CIRCLESOFCHANGE

Body Neutrality: How We Can Begin to End the War on Ourselves

Recovery, MediaOphelia's PlaceComment

Body positivity. Self-love. Beautiful. These buzzwords resonate with each of us differently and on the surface read as a radical way to change the dialogue around bodies.

A huge problem around eating disorder recovery and the journey to self-acceptance is that it is rarely regarded as simply that; a journey. This path is not linear and not something that has any exact beginning or end date.

The same way each of our bodies are different and require different things to help it nourish and flourish, so do our souls.

These terms pigeonhole us and add pressure to an already pressure-filled world. One of my favorite quotes comes from the late and great Maya Angelous:

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
— Maya Angelou

I believe this rings true, but something is missing.

People will also forget what you look like. Those in support of body neutrality, a term that is new to my vocabulary, believe that a body shouldn’t be part of the conversation. Compliments on intrinsic values are so much more appreciated and valuable.

Our bodies are our vessels. They let us speak, think, move around, comfort, but they are not what people love about us.

Whenever I describe what I love about friends or family members, it pertains to their intelligence, kindness, humor, and empathy. It is imperative to take a step back and realize that acceptance is a lifelong project. Adding self-acceptance and body acceptance to our vocabulary would remove an immense amount of pressure from ourselves and those around us.

As a society, we are obsessed with categorizing. Man or woman. Straight or queer. Black or white. Yes or no. We do not leave room for a grey area. How can someone who is made up of a multitude of characteristics, desires, and passions be poured into such a non-encompassing mold?

Take a look at the media.

It is polluted with women flaunting their bodies in the name self-love or portraying a state of being that is both unrealistic and highly edited.

Where is the middle ground? Where is the space for those of us who are learning to accept our knobby knees or curly hair?

Self-love is a radical statement, but who says we have to be radicals?

Changing the dialogue does not come from those who have a million followers on social media. It begins by changing the dialogue within your small circle:

  • Teach your children to compliment others on their intrinsic values.
  • Stop categorizing food into “good” or “bad,” “clean” or “dirty.”
  • Empower the people around you to fearlessly embark upon their own journey.
  • Notice when you are judging your personal choices around nourishment and movement.

We are comforted by hearing each other's stories. We cannot heal by slapping a bandaid over our bruised and imperfect parts. We need time.

Healing what is burdening and breaking us down takes time, and that is more than ok. Lifting others helps us feel empowered, but courageous vulnerability is what heals us all.

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GILLIAN PELKONEN

STUDENT WARRIOR