyes light up when you discuss a topic you love, your compassion for others, and your appreciation of life’s simple joys. The ability to live life as it is and transcend beyond appearance will allow us to truly love and appreciate the beauty within.

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