If you have a child or grandchild between the ages of 3-8 you may have read the book “Grumpy Monkey.” The main character, a monkey named Jim, is just having a grumpy day for no reason at all and every animal in the jungle tries to convince him that it’s a beautiful day, which only makes him feel worse about his idiopathic grumpiness. This scenario is funny because it’s so relatable – we have all had those days where we just weren’t feeling our best and those excessively happy people felt overwhelming. There’s a term for this: Toxic Positivity. It’s the feeling of being forced into positivity and happiness when you just don’t want to. And this is our long-winded intro into the concept of body neutrality.
Body neutrality is the response to the earlier mantra of body positivity. The body positivity concept of loving everything about your body no matter what was society’s way of denying anti-fat messaging. Body positivity relies on affirmations to consistently remind you how beautiful your body is and how much you should love it, which is overall a beautiful idea. The trouble comes in when perhaps you don’t LOVE everything about your body. You don’t hate it either but having every health guru shout from the rooftops that you HAVE to think you are beautiful and perfect only makes it feel fake for those just plain don’t feel that way. Enter body neutrality, the concept that you don’t have to LOVE every aspect of your body, but you don’t have to hate it either. Rather, you can appreciate it for what it can do and accept your body as your reality and simply move on. You can simply be neutral about how you feel about your body. For many, this is a much more realistic, relatable and attainable way of looking at body acceptance.
To be clear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with practicing body positivity and body love. But if it just doesn’t feel like authentic to who you are or your feelings about your body right now, going with a more neutral approach may be more your style. Here are some ideas to bring a body neutrality practice into your life:
- Make a list of things your body does really well. Read that list often.
- When you look in the mirror, think of something your body has done or can do that you are grateful for.
- When you start to think of your weaknesses, remind yourself of your physical strengths.
- If you struggle with negative self-talk, here are some “affirmations” that you can repeat to yourself:
- “Thank you body for getting me where I needed to go today.”
- “My arms allowed me to hug my best friend today.”
- “My heart has pumped all day to keep me alive.”
- “Thank you body for waking up and breathing today.”
And don’t be afraid to try a little of both theories – some positivity (“Wow my legs look so toned!”) mixed with some neutrality (“These strong legs have walked all over the office building today.”) Just know that like Jim the Monkey, it’s ok to feel a little bit grumpy sometimes, and just sit and just be.