Being at peace with Body Neutrality

body neutrality

All through our lives, we nurture a somewhat peculiar relationship with the very body we forever are dwelling in. This love- hate relationship, that leads us to be very positive in our physical existence at one moment and as negative at the other is something that is but very typical perhaps of every human. As a tribe of species rarely contented with their lot, it only is natural that nothing in the world would hold our forever fancy, not even when it is our own body. It also is equally true that the dynamics of this relationship with the self in its physicality is affected by such traits of our mind that covet a certain feature one day only to end up loathing it the next. But within this whole fiasco of loving it or hating it, there indeed are days and moments when our body is the last thing to be bothering us, in all its imperfections and otherwise. It is therefore in moments like these that we tend to be beings liberated from the expectations of how we ought to look and seek deeper meaning instead in what we are, defining therefore our true nature as humans.

From such realisations of the body not being as important in the look of it as what we even persevere to make out of it has stemmed a body movement that seeks to defy popular perception of it in its physicality. Body neutrality today is a buzzword that has gained commonplace prominence, perhaps even more than such preceding concepts of body positivity and the corresponding body negativity. While viewing the body in a neutral light might not sound as something that sits on the opposite end of the spectrum vis-a-vis body positivity and/ or negativity, in reality these two are mindsets that are indeed poles apart when you come to think of its working.

To understand the idea of body neutrality in all its encompassments, it is first necessary to know what body positivity is. It also is as important to distinguish body positivity from positive body image as well at the very outset. While positive body image is a personal approach to the body, and that has everything to do about how you feel about your body, from being confident in your skin to loving yourself the way you are, body positivity is more a societal means of accepting and appreciating all body types and shapes and sizes, irrespective of how seemingly perfect or imperfect they might tend to be. In however its overlapping aspects of loving the body, whether it be as something stemming innately of you or whether it is the society keeping aside its stereotypes to believe every body is worthy of love and respect, both body positivity and positive body image sustains on the singular premise of how each body is beautiful in and despite all their uniquities. Body neutrality on the other hand does not as much entertain the idea of the body being or not being ‘beautiful’ in its appearance. More realistic therefore in perception than body positivity because despite everything we do it isn’t really possible to feel upbeat about our bodies all the time. Specifically not during those winter days when putting on some fat along all the festivities can be a serious setback to feeling carefree and good about your waist line. Or also not when with other pressing concerns, being very conscious about persisting in the positivity built around the body proves to be really draining to one’s mental energy. It is exactly in the face of such more worthwhile causes that we need to live away life in that body neutrality presents itself as the most natural of ‘reactions’ to the body that which sustains our very existence.

body neutrality
Source: Dazed

In fact in viewing the body as nothing more- or nothing less- than the medium to be alive, healthily and in all glory, body neutrality should almost be second nature to us. It is recognising and acknowledging the myriad ways in which our body allows us to be beings in essence, irrespective of whether it comes with some inches less or some flabs more or with everything just perfect. And it is indeed by no means decimating the importance of the body, instead making us more aware of it outside its aesthetics and that which can therefore go a long way in helping us lead a life free from the biases of what beauty can lead to be. Body neutrality has its core in accepting and being thankful for what our body does, that which lets us live to the fullest, through such experiences that the body leads us to. Be it pursuits of cooking or travelling or reading or dancing or working or toiling, it is the body that is the true physical soul of our existence and one that therefore commands all the love and respect in the world, regardless of whether we ‘feel’ like it or not.

While body neutrality indeed is a form of self love, perhaps even of the highest kind, it also can transcend into such life experiences that define in more definite terms the end pursuit of life. In rendering us free of how to feel a certain way about your bodies, body neutrality endows us with a perspective that is not limited just to the physical essence of it. A neutral approach to the body frees the many clutters of the mind whereby it finds itself at times irrationally obsessed of looking a certain way to feel exactly the way we want to. In thereby endowing us also with more time and faculties at our disposal to explore the finer nuances of what we are capable of doing, by virtue of our bodies and our minds, body neutrality indeed can be more powerful a prospect than body positivity as well.

What perhaps triumphs body neutrality against body positivity or at least grants it some sort of upperhand over the later is its rooting in the basics. With such emphasis on the abilities of the body that go way beyond in sustaining a positive image of it, body neutrality follows as a more natural of living as compared to the very conscious assertion of body positivity. In inspiring therefore mindfulness of a different kind, one that isn’t rooted in physical awareness and assertion, body neutrality also comes with a range of benefits of its own. With such impacts on the body as reduction of stress, rumination and emotional reactivity, body neutrality also helps in fostering a healthy you in its many roundabout of ways. Even more pronounced is the benefits of body neutrality when viewed in consideration of how its alternating concept of body positivity reinstates instead in such toxic manifestations that adversely affect the quality of life. Despite of how welcoming a phenomenon body positivity might herald, it still can pursue such negatives in life as anxiety, that which can arise from a deliberate, often harmful tendency to forcefully rope in the positives despite feeling to the contrary. In leading also to increased body scrutiny thereof in the frantic hopes of being actually able to accept the flaws of one’s body, body positivity can prove to be detrimental to the psychology.

Where body positivity works wonders in this entire realm of seeing your body as worthy of celebration is the fact that it has you making peace with that physicality that while defines you, isn’t really the definer of who you are. Rather than asserting just how proud you are of your body because that’s the way to feel good about it as they say, body neutrality stems instead from a state of being far more comfortable in however and whoever you are. It is being aware of your vulnerabilities, but not being intimidated by them, nor feeling the need to make acceptance of them in full public glory so that the world can see your worth in your terms. It instead furthers your comfort in your safe space because you are that disengaged as to what your body looks like. As long as it is fully functioning and keeping you hale and hearty and healthy, your body is serving all purposes of what it is meant to be. In ensuring you can leap with joy and droop with pain, run for your life or amble at leisure, enjoy every meal with a healthy appetite and extend your hands to explore the world all you want to, the body indeed is no less than a temple. Much like a real temple then at whose architecture you sure can marvel but the sanctity of which derives you to a solace that is the epitome of bliss, your body also is the beholder of you in all its perfect curves or the lack of them.

Embracing however body neutrality not as a trend but rather as something that has you living a rather fulfilling life has implications beyond what it does to just an individual. Much like body positivity, body neutrality also ends up as an emphasis on social acceptance even when it harbours no desire to fuel it. An increasing number of people emerging to be body neutral either by way of their very nature or consciously building themselves into it means also that in not subjecting bodies to being confined as something with the realm of the aesthetics, racist and ableist attacks that arises from such judgements that view a set standard of beauty as the ideal also tends to be done away with. This indeed is a bonus over and above what cultivating the concept of body neutrality in oneself renders us capable of. Because body positivity has us constantly dwell in that mindset of celebrating our flaws and insecurities even when we are uncapable of doing it mentally some days for one reason or the other, it instead can be an added dose of expectations to live up to that can further assert our inhibitions to the point it ends up making us more uncomfortable and has us sinking in guilt. Body neutrality scores therefore in being the middle ground whereby rests our own acceptance of our body, without feeling the need to either love it or hate it to extremes. In normalizing our body more than neutralising it as what it might claim to do in its nomenclature, body neutrality does indeed foster an appreciation of the self that speaks a language way more positive than the exuberant affirmations of love.