The Body Positivity Problem

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You Don’t Have to be Superhuman


Too much of anything is rarely a good thing. The rhetoric surrounding campaigns of body-positivity often paint portraits of the human body as being problematically inhuman. Language intended to kindle self-confidence labors to be as vividly sycophantic as possible, chanting ecstatically that everyone is a sexy goddess whose body (whatever shape it may be) is a work of art worthy to be displayed as a natural wonder of the world.

Why should the opposite of “I really hate how I look and can’t stand the feeling of being in my own skin” be countered with something equally extreme, just pointed in the opposite direction? There needs to be a happy medium, a peaceful contentment present in the midst of all of this to ground us in reality. There is nothing wrong with the self-confidence and empowerment of looking in the mirror and actually feeling joy at what you see. It’s a rare-enough feeling for many of us, sadly. But no one should aspire to be Narcissus. When we place the physicality of our bodies on a pedestal, we aren’t actually correcting the societal problem of superficially judging ourselves and others based on appearance.

All we’re doing is widening the list of traits upon which to fixate.

When my weight dropped dangerously because of my eating disorder, much of the “encouragement” I heard to regain vital pounds was all centered on how much better I would look with “some meat on my bones.” Friends told me to eat and grow my breasts back while they lamented the loss of my curves, making me feel like a grotesque, shrunken child trying to masquerade as a woman. I thought about how miserable it must be to hear such comments if your body is naturally slim and flat—why would someone dare suggest that you were less of a woman, less attractive, less “meaty” than other people because of the way your body happened to grow?

Every human body is so very different. What one needs, another rejects. One grows in this direction, another grows in that direction, perhaps another grows in both directions at once. Everyone has different caloric needs, nutritional requirements and limits on what exercise is appropriate. Health is not an easy acquisition, even more so when we are encouraged to sacrifice it for ever-changing ideals of beauty.

If you have a thigh gap, okay. If you don’t, okay. It shouldn’t be an indicator of worth. Big thighs are fine. Small thighs are equally fine. Your shape, your color, your height, your weight—it’s all fine. It doesn’t have to be “the greatest and most beautiful thing in the world, you magnificent creature, you!” any more than it needs to be something that makes you feel like you’re always somehow falling short of happiness. It can just be fine.

We aren’t perfect. Every single one of us has flaws, weaknesses and frequent mistakes. This is a condition known as being human. Your body is your home. It’s the physical form you occupy, and it demands gentle care for the services it provides. We don’t have to worship our flesh, we just need to take care of it and help others do the same.