Body love vs body neutrality
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I had the tables turned on me yesterday. And it was extremely confronting.
I went to see a movement practitioner about some pain I have been having in my hips.
The first thing he did was ask me to strip off and stand in front of the mirror.
This is not as weird as it sounds. He was doing a total movement and alignment assessment which required seeing ze full body.
I wasn’t expecting this, and to be honest, I didn’t have the right underwear to do so (I was wearing Lululemon Align pants, so if you know, you know!). So, he lent me some of his underwear (a pair of his tighty boxer shorts, of which I hoped were clean!)
The first thing he gently says is: ‘Before we start the assessment tell me three things you like about your body.’
When new clients come on board with me they start by filling out a some assessment forms. One of these is a Body IQ assessment, which asks a series of questions and gives me and them more information about what is going on in their life with stress, sleep, digestion, diet history and beliefs around food, movement and body positivity.
These different categories are then scored and more often that not the body positivity piece comes up as a red flag to be addressed. Together we come up with strategies to help in these red areas and naming parts about yourself that you like is just one strategy that can be used for increasing body positivity.
There has been a huge shift towards body positivity and body love in the health and fitness space. But the truth is we all have things about ourselves that we wish to change or things that we are not happy with. Some women struggle with this more than others and to go from disliking or being unhappy about your body to saying mantras in the mirror every morning that you love your body and your love yourself and that everything is okay if we just keep telling ourselves our bodies are beautiful, is just not the case. The negativity bias that we may have about ourselves has been developed over many years so to suddenly switch to having nothing but positive thoughts and emotions towards your body is not that easy. It would be wonderful to do so, but for many it is not reality.
What we can do, however, is adopt neutrality towards our bodies. This is much simpler and an easier way to transition to genuinely believing those positive things that we say about ourselves, to be gentler, to be more compassionate, to be more forgiving and develop a friendship with ourselves. This means that we use language that is neither good nor bad when it comes to our body. But we become curious and accepting of how things are right now. If it is a Monday and you are getting ready for work and you notice a tummy roll in the mirror all you simply need to think or say is ‘isn’t that interesting. It is a Monday and today my tummy looks like this.’ And that’s it. There is no need to force body positivity language or to berate yourself with negative language. But you can just simply accept what it is and move on knowing that you have the power within you to make a change — if you wanted!
There is nothing wrong with wanting to change your body. But really ask yourself why you want to change your body. What is the real intention behind it? And if that why is coming from a place of love, that’s beautiful. But if you find yourself with these intentions because they are externally motivated (perhaps you believe that you SHOULD or HAVE to look a certain way, or the guy at work might notice you if you look differently, or if your sister made a comment about your butt the other day) that’s when you need to get a little deeper into things. Changing your body for other people is not going to change how you really feel about YOU. Having a deeper understanding around how you view yourself and yourself in the world will give you a different perspective for how you want to show up physically.
So, back to standing in a strange man’s underwear on a rainy Taipei Saturday afternoon having to tell him three things I liked about my body.
I freaked out. I didn’t know what to do. I realised that I have these kinds of conversations with women all the time but never had someone asked me. After a lot of sputtering and stuttering I came up with these:
1. My eyebrows because they are naturally a nice shape. 2. My back because it is muscular and testament to the hard work I have put in over the years to develop a strong upper body. 3. My thighs because even though his underpants were too tight on me (he has rather thin legs!) I was proud that they were tight. Because these girls are strong AF.
That last one was big for me as I have always been self conscious about my legs. But to say it out loud was empowering.
My challenge to you this week, Queens, is to say out loud three things that are boss lady about your bod.
I would LOVE to read what these are in the comments. It is a difficult thing to do publicly but this group is all about celebrating the epic things about ourselves and empowering each other as women to stand up, take up space and own our place in this world. Being vulnerable is hard, but any Brene Brown readers out there know that being vulnerable is showing courage.
So be courageous! What three things are uniquely awesome about your body?