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12th Mar 2024

‘I’m trying to practice body neutrality instead of positivity’

Anna Martin


Body positivity is everywhere and there’s nothing wrong with it

If anything it’s fantastic and an amazing step away from trying to comply with the beauty standards laid out by society. But for me, it doesn’t work.

Let me explain for a second, if you can love your body for all it’s worth 100% of the time, that’s incredible. I just don’t have that relationship with mine.

No, I’m not looking for a chorus of “aws” and “but you’re beautiful,” being seen one way and feeling the other aren’t mutually exclusive.

There are days when I love the skin I’m in and others where I wish I could unzip it and let myself out.

That’s where body neutrality started for me, I wanted to spend less time thinking about my body as a whole.

anna martin body neutrality
Credit: Supplied

I know I can’t love every part of me all of the time, so why should I force myself to?

So what is body neutrality?

The practice encourages people to take a different path to a positive body image, focusing on elements like acceptance and respect for what your body can achieve without feeling the demand to love it all of the time.

When I was trying to be body positive, I would look in a mirror, try and pick something I like about myself and say something nice – it’s a lovely idea really.

The problem is that when I was really in the sh*t with my depression, the mirror became an enemy, I didn’t want to get up and look at myself, and sometimes I didn’t even want to get out of my bed let alone stare at myself.

Neutrality on the other hand didn’t demand this sort of commitment and positive attitude all of the time.

Instead of lamping on the praise, I started to reevaluate how I treat my body but not in an aesthetic way, in an “am I actually taking care of myself?” way.

Now, I don’t go to the mirror in the morning and dread the feeling of trying to pick something to pretend I love just so I feel like I’ve achieved something.

anna martin body neutrality
Credit: Sinéad Mooney

I can stay in my room and think to myself, I love my legs because they carry me everywhere, I love my hands because they allow me to write, I love my eyes because they allow me to see, things like that.

For me, it’s about respecting my body for what it allows me to do and not picking it apart for what I view as its aesthetic failings.

I have found that this can help spiral thought patterns full of shame and just plain nastiness towards myself.

It also helps with validating the idea that bodies change just like our feelings and a bad moment doesn’t have to mean a bad day.

Most importantly of all, I just feel more grateful for my body.

Does it look and function like everyone else’s? No, but like everyone else I’m just as worthy of respect and care no matter what size I am.