The reason why body positivity doesn't mean self-love.

Updated: Aug 31, 2019

Reflecting on the summer season (under the lucky heat of Berlin sun!), I've been wondering about the concept of body positivity and the phrases that became the slogan of many big companies such as: "embrace your imperfections”, “love your body”, “every woman is beautiful". 

Instagram is full of so many wonderful and strong women aiming at empowering others by posting photos of themselves, usually accompanied by a motivational phrase or texts on how to let go of diets and social demands to embrace their real body. There are endless beautiful photos of women on the beach, mostly on their bikinis or underwear, showing their body as they are. The millions of hits for the hashtags #bodypositivity and #perfectimperfection show how popular the topic has become.

At first, this movement can bring self-assurance and, indeed, empowerment. Because yes, what is wrong about telling the world that all women are beautiful and attractive, no matter what? It is definitely the beginning of a deeper and much needed social change, it is giving space for inclusion and diversity. But I wonder if many of such posts and campaigns cause anxiety and discomfort in other people too, or if this is just me. 

Let me explain: although there is undoubtedly value on the body positivity movement, it is still rather superficial and contains exactly what it's trying to let go of. This is, in my point of view, beauty and vanity. Because below every photo of “imperfections” there are hundreds of comments giving confirmation of their beauty, and therefore, their value. 

In that sense, I would like to reflect on the boundaries between self-love and beauty as socially defined. The body positivity movement as it is, unfortunately, ignores a core social problem: women are first and foremost beautiful. But is beauty everything we worry about? And is it at all healthy to constantly tell women that they are beautiful? What is important to think about is if we are not again reducing women to their bodies and their appearance, and calling it “self-love”.

And what is self-love, then? Self-love is a constant process of coming to terms with oneself, of bringing awareness of one’s strengths and weaknesses, of working on oneself and being kind to oneself, everyday. It’s bringing acceptance to the game. And it doesn’t necessarily need to be externalized, and by all means, it does not need approval and validation.

What is key to me is that no one needs to love or hate every single inch of their body, but rather understand that it is just a body. See it for the simplicity of what it is. Your worth must not be based on anything to do with its abilities or looks, because those superficialities are not, and must not be, what make you, you. 

Feeling comfortable with your body even if you do not find some parts of it super beautiful is what I consider healthy self-love and body positivity. It is feeling good and at home in your own skin for yourself, and not for others. Our body can do so much more, and we are so much more than our body. We are ideas, creativity, feelings, emotions. And our body is the wonderful machine that give us the opportunity to create things, to achieve our goals and live a fulfilling life. Is it really worth to identify ourselves so much with our body and struggle our whole life because of its shape or appearance?

I can tell you with the most certainty: it is not. Transforming the lenses of your self-image is about making a conscious choice everyday to look into the sources of your vulnerabilities. To question each one of them as they come up. Do it. Do it with intention to free yourself from whatever belief that imprisons you and tell you are not enough. Practice gratitude for your body, for what it can do, for your personality, for your experiences, for your life. It requires time, energy and intention, and every cookie cutter 5 steps strategy out there might only bring you the feeling that you are not capable of changing. But you are! And if you need help in this process, hey, I am here.

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