When you don't feel like loving your body all the time
Like so many women, I have struggled with body image and insecurities. I love empowering women to see their beauty. I also know firsthand how difficult it can be to love your body all the time. Enter: body neutrality.
I don’t remember having any feelings about my body at all until I was 10. Until that point, I was simply a vessel for playing, eating, and sleeping.
Then, I started noticing that I looked different than the women I was seeing on TV and magazine covers. They were thin, vibrant, and had beautiful sun-kissed skin. I was only in elementary school, but I quickly started viewing myself as a chubby, pale, and awkward girl with a weird haircut.
It really didn’t matter how much people said that these women were airbrushed or had “unattainable” figures. I could never truly accept my body from then on, and I most certainly couldn’t love it.
This insecurity stayed with me through my teens and 20s, and I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t still creep up to this day, even though I spend a great deal of my time encouraging women and helping them see their beauty through boudoir photography.
I know I’m not alone in my story, and I hear from clients all the time how they’ve spent so much energy hating their bodies throughout their lives. In fact, something that is really surprising is that no matter my clients’ shape or size, just about every one has at least some insecurities about their appearance.
The body positivity movement teaches us to love our bodies unconditionally, and that every body is beautiful. I really like this idea and talk about it a lot.
However, some flaws do exist with it. Though very well-intentioned, it can turn into yet another nearly unattainable standard for a lot of women when they aren’t able to feel endless love and positivity for their bodies. It can also border on encouraging women to attach their happiness and self-worth to their outward appearance.
There’s gotta be some sort of happy medium between these two points of view, right?
Well, yes, there is!
Recently, I read about a relatively new idea called body neutrality. It’s essentially a middle ground between loving your body no matter what, and being constantly unhappy with it.
It’s about not deriving your feelings of worth or defining yourself by your appearance, whether good or bad. Do you have a gorgeous head of hair? It really doesn’t matter. Do you have stretch marks? That doesn’t matter either.
It’s about appreciating and accepting your body for giving you life, enabling you to enjoy the world around you, to give life to your children, and anything else it does for you. It has nothing to do with how it looks.
Body neutrality is also coming to terms with the fact that your body will change over time. Maybe these will be changes that you deliberately orchestrate (for example, hitting the gym seven days a week and losing weight or getting toned), or perhaps the changes are simply due to time and seasons of life (I know my breasts have certainly changed after two pregnancies and over three years of nursing my babies).
I went through a season where I paid big bucks for a personal trainer. I worked out like crazy and watched everything I ate, and even (unfortunately) took my strict regimen with me on a vacation to Spain.
And when I started having children, I found a whole new set of reasons to be terribly dissatisfied. I had a newborn photo shoot right after my first daughter was born, and I asked the photographer to slim down my arms during editing. I got so many compliments when I posted that photo. Everyone told me how great I looked and how awesome it was that I had “bounced back” so quickly. Rather than giving me a boost of confidence, I felt like a total fraud.
That experience led me to change my own editing style with the photos I take. Rather than smoothing every wrinkle or dimple, I choose to leave a lot of these “flaws” in my photos. I want to showcase your beauty and strength, NOT erase the life you’ve lived.
What if, instead of trying to force yourself to be in love with your body all the time, and definitely instead of being unhappy with it, you worked toward simply being at peace with it, and giving its outward appearance no power over you?
Red Stiletto will always advocate for women to love and celebrate their bodies. It is also completely understandable that for many, learning to accept it is a huge win, too.
Ready To Start Loving Yourself Unconditionally? We Would Love To Have You In Our Studio!