Still a fan of body neutrality

net-neutrality-thumbnailI’m a big fan of neutrality over positivity. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to optimistic outlooks and affirmations. But I think the idea that we’re supposed to feel good all the time and be happy all the time is the source of so much dissatisfaction at the normal variances in day to day life.

In the recovery circles I move in we have a saying that I love: “life on life’s terms.” I interpret that to mean that basically I’m not in charge of the universe. Sometimes it will dish up stuff that I wouldn’t necessarily choose. These unexpected happenings can be what would ordinarily be regarded as setbacks, or they can be amazing little miracles that fall into my lap unplanned and unanticipated.

So that’s a nutshell background to set up my latest plug for body neutrality. I’ve blogged about this before. See my post “Here’s an idea: body neutrality” It seems I’m not the only one who thinks this. I came across an article recently called “People want to replace body positivity with something more relatable.

What’s that more relatable thing? Body neutrality! The author, Lauren Gordon, says:

While Body positivity preaches unwavering self-love, body neutrality is almost indifference. It is the acknowledgement that your body exists in its current state and your reaction to that is more factual than it is emotional.

This really speaks to me. One reason it does is not that I find it difficult to preach unwavering self-love for my body (though I do), but because I’m not even sure that’s a thing worth preaching. This brings me back to my thought that the whole idea that I should love my body seems totally over-reaching to me. Why not just have it? Live in it? Experience it? Feed it? Move it in ways I find enjoyable?

Some people argue that body neutrality is a cop-out, a way of dissociating from the body rather than trying to love and accept it. I disagree. Being neutral rather than judgmental has long roots in all sorts of spiritual traditions. We cling to all sorts of judgments, opinions, and ideas that set us up to be constantly disappointed.

To me, the goal of body positivity is one of those things. When I wrote about body neutrality last time, here’s what I said:

But something more attainable [than body positivity], and certainly a step up from body hatred, is a neutral attitude towards our bodies. For me, I feel best when I’m neutral. Why? Because when I’m neutral I’m not passing judgement either way. It just is.

I would rather just be comfortable in my skin than basking in my body’s awesomeness (which basking is not a likely scenario for me). I’ve just come back from two weeks of wearing a bikini every day. And I have to admit, I don’t find that the easiest thing to do.

I just can’t get behind the idea that I’m falling short if I don’t love my body. It’s just another kind of pressure.

So here’s to body neutrality. I’m still a fan!

17 thoughts on “Still a fan of body neutrality

  1. Definitely an interesting issue – I believe that ultimately, neutrality is what we’re aiming for. Sexual neutrality, body neutrality, gender neutrality – that’s the ideal. Problem is, I don’t believe society is there yet; by aiming for neutrality we are going to undershoot the mark, so I think if we aim for positivity we’ll hit neutrality.

    I completely get that you aren’t 100% always going to love yourself or your identity, but positivity should just be a guideline rather than a pressure 🙂

  2. Hey, I’ve been thinking about why I prefer the language of body positivity. I think it’s connected to size. I feel like I need body love to get through the day with all of the fat-hate that’s out there. I need more than neutrality to stare that down and to emerge at the end of the day with self esteem intact. Think I’ll blog about it! (Surprise!)

  3. I think we need positivity before we can reach neutrality. It’s tough right now because fat shaming is so pervasive in society and I think we need to fight that before we can get to neutrality.

  4. I’m going to say I’m all for neutrality because it really alogns with one of the tenets of yoga: Santosha (contentment). It’s not saying you don’t want something more, or settling in life, but rather acceptance for the way things are at this moment. Yesterday I couldn’t muster the motivation and energy to exercise and I didn’t beat myself up about it. Today I kicked butt for 50 minutes with my 3.5 yo cheering me on through HIIT & Yoga. Each day I strive (and sometimes struggle) for my best effort, but as long as I can look in the mirror at the end of the day and say I’m still here….it’s all good.

  5. Hi Tracy– catching up on this week’s posts. I agree with you in preferring body neutrality over body positivity (for the most part). I really like your talk about adopting the stance of being in the universe, with things happening that aren’t really under our control. Among those things are noticing the ways our bodies are in the world. Doing yoga enhances my acceptance (and yes, occasional admiration) of the ways my body moves, the sensations my body can have (of all sorts, pleasant and un) and its limitations (that day, that year, all the time). All kinds of physical activity bring me face to face with my body limitations, and for me neutrality means awareness, acceptance, and then making decisions about how to proceed (e.g. try again, train more, back off, switch activities, go lie down, etc.) Thanks for helping me think more about this.

  6. I never knew this term existed. Very, very well said. Positivity is still a judgment. We need to be neutral if we want to be nonjudgmental; and forgiving and compassionate. Thank you for bringing it up.

  7. Body neutrality will get you through and is a healthy benchmark. It doesn’t preclude moments of awe when your old body does a cartwheel for you. Or a bit of gloating when you know that today, in that outfit, you look great.

  8. I like this. I’m pretty happy with my body, and I haven’t struggled as much as some with what’s expected of a woman. Some of this came from my identity being more about my intelligence than my sex appeal. Some is a conscious choice to educate myself about pervasive messages and work on self-acceptance. Neutrality allows for aging, and infirmity, in a way that forcing positivity does not (for me.) I’ve got a condition and some of my parts have STOPPED WORKING RIGHT. I could say the new, lesser degree of functioning is AWESOME, but then I’m a liar and I feel kind of dumb. I’m more grateful than ever for the functioning of my body. I’m not prepared to celebrate its state, however.

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